South Africa is sitting with R33.5 billion in unclaimed policies and investments – here’s how to see if you can claim

The Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA) says that there the country is currently sitting with R33.5 billion in unclaimed assets, comprising thousands of savings, investments and other policies held by South Africans.

Specifically, ASISA noted that 302,119 savings, investments, risk policies, annuity policies and accounts in Collective Investment Schemes (CIS) portfolios remain unclaimed, and policyholders, beneficiaries, investors and heirs are entitled to their proportional share of the unclaimed assets.

ASISA is a non-profit company formed to represent the savings, investment and insurance industry that contributes trillions of rand to South Africa’s economy.

ASISA members started 2021 with having to trace the legal owners of R32.3 billion in unclaimed assets. Tracing efforts reduced this amount by R22.7 billion to R9.6 billion, but unfortunately ASISA member companies had to classify another R23.8 billion of assets across 60,837 policies and investment accounts as unclaimed during 2021.

“As a result, unclaimed assets held on behalf of policyholders, beneficiaries, investors and heirs amounted to R33.5 billion at the end of December 2021,” it said.

Typically, member companies would cancel an individual’s right to claim an unpaid amount after three years, however, these companies have agreed to waive their rights in terms of the Prescription Act to do so.

“Good news for the legal owners of unclaimed assets is that ASISA members are committed to honouring valid claims on unclaimed policy benefits and investment proceeds no matter how long it takes to trace the policyholders, beneficiaries, investors or heirs, ASISA said.

The group said that:

  • A customer’s right to an unclaimed asset remains until the claim is paid or the asset returned, regardless of the timeframe.
  • Unclaimed assets should not become the property of the product provider or its shareholders.

These standards do not apply to retirement annuity policies and preservation fund products, however, which remain under the provisions of the Pension Fund Act.

How to claim

Many ASISA members proactively and regularly check policies against the national population registry to check whether or not policyholders have died.

The association says that companies keep an eye on a number of ‘trigger events’ – such as policies reaching maturity, or policyholders passing 80 years of age – as times to check up on the status of the policyholder and what further action needs to be taken.

If policyholders cannot be contacted or traced, after three years, the assets are determined to be unclaimed.

The best way to ensure that assets do not go unclaimed is to make sure policies are kept up to date, and that they are tracked in the policyholder’s will. However, if an heir, investor or other beneficiary suspects they have a claim, they can:

  • Contact the ASISA member they suspect might have unclaimed benefits due to them;
  • Fill out the required forms to see if there is a valid claim;
  • If they have a valid claim, they will be prompted to start the formal claim process with the member company.

ASISA members usually have websites that handle the processes directly, such as Old Mutual’s unclaimed benefits page. A full list of ASISA members can be found here.

As a result of digital record-keeping, without access to someone’s computer or laptop it is almost impossible to piece together their financial affairs, said ASISA.

“We would therefore like to encourage all consumers to ensure that a register of policy details, investment accounts as well as bank accounts is shared with someone trustworthy, whether a relative, close friend, financial adviser or estate planner. This register should be placed in safekeeping together with an up-to-date copy of your will.”


Unclaimed pensions

South Africa also continues to see a huge amount of unclaimed pension fund benefits, with billions of rands owed to approximately five million members.

The figure was first reported at R42 billion in 2020, but has subsequently increased to R47.3 billion in 2021, according to a report published by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) in April 2022.

The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) provides a central database which South Africans can check to see whether any unpaid pension benefits are owed to them.

A prospective beneficiary must input basic information into the unclaimed benefits search engine, such as a person’s name, surname, identification number, fund name, and name of employer.

If they are successful, the beneficiary will be provided with the contact detail of the relevant fund or administrator.

The FSCA said it can only assist by providing the contact details of the relevant fund and/or administrator whereafter the enquirer will have to contact the fund directly and then follow the normal claims process of a fund to prove a valid claim.

A prospective beneficiary could alternatively use these search channels to uncover unclaimed benefits:

Search channel Contact details
Online searches – FSCA website Click here to search for unclaimed benefits…
Email enquiry – ID number [email protected]
Email enquiry – general request [email protected]
SMS enquiry – ID number 30913
SMS enquiry – general request 30766
Fax submissions 086 578 1183
Toll-free telephone enquiries 0800 20 3722 (toll-free)
Walk-in clients River Walk Office Park, Block B, 41 Matroosberg Road, Ashlea Gardens
Written enquiries PO Box 35655 Menlo Park Pretoria 0102

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South Africa is sitting with R33.5 billion in unclaimed policies and investments – here’s how to see if you can claim