BY TOM JACKSON
South African fintech startup Ovation Solutions has developed a digital employee benefits platform that allows users to source your benefits from a range of providers in one place.
Ovation is an independent, secure, cloud-based platform that supports pension or provident funds, income protection, disability cover, medical aid, and more, bringing all this together on one platform.
With its payroll integrations, the startup claims to have removed all the paperwork involved with signing up for benefits and making adjustments to them, while also allowing employees to access more benefits than their employer would typically make available to them.
“In the process, we have created a marketplace for financial product providers, and enhanced the role of the broker so that they can focus on helping you plan for your financial future, instead of administration,” Ovation’s chief operating officer (COO) Kudzai Chigiji told Disrupt Africa.
Financial service providers offering things like provident funds, income protection, disability cover, medical aid and tax-free savings products, amongst others, are onboarded and use the platform as a distribution hub for their products.
Meanwhile, employers – with their brokers – onboard employees to be able to have one view of all benefits on one platform, regardless of the range of providers. The benefits displayed and offered via the platform also include non-financial workplace benefits. Ovation has now also started offering the service to individuals self-managing their benefits.
Officially registered as a business in 2019, Ovation did however have several team members working on it since 2015, and it has hit the ground running. So far it has onboarded eight providers and 12 employers to date, while there are more than 2,000 individuals making use of the platform at the moment.
“Our largest provider to date integrated onto the platform is Allan Gray. We are also in discussions with several other large South Africa providers of medical schemes products, health insurance, life insurance and systems supporting pension and provident funds. We are also partnering with several brokerage houses operating in the region to be their digital partners for their clients,” said Chigiji.
Asked about the market need being filled by Ovation, Chigiji asks a bunch of questions herself.
“Do you know how much all of your savings and investment products, including from your employer add up to? Do you know what they are projected to be when you intend to retire? Do you know how much monthly income your current and projected wealth can buy you at retirement?” she asks.
“Most people don’t. And that is largely due to the fragmentation and poor transparency across the financial world.”
While several financial providers have their own portals where someone can access their benefits and, in some cases, submit an instruction online without filling out any new forms, it is rare that someone has all of their employee and private benefits with one provider. The Ovation fixes this problem.
“Ovation allows you to see and manage all of your benefits on one platform without the hassles of sending numerous emails and following up with several providers,” Chigiji said.
The Ovation team has bootstrapped the business to date, believing that revenue is as important as external funding. However, Chigiji said it was likely to raise limited funding in the near future to support the increasing pace of growth it was now experiencing. Such growth could help take Ovation international, she said.
“We are mainly operating in South Africa. However, one of our clients is a multinational with clients in more than five countries in the region. We definitely have ambitions to take this solution further into the region,” said Chigiji.
Employers and brokers pay per member, per month fees for use of the platform, while providers looking to make their products visible on the platform pay an integration project fee. The end-user does not currently pay a fee. Chigiji says making B2B sales can be challenging, especially if a solution is geared towards large businesses, who typically have slow decision-making processes.
“Securing a large provider has helped to gain traction with other providers though. We need to continue proving ourselves with giant players but we believe that we will reach an inflection point of growth in the next few quarters,” Chigiji said.
“Additionally, the industry has not changed much in decades, specifically the distribution by the brokers. Initially, there was fear that this would make them redundant. But that is not the case. In fact, regulation does not allow us to replace them. However, they are starting to understand that this actually helps them to do their jobs more efficiently and reduce their overheads. Brokers are now starting to understand that this enhances their position so they can spend more time providing genuine value-add to their clients. It took some time to change their perspective of our solution.”