Stakeholders discuss building a retirement industry

RETIREMENT is not just about how much you have when you stop working. It is about your next phase of life,” said Ismitz Matthew De Alwis, executive director and chief executive officer of Kenanga Investors.

“What will you do for the next 20 years after retirement?” he asked the packed ballroom at the Sustainable Retirement & Aged Care Conference (SRACC).

Organised by Kenanga in partnership with Aged Care Group (ACG), the conference, held at the Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur last week, saw representatives from the government, private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) coming together for a day of discussions, networking and seeking solutions.

“Retirement is not something dull. It is not about the time when you stop working, go to day care and nursing home, while waiting to die. Retirement is the best phase of your life. It’s when you enjoy. Let’s get some colour into retirement,” he said.

He explained that even in retirement there are different stages with the last stage being when you would need more care.

There are many topics that can be discussed regarding retirement – from the financial side of things to where to live, what to do, and how to manage everything.

“This is a big topic to cover. We have a lot of questions. We hope from today we can start sharing that retirement is beyond numbers. Retirement is an industry that we need to take seriously, along with the whole ecosystem that comes with it,” said De Alwis.

The one-day conference featured three panel discussions.

The first discussion saw representatives from the civil service, private sector and government agencies talking about Malaysia’s financial options for retirement and aged care to ensure lifelong sustainability.

Can Malaysians afford to retire and how will they pay for their aged care? Will it come from the government, their pension, Employees Provident Fund (EPF), insurance, Private Retirement Scheme (PRS), savings, or all of these? Is it possible to have an integrated management system for all these, so that it is easier for Malaysians to pay for services?

The panellists explored this subject and even took questions from the floor.

The second panel consisted of foreign representatives who shared their experiences in retirement and aged care in Singapore and Australia.

The third panel discussed private sectors and NGOs getting involved in the retirement and aged care ecosystem in Malaysia.

While the conference did not conjure answers for all questions, it did start a lot of conversations and provided much food for thought.

Set the ball rolling

Panellist Tan Sri Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman, president of International Medical University, said, “In the 1960s and 1970s, no business wanted to build hospitals. So, who built hospitals? The doctors. Nobody else wanted to invest. They showed that it’s a viable business. After that, others came in.

“We are now in that stage of the game.”

While there are parties who are keen to get into the industry, many seem to be adopting a wait-and-see attitude and trying to find the best business model first.

“If we don’t build, we don’t have an industry and it becomes exclusive. When there are participants in the industry, then things will come to a palatable price. That’s what is important.

“At this moment the industry is in its infancy. We need to develop the whole ecosystem,” explained Kenanga’s De Alwis.

According to him, SRACC was held to get people from the private sector, public sector and NGOs to come together to look at the industry from a macro level and to look at building an integrated ecosystem, rather than working in silos.

“That’s why this conference is called Sustainable Retirement & Aged Care Conference and not a retirement conference. We are talking about the third phase of life, the things that we need to do to make it a colourful retirement.

“This is the next thing to come. It is going to be an industry. When the time comes, there are things that need to be catered for in this industry and we need the support of all stakeholders.

“As you can see it’s a huge ecosystem that we need to work on. We talk about government policy makers, private healthcare institutions, the entrepreneurs, the financial institutions like Kenanga, and the educational and training institutions. I think this basically will make up a sustainable aged care infrastructure,” said De Alwis.

Projects moving forward

In his keynote address, Fabian Bigar, Director (NKEA Healthcare) of Pemandu (Performance Management & Delivery Unit), spoke on “Delivering Transformation for Retirement and Senior Living in Malaysia”.

He provided the background of retirement and senior living in the Pemandu NKEA (National Key Economic Area) lab.

According to him, it is estimated that the retirement industry would create about 10,000 new jobs and RM1.7 billion in terms of GNI (gross national income) in the year 2020, when Malaysia becomes an ageing society.

After the completion of the lab, Pemandu presented its findings to the Malaysian Cabinet. Apart from the Entry Point Projects, Pemandu also requested for:

  • New act for aged care;
  • Reverse mortgages;
  • Transformation of existing old folks homes;
  • Insurance coverage for long term care and mobile services;
  • Financial incentives for the industry;
  • Trustee to manage finances for the senior citizens who are in homes; and
  • New skills standards.

“We received agreement in principle for all of this, of course subject to further discussions with the various agencies. Not everybody is moving at the same speed, so we have to leverage on those who can work faster,” said Bigar.

According to him, the Private Aged Healthcare Facilities and Services Bill will be ready for tabling at Parliament by the end of the year. However, as there are many other items waiting to be tabled as well, the Bill might only see the light of day next year.

While waiting for the Bill to be tabled, Pemandu has been working on the regulations.

“We started this year, so that when the Bill comes on stream we can enforce it in a short time,” explained Bigar.

In addition, the Department of Skill and Development has come up with the National Occupational Skills Standard (training syllabus) for the training of caregivers.

The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) has been looking at incentives for the industry to be gazetted as a promoted industry.

While the Department of Town and Country Planning has developed “Physical Planning Guidelines for the Elderly Facilities” which will serve as a guide for the planning and designing of a senior living facility.

“These four agencies are already moving. As for the others, for example, finances and insurance, we will make sure that these things are put in place next year.

“Obviously, there is a lot more to be done. I hope at this conference we will find some clues, if not answers, on how we can move this agenda forward,” he added.

Innovation

De Alwis said the takeaway from the conference is that if you are a business owner, an NGO or individuals needing helping or who have questions related to the elderly, you would now know who to contact. ACG is positioning itself as a platform for all parties to work together towards elevating the retirement industry.

CareTRUST was derived to provide an avenue for those in the financial line to help clients manage the accumulation of their money and then the decumulation after retirement when they need to pay for services and facilities.

This collaborative effort sees more than 12 unit trust companies, four insurance companies and seven PRS providers on the bandwagon so far.

With ACG as the Care Administrator, CareTRUST would also see to it that the client’s wishes are fulfilled in terms of how they want to be cared for and where they want to live, when they are no longer able to execute these decisions for themselves.

This is just one of the new products targeted at retirees. De Alwis added that the retirement industry will spur product innovation. “It is something that we will continue to search for at Kenanga, be it within our group or working with various partners. It doesn’t matter if the money goes here or there. At the end of the day, we are enlarging the pie.

“We just need people who are brave enough to join in to build the industry. It’s not difficult and it’s not just to cater to one part of it. It’s a big part of the economy. It also can be very profitable if it’s done correctly. It’s an industry by itself.

“We need to create a retirement industry, then everything will come into play. There are various programmes now like Malaysia My Second Home, but everything needs to link together. We have to look at the whole ecosystem of retirement.

“On top of that, when we have more retirement products and services, of course, the cost will come down. It becomes a commodity. But, at this moment, no one dares dabble into it. If you look at it, five years down the road is a very short time, but in 10, 15 years, this will be a booming industry.

“We are quite excited. It creates more dynamism in terms of how we treat this product-wise and services-wise,” said De Alwis.

ACG chief executive officer Carol Yip pointed out that some parties in the country are already building facilities and offering services for retirees. However, demand is still more than supply. To speed things up in time for 2020, more players need to enter the market place. This would reduce the cost, and these facilities and services would then be more affordable to the masses.

Conclusion

Speaking to reporters, De Alwis said that this year’s conference was more of an introduction to the infant industry, and next year should see a drill down to more intense topics.

“We hope to see that there is growth and development, and we will be able to share more, get more speakers and expertise coming in to provide more advice.

“Once retirement becomes an industry, Malaysians will take it more seriously and the whole ecosystem will fall into place. Our theme today is ‘A shared synergy towards an integrated ecosystem’. For an integrated ecosystem all the stakeholders have to come together in their own way. Like a jigsaw puzzle, all the pieces must fit together,” concluded De Alwis.

Main photo: Ismitz Matthew De Alwis, executive director and chief executive officer of Kenanga Investors, presenting his keynote address at the Sustainable Retirement & Aged Care Conference.

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