Clean bill of health for SA life industry

first_img8 October 2013Assets held by South African life insurers grew to R1.8-trillion in the first half of this year, representing a 5% increase from the R1.7-trillion held at the end of 2012, the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (Asisa) announced on Monday.Releasing the half-year statistics for the country’s long-term insurance industry, Asisa deputy CEO Peter Dempsey said the industry’s assets continued to exceed its liabilities by more than triple the legal reserve buffer required by the Financial Fervices Board.Considered against the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), the life industry’s assets exceeded its liabilities by more than four times – a clear sign that the industry remained “healthy and well positioned to honour future benefit payments to policyholders,” Dempsey said in a statement.Premium growthIn the first half of the year, South Africa’s life industry paid R155-billion in benefits to policyholders, beneficiaries, and pension fund members as a result of death and disability claims, maturity pay-outs and pension, annuity and other payments – 27% more than the R121-billion paid out in the second half of last year.At the same time, according to the association, total new premiums for the first six months of 2013 amounted to R47.5-billion, a healthy 10% increase over the R44.7-billion collected in the previous half-year ended December 2012.In the first six months of the year, South African consumers took out just over 5-million new individual risk and savings policies, paying monthly premiums of R8.6-billion, the association said.Individual recurring (monthly premium) business typically consists of endowments and retirement annuity funds, as well as life, disability, dread disease and income protection policies.Dempsey noted that recurring premium income for the period grew by 3% for risk policies, retirement annuities and endowment policies. Credit life policies, however, experienced a 23% decline in premium income in the first half of 2013, resulting in an overall 2% decline for total recurring premiums.Single premium policies (investment policies, living annuities, compulsory annuities, retirement annuities), on the other hand, showed strong growth in the first half of the year, with consumers buying just over 95 000 single premium policies between January and June worth premiums of R39-billion – a 13% growth in new single premiums.Surrenders and lapsesAccording to Isasa, the value of surrendered policies increased by 18% from R22.4-billion in the second half of 2012 to R26.4-billion in the first half of 2013.A policy is surrendered when a policyholder stops paying premiums and withdraws the fund’s value before maturity. Only savings and investment policies can be surrendered, and the policyholder is then paid the fund value less any unrecovered costs.Dempsey said the value of surrendered policies should seen in the context of the total value of in-force policies – a large portion of the life industry’s R1.8-trillion assets – and not just the new investment business written.He said the increase in surrender values did not come as a surprise, given the state of the economy, the relentless increases in the fuel price and subsequently consumer goods, and job losses.“While it is understandable that consumers will tap into their investments when they are no longer able to make ends meet, we need to caution policyholders against cashing in their policies unless this is a last resort, since it is almost impossible to make up the value lost in later years.”Changing face of the industryDempsey noted that the half-yearly statistics showed a definite trend towards new-generation linked policies.The values of linked policies are linked to the market value of their underlying investments, and do not offer guarantees. As a result, their cost structures are different from those of old-generation policies.“Over the last seven half-yearly reporting periods there has been a consistent shift towards linked policies, to the point where these policies now make up 47% of all policies,” he said.“At the current rate of growth, we expect linked policies to exceed non-linked policies within the next year.”SAinfo reporterlast_img read more

Arts festival celebrates turning 40

first_img24 April 2014South Africa’s National Arts Festival, held in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.The main programme will feature artists from 26 countries in more than 550 performances in theatre, dance, performance art and music, the festival said in a press release on Wednesday. It will include the work of 65 former Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners.The festival has commissioned nine music works, with musicians with more than 40 South African Music Awards and three Grammy Awards between them on the bill.They are also planning “an ambitious, sprawling ‘Creation of a Nation’ project across Grahamstown”.“It is a bold programme that veers between the extravagant and the intimate as it attempts to reflect on major milestones – of the festival, of the Young Artist Awards – which have been sponsored by Standard Bank for 30 years – and of South Africa, in our 20th year of democracy,” artistic director Ismail Mahomed said.The event, which contributes an estimated R349.9-million to the economy of the Eastern Cape each year, has become a touchstone for the state of South African art. “This year our artists have risen to the triple-anniversary challenge with some extraordinary proposals that we are excited to bring to life,” Mahomed said.Balancing the Main programme is the vast and exciting fringe, supported primarily by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. “The fringe, also celebrating an anniversary as it is presented for the 35th time, continues to grow as South Africa’s biggest open-access platform. Hundreds of productions bring their talent to Grahamstown and fill theatres with their work across every conceivable genre,” Mahomed said.Straddling the Fringe and the Main is the increasingly popular Arena programme, which showcases the work of previous Standard Bank Ovation Award winners as well as award-winning work from other Festivals around the world – this year including the Amsterdam, Prague and the Adelaide Fringe Festivals.ThinkfestThe Thinkfest programme will feature a recording of two panel discussions by the BBC World Service for broadcast globally to the service’s estimated 180-million listeners.Winners of the Short Sharp Stories Award for fiction writing and the Arts Journalist of the Year award will be announced at the festival.‘Family fare’The Children’s Arts Festival and the Fingo Festival in Joza are just two of the initiatives which aim to reach out to families and younger audiences in the festival’s drive to create new and sustainable auidences.“We’re also featuring, on our Arena programme, one of the world’s best beatboxers – Tom Thum – in collaboration with musician Jamie MacDowell, which will appeal to the whole family,” Mahomed said.“We’re giving audiences the opportunity to think, reflect, celebrate, empathise, laugh and to look to the future through this year’s programme,” Mahomed said. “We’re proving that life begins at 40!”Bookings for the 2014 National Arts Festival open on 9 May and can be made online at www.nationalartsfestival.co.za.Programmes can be obtained through selected Exclusive Books and Standard Bank branches from the beginning of May.The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Department of Arts and Culture, The Eastern Cape Government, City Press and M Net.Source: National Arts Festivallast_img read more

Ignoring Networks at Your Professional Peril

first_imgAuthor: Jim LangcusterThis article was originally published Tuesday August 27, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Hi, AleX:You have always been a dedicated professional. Your work has always been about serving your clients, building one-on-one relationships grounded in trust.British Coffeehouses in the 17th century provided raucous places where ideas could be freely discussed and exchanged.It’s reflected in the way you regard network literacy. Admit it, AleX: Deep in the back of your mind, you still harbor this fear that any significant investment in social media will work to dilute these close relationships.That’s understandable. Just be warned: By ignoring emerging social networks, you’re imperiling your professional future.It’s important for you to come to terms with that fact, AleX.Granted, a handful of CEOs pointing to a clutch of online infographics, some specious at best, stubbornly maintain that networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are not only eroding the minds of young people but also costing the economy some $650 billion a year.Don’t buy into it, Alex.Truth is, the benefits of social networking have been apparent for a long time, a very long time — in fact, for as long as 500 years.Rudimentary forms of social networking have been traced as far back as 17th century English coffeehouses, raucous places in which people shared ideas freely and openly and that bore an uncanny resemblance to the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century.Many of the exchanges that grew out of these boisterous meeting places provided the basis for intellectual and material advances that have benefited countless millions of people and that are still being felt today, almost half a millennium later — a theme explored by famed science and technology writer Tom Standage in a recent article in the New York Times titled “Social Networking in the 1600s.”Proponents of conventional wisdom of the day derided these coffeehouses as venues of idle chitchat, much as their 21st century counterparts do with social media today.To be sure, lots of idle chitchat and gossip occurred in these haunts. Yet, something remarkable happened too. In addition to consuming copious amounts of coffee and indulging in idle gossip, not a few of these coffeehouse patrons read and shared the insights from the latest pamphlets and news sheets, many of which dealt with the prevailing scientific, literary, political and commercial themes of the day.In a diary entry dated in November, 1633, renowned diarist Samuel Pepys observed that discussion covered such diverse topics as how to store beer, the implications of a certain type of nautical weapon, and speculations about the outcome of an upcoming trial.Conventional academic leaders of the day heaped scorn on the low caliber of discourse that purportedly prevailed in these coffeehouses.“Why doth solid and serious learning decline, and few or none follow it now in the university,” Oxford academic Anthony Wood plaintively asked. “Answer: Because of Coffee Houses, where they spend all their time.”They were misinformed. Lots of serious discussion and learning ensued in these coffeehouses.Borrowing Standage’s picturesque term, these coffeehouses turned out to be “crucibles of creativity” — environments in which people representing diverse backgrounds and perspectives met and exchanged ideas. Many of these ideas, in the course of meeting and mating, provided the basis for new ways of thinking, which, in turn, spawned new concepts and inventions. Some ended up changing the course of history.One of the more noteworthy examples of coffeehouse exchanges: Lloyd’s of London, the world-renowned insurance firm, which grew out of Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse, a popular haunt of ship captains, ship owners and maritime traders.One coffeehouse served as the nursery of modern economics: Adam Smith passed early drafts of “The Wealth of nations” among his acquaintances at the Cockspur Street coffeehouse, where many Scottish artists and intellectuals of his time gathered.Yet, why should we be surprised by this? For his part, Standage cites modern research demonstrating that students learn more effectively when they are interacting with other learners.Coffeehouses provided 17th century entrepreneurs, journalists, scientists and philosophers with highly generative, open-source platforms — foundations on which many of the predominant ideas, concepts and technologies of the modern era took form.This brings us back to the present-day, AleX. As Standage stresses in his article, the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century are providing us with the same kinds of highly generative platforms — places where people, in the course of exchanging ideas and sparking new ones, have the potential of improving the lives of countless millions of people for generations to come.Under the circumstances, is there any reason why you shouldn’t join into this conversation, AleX? This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.More about Alex NetLitlast_img read more