Bophelo Benefit Services (Pty) Ltd (BBS) is a financial services company whose core business is the administration of trusts and beneficiary funds. BBS is a licensed 13B Administrator and an authorized Financial Services Provider.
Having proven itself in the Trust and Beneficiary Fund Administration industry (and realizing a demand for the levels of service that BBS has provided its clients) the company has branched into other service offerings and now forms part of a bigger group of companies wholly owned by Mvunonala Holdings (Pty) Ltd. The group includes, amongst others, Bophelo Life Insurance, Mvunonala Asset Managers and Bophelo Tracing Services.
Established in 2005, the company has enjoyed 10 successful years operating from it Rosebank head office in Johannesburg, in addition to walk-in centres in Durban, Rustenburg and the Johannesburg CBD. Group Chief Executive Officer Mr Bongani Mhlanga is one of the founders of the business.
“BBS was established with a clear vision in mind, that of creating a strong, independent, client-centric financial services company which is able to meet and exceed all our clients’ expectations,” says managing director Zukiswa Madlebe. “Our clients are not our sole priority - our team members are the core of our business. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost-effective administration service that always places the beneficiaries’ best interests first.
“The BBS brand is the pioneer of the group and has grown from strength to strength since its inception. Having won the coveted ‘Imbasa Yegolide’ award in 2013 for the Best Trust and Beneficiary Fund Administrator of the year, BBS can only get better. We are now regarded as a competitive force in the Beneficiary Fund administration space.”
Madlebe has been in the financial services industry for 21 years and gained her experience while working at several large financial institutions, including Metropolitan Life and PwC.
She continued studying after she had entered the working world, and went on to attain her current qualifications, which include a National Diploma: Internal Auditing (Walter Sisulu University), a National Diploma: HRM (Business Management Training College) and B.Comm. degree (UNISA). She is currently studying for his MBA with Henley Business School.
“I joined BBS in February 2009 as the Administration Manager,” says Madlebe. “During the course of my employment I also occupied other positions of Fund Consultant, Client Relations Manager and Executive Director. Being part of the BBS management team I had an opportunity to interact with different people in the industry and have been exposed to a broader spectrum of financial services products. When I joined the company it was very small, but what fascinated me and motivated me to want to be a part of the team was the vision of the founders.
“BBS is now among the biggest players in the retirement fund industry, with steady roots that promise more future successes. As the business grew I had an opportunity to also grow as a person as well as in terms of my career. I am a person who is goal-driven, dedicated and self-motivated. I believe that hard work and perseverance lead to greater results. Currently, I have been appointed as the Managing Director of BBS.”
Madlebe explains that Beneficiary Funds were introduced in 2009 by the Financial Services Board and are defined in the Pension Funds Act No. 24 of 1956 of South Africa. A beneficiary fund is a legal entity that is setup in accordance with the Pension Funds Act for the purpose of accepting section 37C death benefit payments. It is designed to accept and administer lump-sum death benefits allocated by trustees to the minor dependents of the deceased members of the pension/provident fund, as set out in section 37C of the Pension Funds Act.
“The Beneficiary Fund has a board of trustees who are there to ensure that the funds are administered with the necessary care for the benefit of the beneficiaries. It is an efficient and flexible way to ensure that the assets are looked after,” he says. “It also ensures that assets are objectively managed and controlled by the appointed trustees in the best interest of the beneficiaries.
“The fund is setup for the benefit of any minor beneficiaries who are still attending school/tertiary institutions. Depending on the rules of the Beneficiary Fund, school needs and other ad hoc requirements may also be catered for. The fund is administered until the beneficiary reaches the age of majority (18) and/or a beneficiary has completed his/her education. The remaining funds will then be paid out directly to the beneficiary.”
The key characteristics of the BBS service offerings include a multi-lingual call-centre with team members that speaks all of South Africa’s 11 official languages, in addition to a strong communication strategy, a highly experienced service team that understands the backgrounds, cultures and needs of guardians and beneficiaries, in addition to world-class systems and processes.
“About 95% of our staff come from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Our people are our main strength,” says Madlebe. “The team is made up of a strong group of highly trained and experienced individuals and are representative of the diversity found in South Africa. This is a valuable strength that enables us to deliver service of an even higher quality to our beneficiaries, guardians and clients. The company continues to recruit qualified and experienced employees to take up positions as and when new job opportunities are created.”
Regarding business difficulties, Madlebe explains that financial services companies face challenges that include track record, building positive reputation, accelerated growth and losing clients.
“Track record is obviously built using positive blocks and it is therefore important to keep one’s track record ‘clean’, even if the company has been in existence for a relatively short period like ours. Building positive reputation requires a sound and focused team. We constantly strive to maintain a good reputation.
“Marketing the company aggressively - particularly in its infant days - is one way of accelerating growth, and this is always one of the biggest challenges faced by financial services companies. Lastly, keeping clients ‘service content’ is one key way of overcoming and countering any potential loss of business,” she says.
For BBS, openness and transparency are of paramount importance to their clients. Through the company’s client relations strategy, BBS strives to build business relationships with clients and stakeholders by identifying potential risks in order to minimize the service gaps, with the aim of achieving the agreed service levels and retaining clients through excellent service, commitment and sharing of information.
Current clients include the Anglo Group Provident Fund, South African Local Authorities Pension Fund, Impala Workers Pension Fund, Road Freight and Logistics Industry Provident Fund, KZN Municipal Pension Fund and SATAWU National Provident Fund.
Madlebe believes that the competitive advantage offered by Bophelo Benefit Services (Pty) Ltd includes the fact that the company boasts high B-BBEE credentials, as it is a 100% black-owned and managed company. “We also communicate in the preferred language of the beneficiary or guardians and have a personal understanding of all cultures within our country. We boast a skilled, experienced and passionate team. Our inhouse administration system enables us to simplify communication to the level of our guardians and beneficiaries,” adds Madlebe.
In terms of future plans and challenges, the target for BBS is to expand their footprint into other geographic areas in order to maintain adequate service points.
“We are committed to maximizing the economic value for our stakeholders by adhering to leading industry Corporate Governance practices, leveraging all available skills and expertise, and exhausting all relevant business opportunities for growth. Our aim is to stay competitive by benchmarking our services against best retirement fund practices and to commit to understanding and closing all identified gaps while accounting for socio-economic differences,” concludes Madlebe.