By Olefile Moea, Executive Director, Fairheads Benefit Services
In the retirement fund industry, as well as the life insurance industry, it is vital to establish that the beneficiary of annuity payments is still alive. A regular check that they remain alive could save many thousands of rands and help prevent fraud.
Some funds and administrators take the view that a simple check against the Department of Home Affairs database is sufficient, and in many cases that may be true. However, consider that for many families, the payment in question may be their only source of income and there is a disincentive for them to register the death of the beneficiary.
In other cases, particularly in beneficiary funds where minors’ money is involved, the Proof of Life process often involves more than simply checking that the beneficiary is alive – trustees need to be sure that the guardian or caregiver is alive, that the minor member is alive, and that they remain in the care of the guardian or caregiver who is receiving the regular stipend.
Up until recently the most widespread way to establish Proof of Life was by sending out a paper based Certificate of Existence which would need to be completed by the beneficiary in some way, such as in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths. Unfortunately, given the low level of reliability and efficiency of this approach combined with the major delivery problems by the postal system, administrators are seeking new and innovative ways to establish Proof of Life. These include voice biometrics which enables accurate identification by phone.