Sam Camilleri - You must always look forward

Sam Camilleri - You must always look forward
Sam Camilleri:CEO and Principal Officer of NJMPF

Sam Camilleri is the CEO and Principal Officer of Natal Joint Municipal Pension/KwaZulu-Natal Joint Municipal Provident Funds (NJMPF), which currently administers a total of R 18 billion.

Camilleri's professional career has included being appointed as a general manager for the Invivo Group in Australia - a large financial services company. He was then offered a position in South Africa as an asset manager for Sanlam, which he said has been a huge advantage to his current position. These experiences he said, have equipped him with a level of understanding that has been critical to his role at NJMPF. He was able to take his knowledge from the investment side of fund management and apply this acumen to administrating the pension fund.

Camilleri said, "It is a passion for me that members retire with dignity, that they are well looked after and have savings."

Camilleri was appointed as CEO of the NJMPF in July 2007 and has spent the last eleven years dramatically transforming the organisation from an old-fashioned paper-based bureaucracy to a local and international multi-award-winning retirement fund.

When Camilleri first started at the NJMPF, there was not one computer in the entire building and the employees were reliant on paper-based files and a typing pool. There were no standardised forms.

His first task was to modernise the NJMPF's operating policies and procedures. He says, "This was a journey that we were going to undertake, we were going to transform the business. It was difficult as we had to train staff and still deliver a service - it was an interesting experience."

An initial requirement was to upskill employees, which took place over a two-year period. Basic computer skills and programmes were taught and the almost five million paper files, which filled much of the office space, had to be captured on computer. "I had staff threatening to go on strike, one Friday afternoon, I removed the adding machines from everyone's desks and from the Monday morning insisted that all calculations had to be computer based," says Camilleri. In addition, said Camilleri, we moved our offices from Pietermaritzburg to a contemporary office park in Durban - Westville.

The staff also needed to understand that they were employed by a non-profit organisation and were working for their clients' benefit, which was a major culture change. The change in the ethos of the NJMPF was dramatic as from an old school institute, the staff were now required to strive for excellence and meet the expectations of their members and pensioners.

The new approach has meant that people are rewarded through financial incentives for their achievements. In addition, the transformation of the organisation has resulted in salary increases and there is also greater potential for advancement within the organisation.

Furthermore says Camilleri, the various awards that the NJMPF has received have promoted the staff to want to achieve more. "They are very competitive, they enjoy winning and they see the awards we have received as their awards, which recognise their efforts." In contrast to the previous closed-door policy, where staff were summoned by bells, Camilleri operates a very flat business structure with open communication. His staff are also welcome to participate and provide suggestions for procedures or innovations that will enhance value for the members and pensioners and other beneficiaries of the NJMPF.

Even though there have been negative economic times, the NJMPF has had only one negative return in the last eighteen years. "We have pensioners now being paid more than when they are working. Throughout the last decade, we have always given our pensioners full CPI and in one year, we gave them a thirteenth cheque and special increase in less than three months. The result is that they are getting returns way above inflation," said Camilleri.

He added, "We now compete against the biggest investment funds and our returns are compatible against the best of best, such as Coronation and Investec." "We are looking after our pensioners. Looking forward, we will be offering a living annuity fund and have recently introduced a new website as well as a mobile app, which allows them greater access to information about their funds."

Through running financial literacy programmes, the NJMPF is also trying to educate the municipal workers that it services and send the message that the more they save now, the better they will be in the long run. Camilleri says that he enjoys relaxing at home in his free time and usually spends his weekends watching his son's various sporting activities.

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