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One, two, three…

18 August 2005 Angelo Coppola

The three-shareholder commercial venture announced three pieces of news last week.

1. Astute and Liberty Life have entered into a partnership which will see Liberty intermediaries using Astute for their long term insurance and investment queries.

In what has been styled as an IT partnership, Liberty will reduce their direct overheads, as Myles Ruck indicated in their interim results presentation last week.

The legacy systems issues that most, if not all life offices, suffer from has been a problem, says Lee Izkowitz, from Liberty Life. And using the infrastructure that has been developed has reduced their overhead.

Biddie Biddulph – who is in charge of Astute - says that essentially Astute has become an outsource option for Liberty for some of their IT requirements.

2. Astute also announced that the ‘newish’ Old Mutual product range that was launched to deal with early surrender values issues, by providing flexible premium payment options – Max Investments – also joined the platform, in May.

This joins the other Old Mutual products which are on offer, and available to the 3000 odd personal financial advice advisors.

3. Biddulph also announced that the platform had introduced true SMS functionality to mobile phonesfor intermediaries, this follows hot on the heels of the entry level mobile banking Standard Bank MTN offering.

Essentially intermediaries in the field can request and recieve summary information on their clients - if they have the mandate to do so.

On an unrelated note, the self-styled industry initiative has three shareholders and the door is definitely not closed for any of the remaining bigger players – like Momentum – to become an equity partner. There is a vehicle in place to do this… Currently the three are Liberty Life, Sanlam and Old Mutual.

Interestingly enough, there are in the region of 1.2m to 1.5m transactions per month, from the 17000 Astute clients, just under half of which are IFAs, and the remainder are the various agency forces.

Products from 12 companies are represented – 10 in the life insurance industry and two within the investment industry. They plan to enter the unit trust and linked products in a big way, with a serious push into the investment sector.

Editor's thoughts:

Thelive test and demonstration of the SMS functionality to members of the media proved successful, although the amount of content that is displayed on a mobile screen may have intermediaries reaching for their reading glasses.

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