Laiza Ramano

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How to give yourself a raise in 2017

January can be a long month for working South Africans. Many go into the new year burdened by financial baggage from the previous year, thanks to a stressful and often expensive festive season, along with anxieties about additional overheads that 2017 may bring (such as potential tax increases or unforeseen expenses).

So, it is no surprise that most people use the start of the year to sit down and look at how they can better control where their money goes, as well as how they can potentially save more.

The good news is that you can give yourself a raise in 2017. How? By investing smartly. And by smart, I don’t mean miraculously predicting which stocks will skyrocket, but by choosing a smart financial provider that maximises your money at every turn.

It all comes down to the following traits:

Low fees:

There is only one predictable factor that affects your investment outcome. While there’s no telling exactly what markets may do or which stocks will perform, you can always rely on the fact that the more you pay in fees, the less of your money gets invested for you – and this impact is dramatic.

For example, total fees of 3% per annum could end up costing you up to 40% of your final investment. That’s 40% of your money, going to … not you. Choosing a low-fee provider can prevent this from happening. By looking at lower fees, you are ultimately investing more for yourself and getting more out, without digging into your already stretched wallet.

Index tracking:

A good way to ensure that you have more money, is to resist the temptation to ‘gamble’ it away.

While an actively managed fund might sound attractive in terms of giving you a shot at beating the market, statistics show that these funds result in losses for investors more often than they do gains. This is because there is no way of predicting how a fund will perform and even those who perform well rarely (if ever) repeat their success.  

The wise alternative, is index-tracking – which is a passive investment strategy that aims to match, rather than beat, the market; and which studies show performs better over the long-term. You can save money by switching to an investment provider that offers competitive returns, using products that don’t require an advisor and utilising an index-tracking fund with low fees.

Use the tools on offer:

Luckily we live in an age where you are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing how you want to save. There are shorter-term saving options (for periods less than five years) like fixed deposits, money market accounts and 32-day accounts. All these short-term savings vehicles will help you save without exposing you to the potential volatility of the market. However, keeping your money in these “safer” options for a longer period of time means you barely keep up with inflation.

If you’re looking to save long-term, you need your money to do more than just keep up with inflation. This means investing in equities on the stock market as a reliable way to create long-term wealth.

Bonus:

For those individuals who are getting a bonus at the end of the first quarter, you’ll probably need it to offset the higher seasonal expenses, try not spend it all. Be sure to set aside a portion of your annual bonus to your retirement fund (if your employer has not already done so), as well as reserving some emergency capital for unexpected costs during the year. However, it is important to remember that your bonus may not be guaranteed, in which case you should not factor it into your annual cash flow budget.

At the end of the day, low fees, smart investing and disciplined saving will result in a better financial outcome, which means more money in your pocket at retirement. So start your year off by making the right investment decisions and think of it as the raise you give yourself.

Steven Nathan is the CEO of 10X Investments.

10 tips for a healthier & happier workplace

The new working year is now in full swing and some people will be back at work in less than ideal offices. But help is at hand.

Making even small tweaks can make the workplace a more comfortable and pleasant experience in 2017 and beyond.

These are his top 10 suggestions for reducing the risk of injury and improving workplace wellbeing:

1. Bin the ball

It has become quite trendy to sit on an exercise ball while at your desk. The truth is they are unconformable and impractical. The best bet is a comfortable, ergonomic chair.

2. Get the screen right

To reduce eye and neck strain, raise your screen so your eyes are looking directly at it when you are sitting normally. Most people tend to look down at their screens placing particular strain on the neck. If budget allows, a computer monitor arm will help workers easily set the screen at optimal height.

3. Remember a wrist rest for keyboards

Writing on a keyboard for long periods can place unnatural strain on the wrists. Adding a wrist rest is a quick and cost effective and ergonomically sound solution.  

4. Light up, light down

An adjustable worklamp on the desk is a boon for workers so they can control their immediate lighting. This can help with controlling glare on computer screens and illuminating work when necessary.

5. Sit and stand

Vary your posture between sitting and standing. Many offices now offer place where you can stand and work. Standing meetings are another option. It tends to keep them short.

6. Move but treadmills are for gyms

To stay active, it’s best to take short walks throughout the day. Lunch breaks are good times. It helps with clearing the mind and reduces body stiffness from sitting too long in one position.

7. Rest your eyes at regular intervals

To reduce eyestrain from staring at a computer monitor for long spells, add rest breaks to refocus and rest your eyes. It often helps to look at the far distance during these breaks.

8. Expose yourself to sunlight

Long hours under artificial light can sour the mood of even the sunniest characters. It’s a good idea to work in a sunny spot or at least walk through a sunny area a few times a day.

9. Surround yourself with plants

Place plants in your workplace or visit greenery during the work day. Plants are proven to reduce stress and increase productivity.

10. View the outdoors if you can

Not an option for everyone but if you can look a natural setting while working at your desk, it improves memory and focus. If it’s not possible, even looking at images of nature throughout the day will help create a sense of wellbeing.

Richard Andrews is the Managing Director of Inspiration Office.

How technology is disrupting the insurance industry in Africa

Disruption, once a word used to describe bad behaviour has now been turned into a revolutionary means of changing the way business is being conducted today with advancement of technology and ability to use innovate new business models.

Insurance is not exempt from this disruption and, in fact, we are seeing a very clear shift away from traditional means of insurance towards the newer, more evolved methods necessary for maintaining pace in a fast changing, always-on and connected world.   

There are typically four main aspects of insurance: product design, pricing and underwriting, distribution and admin, and claims management. This model has been the same for decades and, despite of the increase in product complexity, the insurance business is essentially relying on policy premium income and asset management to function. However, the rise of disruptive technologies, changed customer mind set is changing this model, and insurance companies are forced to change from product centric model to customer centric approach.   

Insurers are moving towards customised, usage based, real time coverage models and moving away from risk based underwriting approach to risk management approach. From the beginning insurance companies have captured lot of data and advancements in big data and analytics helping insurers in right risk selection, enabling more accuracy than ever before. Legacy interaction methods and distribution channels using call centres and one-on-one visits are being replaced anywhere any-time response to customers is taking top priority. The ‘virtual technology’ is providing easier and instantaneous ways for clients and insurers to obtain and update information, even enabling seamless and accurate billing via mobile applications.

Emerging digital trends in insurance

There are several trends currently disrupting the insurance industry across the globe, many of which are either technology related or technology driven, which are enabling insurance companies to remain relevant and competitive. African insurance companies are following suit and embracing many of these global trends in the face of a challenging and complex market environment.

Some of the key trends that have been identified are an increased use of Internet of Things (IoT) by insurance companies, the use of Big Data to improve claims processing, an increasing demand on cyber insurance, the emergence of Peer-to-Peer insurance, and a growing focus on mobile applications for interaction between insurers and their customers.

Today’s customer uses the Internet to source quotes and research insurance companies to check for the best deals, yet research shows that most insurance purchases are still happening telephonically or through in-person interaction. Insurers are coming around to the fact that customers prefer online interaction, and are realising the need to adapt their systems accordingly. We will be seeing the progressive simplification of legacy systems to remove the barriers that hinder them from offering a consistent and seamless customer experience.

As the trend for connected and smart devices continues to grow, IoT is fast becoming a transformational driver in insurance industry. Several auto insurers have implemented new models based on vehicle telematics. The possible applications of connected devices across the industry are extensive and have the potential to revolutionise claims processing, product pricing and fraud detection. Auto insurance industry still worried about the future of insurance connected cars and driverless cars as the manufacturing advancements are going to reduce the risk and there by premiums for insurers. Industry predicts that Auto insurance premiums will go down significantly in the next 10 years due to customer behaviour changes and manufacturing advancements in the industry.

Virtual adoption across the insurance industry has also been vast, and many insurers are actively using or implementing virtual computing for operational flexibility, function standardisation, cost savings, scalability and business agility. Small to mid-market insurers have been seen as early adopters of virtual computing services, which is enabling the ability to deliver faster claims, policy and billing services.

Insurers are facing an all-time low retention rate, backed by growing customer demand and rising concerns about cyber-crime. By not capturing and extracting data accurately, insurers are not able to assess their business positioning and the associated business risks fully, including security breaches. Insurers are being forced to make operational changes which will enable them to make better use of their data, for the purpose of retaining business and staying ahead.

Traditionally insurance is sold than bought. With advancement in technology customers have multiple options and they are demanding changes in the behaviour of insurers to have multiple touch points now compared to the past. Insurers are migrating and upgrading their legacy systems, by automating and digitising core systems. Insurers are seeing the benefits of improved efficiency and customer interaction at multiple touch points. Legacy system transformation has been slow in Africa due to perceived high costs and lengthy implementation timelines. However, many are quickly realising that the longer they wait, the more customers they risk losing, adding to their lag behind competitors.

Insurance companies are embracing these trends and looking at more innovative ways they can attract and maintain customer retention. They are remaining up to date and very interactive with what is happening, even exploring radical game changing technology such as the blockchain.

Disruptive technology is creating new insurance services

With the advent of technologies like IoT, we are seeing an emergence of new services. Connected home technologies are enabling people to stay in touch with things like their home security systems, which is reducing risk for insurers who offer home insurance. Wearable technology is enabling health insurers to keep real-time tabs on the health and wellbeing of their customers, again mitigating risk.

We are seeing the biggest impact in the use of Big Data, though. Insurers are discovering the multiple benefits that the wealth of information available from sources such as social media is delivering. Using this information, they are able to tailor their products based on customer preferences and even offer customised rewards programmes, increasing sales and customer retention significantly. It is also enabling easier and more streamlined claims processing, as information is recorded, and centrally stored and accessed.

Of course, the mobile trend, particularly in Africa, is making possible the use of apps, not only to smooth insurer and customer interaction, but also to track things like customer fitness, health and even wealth status. Applications are opening up a world of possibility for insurers everywhere.

Insurance in Africa vs the World

In South Africa, lot of importance is placed on things like life insurance, private medical aid car insurance. The rest of Africa, however, sees insurance as less necessary. This means that insurers who operate in Africa need to be more agile, identifying ways in which they can appeal to the African market and delivering them with speed.

Quick, easy, instant, flexible insurance is very attractive to the African market. An example of such an initiative is currently being investigated by a South African Insurer who is moving into the Nigerian market. They identified a need for taxi drivers to have medical and insurance cover specifically for while they are in transit. Taxi drivers will be able to purchase insurance making use of USSID or a smart phone application enabling cover only for the time that they are travelling from collection point to destination – an attractive and cost effective proposition for the transport business.

This is just one of the many ways in which insurance is changing and being impacted by technology. Insurers, typically entrenched in tradition thanks to its association with stability and reliability, do need to realise that the market has changed. It’s time to embrace technology and disrupt the way insurance works for longevity.

Jaqueline Van Eeden is the Insurance Head at Wipro Limited South Africa.

How can you rise to greatness?

Everybody wants to rise higher than they are right now to enjoy better circumstances than they experienced yesterday.

This is a universal desire that unites every human being, male and female, young and old, rich and poor. 

Political leaders, who understand this and tap into this desire, win the support of a united citizenry. Sadly, very few, if any, political leaders do actually understand this. Business leaders who come to terms with this concept are able to build a motivated and engaged workforce that produces the goods both figuratively and literally. Those business leaders who fail to grasp this higher truth will spend their careers trying to get reluctant workers to do the bare minimum. They will throw money at the problem but it will not help.

Individuals who succeed in rising to better circumstances are to be saluted for their effort and determination in bettering their lives and those of their families. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if leaders started lifting others to better circumstances?

There is a significant benefit to lifting others and it was well put by Robert Ingersoll, an American lawyer living in the 1800s. He said, “We rise by lifting others.”

Corrupt politicians and greedy business leaders operate according to exactly the opposite mantra. Their mantra is, “We rise by exploiting others.” One cannot deny that many of them have indeed achieved financial success using such methods. But before you decide to throw caution to the wind and follow their lead, let me urge you to think again. You may well, like them, succeed financially, but you will lose your soul in the process. I am not speaking of religious matters. I am referring to the fact that you will lose your identity – the essence of who you were made to be in this life.

The world, our country and our companies need leaders who lift others. If you are in a leadership position, ask yourself if you are lifting others. If you’d like to rise by lifting others, here are two things you need to do to achieve your goal:

1 Awake to your higher purpose

It’s said that we are all born for greatness but raised to mediocrity. When we are led by mediocre leaders, we make the mistake of thinking that their mediocrity is the standard by which we should measure ourselves. We then never seek to rise above the levels stet by such leaders.

Do you want to be successful or great? Success is about what you achieve for yourself. Greatness is about what you achieve for others.

If you want to be successful (nothing wrong with that) go for it. But you will really only benefit yourself. The interesting thing is that greatness is achieved through success (one has to broaden one’s view of success here) but does not stop there. Greatness lies beyond success. Few realise that and stop at the small town called Success instead of continuing through it to the mega city called Greatness.

When you awake to your higher purpose, you awake to the needs of others and set out on a journey to lift them up. In so doing, you rise to greatness.

2 Act on your higher purpose

It’s not enough to become aware of your higher purpose. You have to act on it … now. It’s also not enough to merely speak about your higher purpose. Talk is cheap. Actions are what cost.

I have learnt over time to measure people not by what they say but by what they do. Many leaders talk courageous talk but, when the time comes for them to put their money where their mouths are, there are no courageous actions to back up what they have said. That means they are actually not courageous. The same applies to ethics – people claim to be ethical but then act unethically. That simply means they’re NOT ethical. It’s the old truth of your actions speaking so loudly that one can’t hear what you’re saying.  

Instead of talking a big game, let your actions show what’s really going on inside of you and start lifting others so that you rise beyond success to greatness!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists business leaders to lead their people into the new world of work.

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