Olefile Moea, Consultant, Fairheads Benefit Services, says the beneficiary fund administrator was shocked by the Financial Services Board (FSB)’s announcement that the pool of unclaimed benefits from retirement funds sits at around R20 billion.
The reasons for unclaimed benefits are many. They include poor member communication by some funds, as well as poor administration coupled with a failure by the boards of retirement funds to monitor compliance by administrators. They also include the failure by many fund members to inform their dependents that, if they die in service, there may be benefits payable to those dependent.
“Whatever the reasons, at Fairheads we welcome the FSB’s intention to implement measures obliging funds to increase their efforts in tracing beneficiaries,” Moea says.
Tackling the problem bit by bit
For its part, Fairheads has done its level best over the years to proactively trace beneficiaries.
“We list these initiatives in the hope that they will inspire others to do the same.”
Fairheads was the first beneficiary fund and umbrella trust administrator to:
- create its own in-house tracing team in 2010. The team has been hugely successful, without any cost to the membership
- introduce guardian roadshows around the country in 2010. This grassroots communication exercise has revolutionised understanding of processes, helped to keep member contact details up to date and spread the word about possible unclaimed benefits
- implement a novel field agents initiative in the past few months. “We have two field agents on the road, in a Fairheads-branded vehicle which doubles up as a mobile office. Within 6 months the team has driven over 10 000 kilometres, and processed 1 500 outstanding documents.”
Getting on the road to trace beneficiaries
Fairheads’ unique field agents project allows it to bring face-to-face service directly into people’s homes or at a place close to them, such as the car park of the local police station. Out come the table and chairs, the laptop and Themba Manzana and Lerato Mokgobu are ready to help!
Since May, the pair have already made day trips to Tembisa, been to Lesotho, Westonaria, Rustenburg, Soshanguve, Vosloorus, Soweto, Welkom, Marikana and Katlehong. In August they did a field trip to KwaZulu Natal and Polokwane is next on the list. Themba and Lerato share the driving and both attended a 4×4 training course before tackling some of the country’s rougher roads.
The field agents project forms part of Fairheads’ strategic aim of improving accessibility to clients in light of the challenges presented by the poor postal system and the high cost of airtime.
“Our sophisticated IT systems and databases show which geographic areas contain ‘non-compliant’ members who have not updated their contact details and who are therefore at risk of having monthly payments stopped.”
Moea says the field agents will spend longer periods in these targeted areas in order to provide clients with enough time to complete and return documents.
“In effect, Fairheads is now doing proactive tracing of those members who are not compliant and visiting them in their own homes to explain what needs to be done to resume/effect payments.”
If there are a large number of non-compliant members in a certain town or region, then a central venue is selected which could be a community, church or school hall, the police station or a TEBA Limited branch.