Make Digital Pension Market More Attractive

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IT Consortium Limited, Mr Romeo Bugyei, has called for closer collaboration between the government, regulatory bodies and Fintechs in Ghana to push informal pensions to citizens.

He indicated that in order to achieve successful financial inclusion in the county, Fintechs must be supported to enable them efficiently deliver Digital Financial Services (DFS) to Ghanaians.

Mr Bugyei made this call at a stakeholder forum co-hosted by the Ghana Technology Chamber and the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, with support from the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the State Secretariat of Economic Affairs of Switzerland (SECO) on the theme: “New DFS Products and how they are being enabled.”

During a panel discussion on digital pensions, Mr Bugyei lamented the cost involved in operating within the sector.

“Fintechs run recurrent costs regardless of whether a transaction goes through or not. We need to push informal pensions whether it is to a farmer, house help or market woman and that makes it difficult,” he said.

According to him, when the National Pensions Act (2008) was put together, there was no allocation made for other channels that support the work of custodians and fund managers like the telcos and Fintechs, hence, making it difficult for them to make meaningful revenue to support their operations.

“If the regulator can come in with a specific fee for our channels, it will help a lot,” he suggested.

Last year, IT Consortium, in collaboration with MTN Ghana and United Pensions Trustees, introduced ‘My Own Pension’ (MOP), a Mobile Money-driven pensions platform, the first of its kind in Ghana and Africa.

The MOP is a three-tier pension scheme tailored to resolve the problem of financial insecurity among pensioners. It is aimed at providing Ghanaians, especially, those in the informal sector, a simple and convenient way to save and make voluntary pension contributions.

Mr Bugyei revealed that although his organisation has got little out of its operations in the digital pension space, they are determined to develop more products that promote financial inclusion while working closely with other stakeholders within the sector.

Mr Bugyei further advised operators within the Digital Financial Services (DFS) space to seek the backing of regulators of the industry when designing products and services for public use.

This, according to him, will serve as an assurance to end-users that their finances and other investments are secure following the recent financial sector troubles in the country which have affected public trust.

Stressing the importance of regulator backing, Mr Bugyei said: “We had the regulators with us at the launch [of My Own Pension] and the assurance that the money sat with a bank, with the regulator having full oversight over it, gave a lot of comfort and confidence to prospective subscribers knowing that the product is fully backed by the regulator.”

“We have also had some subscribers withdraw a part of their savings and portion of their contributions to ascertain the accessibility of their cash, and, immediately returning it into their contributions,” he added.

For his part, the CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, said the chamber was keen on the development of the DFS sector and stressed the need for financial technology businesses to stop being passive consumers of legislation but challenge portions of the Payments Systems and Settlement Bill they feel are not right.

The Bill, which has been passed by Parliament and yet to receive presidential assent, is expected to regulate electronic payments and control financial institutions which offer electronic payment services in the country.

A financial sector specialist at CGAP, Mr Kwame Oppong, re-echoed Mr Ashigbey’s call for Fintech’s to be more actively involved in shaping legislation.

“As long as the industry continues to collaborate, understand the issues and make a determined effort to engage our government to make sure that the change we need happens, we will be in a good place. Even if progress is slow, we will eventually get it and slowly, with time, we will begin to take control of what needs to happen,” Mr Oppong said.

He was hopeful that the forum will be the first of many within the sector and was also confident of even more amazing news from within the sector in 2019.