Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 14th 2015 Contents MAY 2015 • WEEK TWO www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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As the National Insurance
Board (NIB) seeks to diversify
its investment portfolio to
make the national benefits
provider less dependent on
bonds and local stocks, the
institution s new executive director says it "could
look at" acquiring the CL Financial subsidiary,
Home Construction Ltd (HCL), the largest pri-
vate sector landowner in the country.
Speaking in an exclusive interview on April
30, the NIB executive director Niala Persad-
Poliah, said that the institution is looking to
increase its investment positions in the energy
sector and in real estate.
As part of the NIB s diversification into
energy investments, Persad-Poliah pointed to
the institution s investment---as part of a three-
company local consortium, in the joint and
equal purchase in November---of a ten-per
cent stake in Phoenix Park Gas Processors,
the highly profitable natural gas fractionating
company based on the Point Lisas Industrial
Asked if one of the NIB s diversification
projects could include the purchase of a stake
in Methanol Holdings (Trinidad) Ltd, Persad-
Poliah said: "It could be. That is not currently
before the NIB for consideration, but I am
confident that if it does come before us, it
would be something that we would look at."
As a result of an arbitration tribunal decision,
Clico was forced to sell for US$1.175 billion its
56.53 per cent majority stake in MHTL to the
company s minority shareholders Consolidated
Energy Ltd, which is jointly owned by Switzer-
land-based Proman and Germany s Helm.
It had previously been suggested that Con-
solidated Energy would consider selling down
its current 100 per cent shareholding on MHTL
to large local institutional investors, including
the NIB, National Enterprises Ltd and the Unit
Trust Corporation---the three investors involved
in the purchase of the ten per cent stake in
She said the need to diversify its portfolio
also explains why the NIB is looking to acquire
more of the properties on which its offices
"While we have 20 locations, we only own
eight of those. So one of the strategic moves
of the NIB as we go into the next financial
year is the acquisition of real estate, which we
see will provide some form of hedging against
the volatility in the market," said Persad-Poli-
ah.Asked whether there had been any discus-
sion between the NIB and the Government
about the purchase by NIB of the Government s
stake in HCL, Persad-Poliah said: "At the NIB,
we are always on the lookout for good invest-
ment opportunities. We have not approached
the Government on that and neither has the
Government approached us."
In March, the Central Bank announced that
as part of the settlement of the CL Financial s
indebtedness to the Government, the State
would receive Clico s shareholdings in Angos-
tura, CL World Brands and HCL for a combined
total of $3 billion. Clico owns 47 per cent of
HCL, which is in the process of being trans-
ferred to the Government.
Told that it made sense for an institution
like the NIB to acquire HCL---given the man-
date to diversify its portfolio into real estate,
the NIB s ownership of Nipdec, a project man-
agement subsidiary and the fact that HCL
owns large swathes of land---the NIB executive
director said: "If the opportunity presents
itself, it will be considered. I am not sure that
that has been considered by the board at this
time, but it is something I am sure that we
could look at."
Some 88.28 per cent of the NIB s $25.6 bil-
lion investment portfolio comprises local assets,
while 11.72 per cent of the portfolio is made
up of regional and international investments.
In early 2014, according to Persad-Poliah, the
NIB s overseas exposure limit was increased
from 10 to 20 per cent, which means that the
NIB "has some more flexibility in making
regional and international investments. This
is something that the investment committee
and the investment department are actively
The NIB executive director said that one of
the things she is passionate about is driving
improvements in the NIB s delivery of service.
Questioned on the extreme difficulties some
NIB customers face in getting their telephone
calls answered, Persad-Poliah said one of the
many initiatives the NIB has embarked on was
the establishment of a customer care centre,
which was launched late last month. The
centre replaces the NIS hotline and can be
accessed by calling 625-4NIS.
"At the NIB in 2015, we are all about change,
all about transformation, which is urgently
required to serve the citizens and people of
Among the NIB initiatives aimed at improv-
ing service are the opening of the Arima service
centre in January this year and opening at the
end of April of the Arima collections centre,
which is intended to serve the needs of employ-
ers seeking to make contributions on behalf
of their employees. The collections centre will
allow employees to drop off claims, life cer-
tificates and other queries.
She said the service centre in Rio Claro was
relocated to a new spacious environment to
better serve the needs of customers.
The NIB, as well, has introduced an online
contribution statement request, which can be
accessed on the NIB s website and which, she
said, would take three days to be processed
and distributed to customers.
In May, the NIB introduced a system that
allows employers to make online payments.
Next month, the institution launches its
revised appeal process, which will make it
easier for customers to have their claims
The NIB is also pushing to convert its paper
records into digital.
"As you know, the NIB has been more or
less a paper-based institution since its estab-
lishment. So, one of the initiatives we have
commenced is the scanning, indexing and
digitising of all of our records, which would
make our turnaround time easier and quicker."
That project is expected to be completed next
Persad-Poliah also spoke about the NIB s
Pension Ready initiative, which targets potential
pension recipients who are 55-years-old and
over. This allows someone approaching retire-
ment to go into the NIB to ensure that the
institution s records are in line with the cus-
tomer s employment history, long before they
Should NIB buy HCL?
Did you know?
1) It is possible to receive an NIB pen-
sion that is more than $3,000 a month.
NIB regulations state that you are cur-
rently entitled to a minimum pension of
$3,000 from the institution if you have
made 750 contributions, which is about
The NIB says the number of people
receiving a retirement benefit in excess
of $3,000 is 1,607, which is less than 2
per cent of the total number of people
receiving NIB pensions. The highest
monthly payment is $3,636.55.
Every additional 25 contributions
beyond the 750 minimum, provides the
pensioner with an increment that poten-
tially increases the amount they receive.
2) T&T and Canada have a reciprocal
agreement whereby nationals of T&T
who have worked and made social security
payments in Canada, but do not qualify
for benefits in Canada, they can apply
for the benefit in Canada and utilize con-
tributions made in T&T.
Having worked in Canada, it is also
possible for someone to retire in T&T
and benefit from contributions made in
Some 220 people accessed the Caricom
and Canada reciprocal arrangements in
2013, while 195 accessed the arrangements
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