DIFC appoints Dews supervisory board to oversee savings scheme

The defined contribution scheme replaces end-of-service gratuity in the financial free zone

DUBAI, UAE. April 16, 2014 - Stock photograph of stock ticker in front of DIFC Gate in Dubai, April 16, 2014. (Photos by: Sarah Dea/The National, Story by: Lianne Gutcher, Business)
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The Dubai International Financial Centre appointed a supervisory board to oversee its new DIFC Employee Workplace Savings (Dews) plan, and “ensure the interests of all employers and employees based in the DIFC are protected”, the free zone said on Wednesday.

The Dews plan, which replaces the end-of-service gratuity with a defined contribution investment scheme, went into effect on February 1. Employers have until March 31 to enrol in Dews or an alternative qualifying scheme.

The supervisory board consists of five members: business leader Hamed Kazim as the independent chair; DIFC Authority (DIFCA) representatives Jacques Visser, chief legal officer, and Madeya Alktebi, senior vice president and head of human resources; Thenji Moyo, co-head of employment at legal services firm DWF as the employee representative; and Gordon Barr, a partner in employment & incentives at law firm Al Tamimi as the employer representative.

“Ultimately, the newly-appointed members of the supervisory board will ensure Dews matches the international standards that top global talent expect,” said Arif Amiri, chief executive of the DIFCA.

“The new Dews supervisory board should reassure employers and employees at the DIFC that we have an unwavering commitment to protecting their finances and delivering returns,” he added.

Mr Kazim, who was chosen as independent chair by DIFC governor Essa Kazim, owns Hamed Kazim Consultancy. He is a senior adviser to PwC and has served on the boards of banks and large commercial enterprises in the UAE.

The DIFCA received more than 200 nominations for the employee and employer representatives, which were then narrowed down to a shortlist of 21 and voted on by the DIFC community.

“Employment rights have always been at the very core of what I do and I look forward to being part of this ground-breaking initiative which brings the DIFC in line with international standards,” employee representative Ms Moyo told The National. “I am committed to taking the necessary steps to ensure the voices of the DIFC employees are heard at the highest level.”

The new board will “oversee the governance and commercial aspects of the scheme that are not subject to regulatory supervision”, the DIFC said. The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) will supervise regulatory aspects of the master trustee and scheme administrator’s duties.

Equiom is serving as master trustee for the Dews plan, Swiss insurer Zurich Middle East is the administrator and global consultancy Mercer is the investment adviser. The scheme requires employers to contribute an amount equal to 5.83 per cent or 8.33 per cent of an employee’s wage, depending on length of service, on a monthly basis to a trust-administered fund.

The targeted returns for the Dews plan range from 2.5 per cent and 6.8 per cent, while the fees are between 1.26 and 1.33 per cent, according to Mercer. Employees can choose from five risk-profiled funds and can also make voluntary contributions.

Alternative qualifying schemes must apply for approval from the DFSA, but none have yet been approved.

"A handful of applications are currently pending final consideration by the DFSA to ensure proper regulation and we anticipate that announcements will shortly be made in this regard," a DIFC spokesperson told The National.