A catalyst for positive change

The Institute of Retirement Funds Africa is an association that represents and promotes the interests of the retirement industry in South Africa and across the continent to the ultimate benefit of the members of retirement funds. Blue Chip spoke to chairperson, Geraldine Fowler.

Retirement planning

Geraldine, please tell us about your career trajectory.

Having been involved in the retirement sector for over 28 years, I have always been aware of the role the sector plays in societal prosperity and transformation. I am passionate about gender equity, impact investment and socio-economic contribution; all areas where active involvement by the sector make a huge difference. Thus the privilege of leading the country’s foremost industry body is a role I accepted with gratitude and pride.

Please provide a brief history of the Institute of Retirement Funds Africa (IRFA).

IRFA was established in 1987, succeeding its predecessor, the Association of Pension and Provident Funds, which was founded in 1947. As such, and in terms of its governing statement, it has a long history of “protecting, promoting and advancing the interests of pension, provident, retirement annuity and similar funds, their trustees, members and persons associated with such funds in Southern Africa”.

IRFA’s activities are undertaken by a number of standing committees who meet on a regular basis to find innovative ways of overcoming problems in our industry, to promote communication and provide ongoing advocacy for the sector.

Both committee and board members serve on a voluntary basis and are drawn from leading thought leaders and subject matter experts in the industry.

What is IRFA’s vision and mission?

Our vision is to be the leading catalyst for positive change in the retirement sector across Africa, fostering a future where every individual enjoys a secure and prosperous retirement.

Our mission is to represent and promote the interests of the retirement industry in South Africa and the African continent, advocating for favourable policies, providing comprehensive training programmes, fostering collaboration among industry professionals and championing sustainable development goals (SDGs) for a better world through the retirement sector.

What are IRFA’s objectives?

The essential mandate of any industry body is to provide its members and the sector it serves with the knowledge and resources needed to make informed decisions for the benefit of all constituents. Nowhere is this as important as in the financial and retirement sector where these decisions impact on society at large.

Our broad-based goals include:

  • Making a positive impact on fund governance
  • Enhancing fiduciary responsibility and board accountability
  • Promoting the best practices in member service, education, benchmarking and compliance
  • Ensuring investment in our future
  • Vigorous engagement
  • Building a sustainable social legacy
  • To become “the” voice in the industry
  • Championing equity and respect for diversity
  • Staff, member and association growth
  • Supporting ESG
  • Focused and measurable action

IRFA has developed its organisational profile and chosen specific SDGs to create a compelling narrative that elicits connection and collaboration with and from its stakeholders. These SDGs have been chosen to:

  • Create a compelling narrative
  • IRFA aims to communicate its purpose, values and impact in an engaging manner, enabling the audience to understand the significance of IRFA’s work and motivate it to become part of our mission
  • Evoke an emotional response and connection
  • Address key challenges

The selected SDGs reflect the critical challenges faced by the retirement sector and society as a whole. By championing these goals, IRFA acknowledges the importance of addressing issues such as poverty in old age, gender inequality in pension systems, access to quality education for sector professionals and the overall wellbeing of retirees. This demonstrates IRFA’s understanding of the complex issues at hand and its determination to make a tangible difference. As a responsible and forward-thinking entity and by aligning with globally recognised goals, IRFA will showcase its commitment to contributing to broader sustainable development efforts.

Would you like to add anything?

I certainly would, an invitation to both individuals and organisations to join IRFA’s community and become part of a collective effort to shape a better future for retirement funds, members and society at large, thereby harnessing the power of unity, collaboration and collective impact.


Geraldine Fowler is also the founding Director and CEO of GQM Fund Administrators. She has held senior positions with Private Fund Administration and Consulting Houses. She holds academic qualifications in insurance, business studies, financial planning and writing.

Geraldine Fowler, President and Executive Board Member, IRFA
Geraldine Fowler, President and Executive Board Member, IRFA