R8bn in benefits handed over

R17.1bn worth of benefits in 147,221 financial products remains unclaimed

South African rands. File picture
South African rands. File picture

Benefits worth R8.1bn that were previously unclaimed were reunited with the relevant beneficiaries and investors in 2018, the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (Asisa) says.

According to a statement from Asisa, the forgotten assets were held in 71,233 risk policies, savings and investment policies, annuity policies and unit trusts.

While a sizable chunk of unclaimed benefits found their rightful owners, a senior policy adviser at Asisa, Rosemary Lightbody, says an estimated R17.1bn worth of benefits in 147,221 financial products remains unclaimed.

Asisa members will honour unclaimed benefits no matter how long it takes for the rightful owner to come forward, despite the Prescription Act.

“The unclaimed assets referred to . . . are held in risk policies (life, disability, income protection and dread disease policies), savings and investment policies (endowment policies), annuity policies and accounts in collective investment scheme (CIS) portfolios.”

She says financial institutions have adopted a standard on unclaimed benefits that “encourages the use of enhanced tracing procedures so as to keep unclaimed assets at a minimum level and guides members on how to treat unclaimed assets”.

Assurers and investment houses cannot assume that when, for example, a customer reaches an advanced age, they have died.

“They may be alive and well and wanting their policies and investments to remain in place, or they may have passed away and their beneficiaries and heirs were unaware that a policy or investment existed.

“It is for this reason that the standard does not define unclaimed assets, but expects Asisa members to investigate the circumstances and establish what the position actually is.”

The standard does not apply to retirement annuity policies and preservation fund products, which are dealt with in terms of the Pension Funds Act, Lightbody said.

Consumers who believe they have a claim for a benefit should contact the relevant companies. A list of Asisa-member companies is available on its website.

“Companies will require proof from the person making the inquiry they have a valid interest in information about the account.

“They are unlikely to entertain opportunistic requests,” she warns.