Liberty urges broader industry involvement in tracing unclaimed benefits
Johannesburg - Financial advisers and brokers are being urged to join in and assist the industry with tracing beneficiaries of Unclaimed Benefits estimated at R42 billion and owed to an estimated 4.5 million South Africans.
"With the wide network and clients that our advisory and broker partners have across the country, we could all contribute to the tracing process by educating people on Unclaimed Benefits and how they can claim their share if they are eligible," says Linda Mateza, Strategic Executive: Retirement Funds, Liberty.
Mateza says this is ultimately a win-win situation as people with unclaimed pension money would undoubtedly benefit from advice as potential future clients in the event of a payout.
So, who is eligible to claim for Unclaimed Benefits? This would generally be employees of companies who contributed as members of retirement funds during their employment and did not claim or receive their benefit upon terminating employment. Another major category are the children or surviving spouses of deceased former members of retirement funds, who might not be aware that their departed loved one left an pension benefit which remains unclaimed.
"There are many others who have not claimed or received their money for various reasons – which is why it’s important to make mention of this situation to as many clients as possible," she says.
The reason it is difficult to find some of these beneficiaries is because a sizeable portion of former fund members live in remote rural areas, which means matching names to addresses is not always simple. Many others were registered with their respective pension funds using incorrect or incomplete details, such as a date of birth instead of the full ID or passport number, making them difficult to trace.
"In certain cases, the benefits owed to individual members are small, and certain members simply don’t believe it’s worth their while to go through the administrative process required for them to claim a few hundred Rand."
However, in these tough economic times, no amount is too small.
In a country where telephonic fraud and scams are not uncommon, it’s understandable that many South Africans are cautious when contacted about their Unclaimed Benefits, adds Mateza. Hearing about the process from an industry source could give potential beneficiaries the confidence to check in on themselves and their relatives – both alive and deceased.
"Next time you’re speaking with a client, encourage them to visit Liberty's unclaimed-benefits page, which has a built-in search engine, to check if they are owed any benefits. They can also through a process by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority ("FSCA") send their ID number via SMS to 30913 to check whether they have Unclaimed Benefits with Liberty and other pension fund administrators.
The process isn’t a difficult one. If it is confirmed that a person or client has unclaimed money, they will be required to provide a completed claim form from the institution holding the money. Claimants will be required to provide tax information, proof of identity (SA ID/Passport copy or a driver's license) and the relevant supporting documentation which will be stated on the claim form."
Since 2018, Liberty has successfully traced and paid over R380 million in assets to thousands of members and beneficiaries – and the company continues its efforts to trace the remainder, who are owed a share of a pooled R2.3 billion. Liberty administers funds which have more than 170 000 former fund members.