Sanlam has stolen a march on the retirement funding industry by announcing it will provide free retirement benefits counselling to all qualifying retirement funds it administers.

All retirement funds have to implement this capability before March 1 next year but, according to Sanlam’s Benchmark Survey released this week, most are not sure of the shape that such counselling will take nor whether they will actually be able to do so in time. 

“The form that counselling will take for funds will depend on whether trustees simply aim to comply with the legislation, which is neither difficult or impactful, or whether they actively implement a capability that empowers fund members with accurate and understandable information that enables them to make better financial decisions, which is the intended purpose of the legislation,” says Dawie de Villiers, chief executive of Sanlam Employee Benefits.

The Sanlam counselling service, known as Retirement Optimisation Services, consists of a spectrum of communication channels via which fund members can access information, explore the implications of various decisions and engage with retirement benefits counsellors telephonically. 

Many fund members do not have access to financial advice, and retirement benefits counselling fills the information gap to address the needs of the underserved, De Villiers says.

“High quality financial advice is always preferable, but many members do not have an adviser nor do they have enough wealth accumulated to be of economic interest to financial advisers.

“Our Retirement Optimisation Services suite acts as a midway point to fill this gap.

“Members of the Sanlam Umbrella Fund already enjoy free access to the suite,”  De Villiers says.