Jerry Moriarty, CEO, Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF)
Jerry Moriarty, CEO of the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF), talks getting more members for the business and simplifying the pensions sector.
Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
The mission of the IAPF is to ensure that people in Ireland can have pensions that are secure, fair and simple. As a membership organisation we talk to the government and regulators on behalf of our members, to influence policy in order to achieve our mission. We also work to educate and inform our members, particularly the trustees who have the legal responsibilities of investing pension scheme assets, and of ensuring the payment of benefits.
Q. What are your biggest challenges as a CEO?
Membership organisations are all about balancing resources. Our income is limited to membership subscriptions, income from our events and advertising in our publications – all of which can be vulnerable in a time of crisis or recession. It is important to have sufficient reserves to be able to cater for that, while continuing to provide services that our members value.
Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?
It can be difficult, particularly where a lot of discipline is required on budgets. However, it can be very motivating to understand how our work benefits our members. The ethos of being part of a membership organisation is very strong. We also try to do everything to the best of our ability and the personal satisfaction that comes from that is a good motivator.
Q. What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
Funding of pensions is becoming more difficult as people live longer and also as the prolonged period of low interest rates makes pensions more expensive. More regulation has meant it has also become tougher to be a trustee. One of the challenges is ensuring the benefits that trustees bring, who have genuine concern for their colleagues’ retirement savings and future, can be combined with the knowledge required to make complex decisions.
Greater consolidation of pension schemes and services providers is also likely and this has the potential to reduce our membership base.
Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?
The change from defined benefit to defined contribution schemes has put a lot of responsibility on individuals who often have to make important choices without understanding the impact. Many schemes are working to help members with those choices. Technology is likely to play a big part in this.
“The pensions sector is crying out for simplification. There are currently too many rules and difficult choices people have to make – which can culminate in lack of interest and involvement.”
Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
The pensions sector is crying out for simplification. There are currently too many rules and difficult choices people have to make – which can culminate in lack of interest and involvement. A pension is a very valuable asset and everyone should know how valuable it is in the same way they know the value of their house. It needs to be viewed as part of an individual’s total wealth and not as something that hasn’t really anything to do with them.
Q. As an employer are you finding any skills gaps in the market?
As a small office with very little turnover, that hasn’t been an issue for us.
Q. How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?
Our sources of income fell significantly so we had to be even more conscious of our expenditure. We have a strong policy of having reserves in place to be able to cater for those occurrences, so that provided a comfort. It also prompted us to look at our strategy and at what we are trying to achieve for our members.
Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?
It is difficult to tell at this point. We do have a number of UK-based members, mostly investment managers, who will presumably still want to do business in Ireland.
Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
Success is making a difference on behalf of our members and that drives all of our work. At a personal level, knowing you have done your absolute best is important.
Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
Be confident in what you know but be confident enough to say when you don’t. Things will go wrong from time to time, admit it, fix it, learn and move on.
Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
Running events that our members consistently learn from and enjoy attending is very satisfying. Inputting in policy issues is also crucial, although the results of that can often take much longer to be seen.
Q. What’s next for your company?
To some extent, more of the same. We are looking at how we can broaden our membership base and highlight to pension schemes and trustees the benefits of becoming members of the IAPF. To do this we will continue to focus on educational events and the ability to share with and learn from other trustees.
Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2018?
We see some opportunity to grow our membership. That in turn may allow us to expand the services we can offer to them.
Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
We would like to have a bigger overall membership who are happy with the work we do on their behalf. We also would like to be in the middle of the debate on the radical pension reform that needs to take place.