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Astute – The Financial Services Exchange

The company

The Financial Services Exchange (Pty) Ltd, trading as Astute, was launched in April 2000 as a collaborative service between members of the former Life Offices’ Association of South Africa (LOA), now part of the Association of Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA), which recognised the need to establish an electronic exchange for the long-term insurance industry. The initiative was spearheaded by the Liberty Group, Sanlam and Old Mutual who set up the company on behalf of the industry and are the equal shareholders of Astute.

Through a structured co-sourcing partnership arrangement with a well known and reputable technology company, the technology has been created to cater for the exchange to handle a variety of financial information transactions.

Vision and Purpose Statement

Our Vision is:

To be the leading independent interactive electronic information exchange portal for the Financial Services Industry.

Our Purpose is:

Astute is an electronic information exchange service that enhances the movement and integration of financial data in the financial services industry by providing:

  • -   A single point-of-entry service to various product providers servicing intermediaries
  •  
  • -   Online, simultaneous access to clients’ policy and investment information at several life offices and other financial institutions
  •  
  • -   Aggregated information to enable efficient decision making by financial service providers

The portal facilitates access to and integration of data and information for the Financial Services Industry and selected
external stakeholders.

Our Directors

RG Govender (Chairperson)
Willie Snyman (Managing Director - Acting)
LH Balcomb (Director)
AW Cilliers (Director)
PJ Dempsey (Director)
GT MacIntyre (Director)
JvR van Niekerk (Alt.Director)
Y Naidoo (Alt.Director)
A van Niekerk (Alt.Director)

Our Management

Willie Snyman (Managing Director - Acting)
Darryl Smith (Business Development & Sales)
Duncan Bussio (Project Delivery Manager)
Marsha Koekemoer (Product Manager)
Mduduzi Ndlovu (Client Services Manager)
Michelle Taylor (Service Level Manager)
Roslyn Keetse (Management Accountant)

Our People

The company structure of Astute is lean and in a matrix format. It consists mainly of operations functions, such as a Technology division, Client Support Centre, a Training division and the Key Account Managers, which report to the COO, while the other divisions report directly to the Managing Director.

Although all functions are coordinated from the head office in RoseBank, Astute has established a sales and support network countrywide. Representatives are currently based in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Our staff complement is representative of all the race groups in South Africa, passionate about Astute and serve our customers with distinction.

Service Offerings

The ultimate aim of Astute is to cater for a variety of specific types of financial information transactions.

Current systems provided by Astute to the Life and Investment Industries in South Africa are as follows:

Astute’s Consolidated Client Portfolio (CCP) System

In line with a general intermediary requirement for receiving “standardised” policy information for the purposes of financial needs analysis (FNA), Astute developed a system called Consolidated Client Portfolio – Life and Risk & Investments, which provides consolidated information of a client to a registered financial adviser.

This includes policies underwritten by the life divisions of the various life offices, i.e. whole life, endowment, retirement annuity, term assurance, other annuities and income protection policies and also the underlying investment portfolio information.

We have expanded the service to include policy investment as well as pure unit trust products including LISP’s products. Content Providers currently providing client portfolio information through the system are:

  • Old Mutual Life (including Namibia), Old Mutual Unit Trusts and Galaxy Portfolio Services
  • Sanlam Life and Sanlam Collective Investments
  • Liberty Life, Liberty Active and Capital Alliance Life (Part of Liberty Life)
  • STANLIB (part of the Liberty Group)
  • Momentum Life and Momentum Wealth
  • PPS
  • Discovery Life
  • Metropolitan Life
  • Altrisk
  • Sanlam Namibia

The content providers are continuously expanded based on the demands of the users of the Astute CCP System.

The benefits of using the Astute CCP System include the following:

  • -   It is a smarter and quicker method of accessing the client’s information.
  • -   It saves time dramatically.
  • -   It reduces the cost of administration.
  • -   It allows the financial adviser to concentrate on the client rather than on time consuming administration.
  • -   It frees up valuable resources and those of the life offices.
  • -   It assists in complying with the Policyholder Protection Rules (PPR) and the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Act.

The system offers the following features:

  • -   There are two methods of access, web browser or financial needs analysis (FNA) system.
  • -   FNA users need not re-enter data. Delivery is direct and seamless. There are three “views” of varying detail of information for web users.
  • -   There is upfront user authentication.
  • -   There is an accepted industry standard for all the information.
  • -   Security is provided on the data, on the systems and for the users.
  • -   The system allows for flexible billing.
  • -   The system allows for flexible user management.
  • -   Audit trails and transaction tracking are provided.
  • -   The system provides valuable management information and reporting.
  • -   The system adheres to a maximum 24 hour response time from Content Providers.
  • -   The system is supported by a dedicated customer support centre.

Transactional Integration for ASISA members

Astute provides integration facilities to companies to alleviate duplication of technology infrastructures within the companies, with a resultant cost saving. The product provider can then leverage off the Astute technology infrastructure in terms of integration to back end and front end systems within the company.

Old Mutual, Liberty Life and Sanlam Namibia are currently making use of these facilities.

ASISA Policy Replacement System

The life offices, under the auspices of ASISA, have determined that a central Policy Replacement Monitoring System needed to be developed that facilitates the management of replacements of policies between life offices and commissioned Astute to develop this system. The system is currently focussed on products which have a savings component, as described in the “Statement of Intent” signed by the former LOA and National Treasury in 2005.

The benefits and features of the Policy Replacement System are as follows:

  • Different levels of infrastructure across life offices;
  • Different structures and complexities of insurance products;
  • Different roles and involvement that any party may have in relation to a policy;
  • Future scalability of the system to include additional product types;
  • A better understanding of the quantity and types of replacements taking place in the life assurance industry;
  • Member life offices that are currently unable to track internal replacements (where one of their products is replaced by another of their own products) will gain visibility into these replacements through the system;
  • The automated processing of data will alleviate administrative burden as well as human errors in the member life offices;
  • The centralised rules engine will ensure consistency in determining when a replacement has taken place across and within life offices;
  • The data can be further analysed to determine long-term trends, policy types that are being replaced, policy types that are being favoured when replacements take place, financial intermediaries responsible for excessive replacements of policies, net replacements within and across life offices etc.

The following companies are currently involved in the Policy Replacement System:

  • Liberty Group (Liberty Life, Liberty Active and Capital Alliance Life)
  • Sanlam Life
  • Old Mutual Individual Life
  • Momentum Life
  • Metropolitan Life
  • Discovery Life
  • Professional Provident Society
  • Altrisk (including Hollard Life)
  • ABSA Life
  • AIMS
  • African Life
  • Assupol
  • Channel Life
  • Clientele Life
  • NedGroup Life
  • Regent Life

ASISA Life & Claims Register System

Members of ASISA share information in regard to policyholders’ medical impairments and claims in order to combat fraud. ASISA's code of conduct for the two registers defines their purpose in the following way:

  • The insurance risks which insurers are asked to cover, and the claims they are asked to pay, must be properly assessed. To do this, insurers must be able to obtain information relevant to those risks and claims.
  • The Life Register is a data base through which insurers can share information about persons who propose for, or who are the lives assured under, policies and who have "notifiable impairments" that are relevant to the risk or claim assessment.
  • The Claims Register is a database through which insurers can share information about persons who are the lives assured under policies and who have made "notifiable claims" that are relevant to the assessment of future claims.

Astute was commissioned in 2008 to develop a new system to replace the previous Life and Claims Registers.

The Astute Life and Claims Registers System is currently in roll out phase to all the life insurance companies which are members of ASISA. The roll out will take place over the next 18 months and must be completed by the end of July 2010.

Personal Services & Trust Enquiry System

In terms of the Income Tax Act No. 58 of 1962 (“the Act”), all employers are obliged to deduct employee’s tax (PAYE) from payments made to a company, close corporation or trust that meets the definition of a “personal service provider” (PSP) in the Act.

In order to standardise the procedures followed by financial institutions to establish the PSP status of all contracted FSPs that operate as companies, CCs or trusts, certain ASISA members have agreed to participate in a centralised system for the purpose of establishing the tax status of FSPs.

Astute was commissioned during 2008 by the participating ASISA members to produce a system so that their respective FSPs can complete the questionnaire via a web interface and maintain their company details and tax status. The system generates a printed version of the questionnaire and an affidavit which the FSP must complete and return to Astute, for filing purposes. The system is accessible to participating product providers and FSPs.

ASISA members currently participating in the system are the following:

  • Liberty Life
  • Sanlam
  • Old Mutual
  • Momentum
  • Metropolitan
  • Hollard Life (including Altrisk)

Astute Client Support Centre

We provide comprehensive support services to all our clients through our Support Centre which operates from Monday to Friday 8:00 till 17:00.

Main features of the Astute system

Accepted industry standard for all information

As can be expected, portraying financial and other information of different product providers to the user in a generic format is a challenge, as one is constantly confronted by differing product definitions, established brand names, and company preferences.

All product providers have to conform to an industry standard of product definitions and interpretation before any content is allowed to be portrayed through Astute. The standard adopted for this is the international Acord standard, thus ensuring that the data definitions comply with internationally accepted terms and standards.

Astute technology infrastructure

The Astute products and services are delivered from a managed shared environment, allowing all parties to share in the benefits of scale. Our solutions are developed on top of Microsoft’s suite of products, in particular SQL Server and Biztalk Server. Any components developed specifically for the Astute system are implemented in Microsoft .Net technology.

FNA systems (see below) integrate with the Astute platform through standards compliant Web Services, which are quickly becoming the de-facto integration mechanism over the Internet. We utilise the same SSL technology used by banks to secure their Internet banking sites, to ensure that information is adequately protected.

Connectivity to Life Offices and Investment Product Providers is achieved using IBM’s WebSphere MQ over a managed MPLS network. This design provides guaranteed delivery of information to/from the Astute system, while maintaining the highest levels of security and network performance management.

Financial Needs Analysis (FNA) systems

The Astute system integrates with most of the FNA systems that are available in the South African market. A FNA usually has different operating modules, such as a client management system, risk analyser tool and a quoting engine. All data delivery to an FNA from Astute is direct and seamless. The advantage of this process for an intermediary is lower administration costs and improved service to clients, as client information no longer needs to be captured manually into the FNA system.

Data Security

An intermediary cannot obtain access to any information without the written authorisation from the client. Furthermore, all intermediaries who register as users are required to be listed on the intermediary Register of ASISA and be licensed in terms of the FAIS Act. Each user is required to sign their acceptance of the terms and conditions and this signature forms the acceptance of the contractual obligations that exist between Astute and the user from the date of registration. In addition, compliance officers perform random checks using the system audit trails and exception reporting functions to ensure that the necessary client authority exists and the terms and conditions are being adhered to. Contravention of these requirements results in the product providers taking remedial action against an intermediary.

Security in terms of technology is paramount to the companies providing the data, to the users of that data, to Astute and most importantly to the client to whom the data belongs. It has therefore been of extreme importance to the developers of the system to implement a three-layered security system, which is hosted in a trusted and secure environment.

Through its security measures as described above, Astute ensures that its product offering is totally compliant to industry regulations and other relevant legislation. All reasonable measures are taken to ensure that information transfer is secure, privileged and confidential.