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Celebrating 15 years of empowering the financial services industry

09 April 2015 Myra Rego

Fifteen years ago, in April 2000, the Financial Services Exchange (Pty) Ltd, trading as Astute, a well-known and reputable technology company that provides data exchange services to financial services companies and intermediaries was launched.

In celebrating 15 years of excellence, with a track record of innovative and continued success, FAnews congratulations Astute on a job well done. 

Astute, one of the main aggregators of technology industry data offers a variety of financial information transactions by giving financial advisers, who have their clients’ consent, online, simultaneous access to policy and investment information at life offices and investment companies. The platform has grown in leaps to more than 20 000 users.

Darryl Smith, Business Development Executive at Astute says, “our vision is to be the preferred central data portal bringing together the many disparate components of the financial services industry.”

Conquering milestones

When Astute was launched the concept of what they offer was quite new in the financial planning world. The real breakthrough came when Momentum joined in 2002 as the first non-shareholder company. Discovery joined in 2003, followed by PPS in 2005. 

In 2007, the company extended its services to include member companies of LISPA (Linked Investments Service Providers Association) and the ACI (Association of Collective Investments). Both associations are now also part of Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA), and by 2008 Astute became the preferred provider of various ASISA Registers. 

In June 2009, Allan Gray Proprietary Limited, an authorised financial services provider came on the platform of Astute as the first independent investment company. In early 2011 Astute was awarded the tender by the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) to set up the Short-term Insurance Data Exchange (STRIDE) system to handle financial information for the short-term insurance industry. The STRIDE switch went live in July 2012, with all the major short-term insurers coming on board. 

However, April 2012was another important milestone for Astute with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). Astute was appointed as the technology partner to build a direct link with DHA.  

The year 2014 was yet another year of reigning heights for Astute. In July the DHA link went live with ten companies and Astute embarked on major IT restructuring to enhance the platform. In August, management restructuring set the scene for future expansion. 

In March 2015, Astute’s first Service Excellence Award went to ABSA Life. 

Capability as a core function

To empower the financial services industry through independent and efficient platforms, the Consolidated Client Portfolio (CCP) system provides comprehensive information on almost 800 products and benefits commonly found in the long-term risk and investment markets. 

Astute systems reduce the time and cost of administration and allow advisers to focus on clients while assisting them to meet the compliance requirement of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act (FAIS). This system has proven to be powerful, and is a first of its kind electronic platform to link data sources from multiple competing product providers. 

According to Marsha Koekemoer, Products and Portfolio Executive at Astute, advisers, with the necessary client consent, are able to draw information that helps determine existing financial provision before undertaking a Financial Needs Analysis (FNA) to ascertain shortfalls in the client’s portfolio. “The information provided is updated daily by the Financial Services Board (FSB), thus eliminating the need for a manual in-house check of intermediary status,” says Koekemoer. 

In practical terms, this means that for clients with policies from several different companies, intermediaries are able to seamlessly and simultaneously download the required, standardised information in a matter of minutes.

Striving for continued success

According to Willie Snyman, General Manager at Astute, Astute has four core values which underpin its value proposition.These are integrity, excellence, collaboration and accountability. Business integrity means the difference between a company that succeeds and a company that falters.Astute is committed to advancing organisational excellence and collaboration, by striving continually to find ways to improve. Accountability is, in essence, the nerve centre that runs throughout every part of the organisation and through every working relationship to every member of every team.

Given Astute’s IT infrastructure and capabilities, it is confident of having developed a system able to accommodate different levels of infrastructure. “As far as our software solutions are concerned, the inclusion of the latest design techniques, technologies and architecture will improve scalability, availability and usability,” says Duncan Bussio, Head of IT at Astute. 

Taking the reign 

Going forward in 2015, the strategic shift is to move away from a focused life insurance business to a general financial services focus, to a single view of the person. 

According to Jacques Rossouw, Managing Director of Astute, change is on-going and Astute will continue to collaborate with the industry to identify new opportunities and requirements to improve efficiency and competitiveness. The objective is to improve services across the board to the life insurers, investment houses, short-term insurers, banks and regulators. 

Looking ahead, talent management and successful employee retention at Astute is one of the key people initiatives for 2015 and moving forward. “Astute is also in the process of transforming itself into becoming an Employer of Choice. And so with this, lies the commitment to foster a culture of excellence, integrity, accountability and collaboration, in alignment with the company’s core values,” said Nivashni Naguran, Human Resources Manager at Astute. 

Astute has established strong relationships with product providers, software vendors and intermediary bodies, and formed strategic relationships with member organisations. This has paved the way for Astute to negotiate in a non-competitive space. 

Commitment to CSR 

Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important element of Astute’s good corporate citizenship. The company has engaged in social responsible behaviours in many ways and will be hosting a Charity Golf day on 23 April 2015 in aid of the Astute Foundation. The aim is to donate R250 000 to rural communities and in reaching this goal Astute invites companies and colleagues to join the company for an incredible day of golfing, networking, fun, laughter and magnificent prizes. Register here. 

Editor’s Thoughts:
With a 15 year track record of innovative and continued success, congratulations to Astute on a job well done. A great platform for intermediaries as information is made available in a matter of minutes which saves time and resources, not to mention the fact that these transactions are in compliance with regulations. Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts myra@fanews.co.za

          

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