Iemas Financial Services – Thriving Through Cooperation

We learn how Iemas Financial Services has become an essential institution for its members during this troubled year.

Iemas Financial Services first opened its doors in 1937 as a financial services organisation, growing steadily with each passing year to become the largest financial services co-operative in South Africa. Today the group employs over 500 people and execute a strategy aimed at establishing and maintaining an organisational culture of high performance, innovation and continuous improvement, in support of sustainable growth.

Iemas’ healthy work environment is maintained through ongoing people and leadership development support, diversity integration and employee wellness programmes. As a co-operative, the group is driven by the unique philosophy of putting people and their wellness, at the heart of its business.

Of course, these are all very nice-sounding words, but 2020 has really put those principles to the test. The world has had to cope with the outbreak of COVID-19, while climate change is already affecting many lives. Iemas Financial Services’ Group CEO, Banie van Vollenhoven, has been keen to rise to the challenge.

According to the International Co-operative Alliance,” Cooperatives are people-centred enterprises owned, controlled and run by and for their members to realise their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations’,” he says. “In other words, our customers become members of our organisation by taking up financial products and services, and share in our annual profit, benefiting them financially and contributing towards the upliftment of the communities in which we work and live.” This year we assisted many members with various initiatives to help them during the pandemic and lock-down period, with deferred payment arrangements, assistance with credit life claims and debt restructuring – to name a few.”

In the battle against climate change, this means helping the company shift towards a greener future.

“We are moving towards a ‘greener’ future in that many of our product offerings and processes are going to become digital, many of our employees work from home and we encourage our members to use our digital platforms to move away from using paper-based processes,” van Vollenhoven says. “Iemas has committed to contribute to a greener society by making a positive social and environmental impact in the communities we operate in through various CSR projects.”

Staying in the Green

Financial services might not be the first industry you think of when it comes to challenging climate change, but van Vollenhoven insists this is an essential front.

“Most financial institutions relooked at their operations and have invested in green and open plan buildings as well as moved away from paper-based processes,” he says. “Secure digital platforms and applications contribute massively to a greener future and in addition, most organisations have introduced dynamic working (working remotely) – reducing travel and carbon emissions.”

However, the foundation of Iemas’ business model is collaborative, and van Vollenhoven points out that there are many things individuals can do to contribute.

“Small changes in the way we work and live can have a big impact in the long run – it can even save you money. Start by using a material shopping bag every time you shop, be electricity wise and work from home (if you can) rather than going to work,” van Vollenhoven says. “Not just from a safety perspective but also to reduce your carbon footprint.”

Digital Support

It’s clear talking to van Vollenhoven that he believes digital solutions will be a big part of solving the problems posed by a virus-based pandemic and climate change, and Iemas’ subsidiaries are working hard to leverage these tools to also improve customer experience.

Iemas Insurance Brokers (IIB), an authorised financial service provider (FSP 47563), is at the forefront of converting to trusted digital solutions. IIB’s Managing Director, Piet Wolmarans understands the importance of going digital and how these solutions can support consumers on their financial wellness journey.

Last year Iemas IIB began offering life, disability and funeral cover digitally.

As Wolmarans tells us, “Before the outbreak of COVID-19, we saw a need for convenient and affordable digital solutions. That’s why we partnered with InsureTech company, Simply.” The solution Iemas Insurance Brokers now offers gives individuals and businesses life, disability and funeral cover for themselves, employees and domestic workers in a matter of minutes.

“What is more is there are no medicals, which makes it safe and convenient,” Wolmarans says. “Life cover and related products are not ‘nice to haves’ anymore – the market responded to this realisation and as such, we have seen a significant increase in uptake.”

Tools like these are Iemas’ response to a rapidly changing insurance industry. Indeed, a rapidly changing world.

“Most consumers’ financial situation has changed drastically over the last few months. We have seen an increase in the demand for car and household insurance payment relief breaks,” Wolmarans points out. “However, we have similarly seen an increase in the need for life, funeral and disability cover. This is not surprising as consumers understand the seriousness of planning for the future in light of the life-threatening pandemic, COVID- 19. The Financial industry had to adapt to these changes by offering payment relief break options and affordable digital insurance solutions.”

. When the world becomes unpredictable, people need to protect themselves from uncertainty; which is what the insurance industry is all about

“If you do not have insurance, you will be financially worse off as your assets (like your car and home) are now at risk as well as your family. Certainly life, funeral and disability cover are a must,” says Wolmarans. “So, take the time to speak to your insurance broker about options available to you as some level of cover is much better than no cover. Especially during high-risk times, such as these, being insured will not only give you peace of mind but will also provide you with much needed financial support when the unexpected happens.”

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