Digital adoption in the retirement industry during lockdown

Lockdown has had a major impact on how people live, work and communicate. While most people are focused on food security and when they will be going back to work, life will never be the same for most industries.

The retirement fund industry is not one that people think about often, but a small player is making big waves to help the industry adopt technology and serve members remotely.

Total lockdown might come to an end next week, but our movements will be restricted for quite some time to come. It is estimated that it can take months for the economy to return to normal and for most people how they work might change for ever. Only time will tell.

For the retirement industry, this means that most members are not able to attend work at their normal place of work and they are not allowed to travel to retirement fund front offices or interact with their company HR department as they used to. A huge communication breakdown between funds and members was about to unravel as many funds still depend on companies’ HR departments to communicate with members (company staff) of their behalf.

Prior to the lockdown, The Benefit Counsellor developed digital channels to enable retirement fund members to access their retirement information digitally in a self-service fashion. A member can register for the service online or via WhatsApp, and thereafter the user has access to the online portal with support available via WhatsApp, online chat, USSD and email.

It seems that the solution came just in time for the lockdown period when one takes a look at the uptake of the various digital channels. The solution has proven its worth and lockdown has accelerated adoption beyond our expectations. For the latest available data (up to 19 April 2020), the percentage of members that have registered themselves for the service are:

Retirement Fund 1
(3,180 members)
Provident Fund 2
(14,898 members)

Members receive incentives such as airtime and Shoprite vouchers for helping fellow members to register. The graph below shows the exponential growth in registrations for Provident Fund 2:


The whole service is available through WhatsApp so there is no need for members to access the web. The most popular communication platform proved to be WhatsApp, with the percentage of all registered members using WhatsApp for support or assistance being:

Retirement Fund 1
Provident Fund 2

Other interesting data that illustrates the increase in cumulative numbers since lockdown is shown below:

Increase in total numbers since lockdown started

Retirement Fund 1
Provident Fund 2
Online chat messages
USSD sessions

The total number of impressions for the web portal currently stands as follows for the period 13 – 19 April:

Retirement Fund 1
24,322 (7.6 per registered user)
Provident Fund 2
27,871 (1.87 per registered user)

While the technology is still growing, no retirement fund member in South Africa, no matter what industry he/she works in should be without their information at their fingertips.

The vision of The Benefit Counsellor is to empower retirement fund members to access their retirement information easily and in real-time, thereby helping them to make better decisions regarding their retirement.

by Ernst Hertzog