ORGANISED religion could not elicit as much guilt and need
for atonement in the average woman as much as being a working mom does.
The adoration of my 10-year-old son and my desire to raise
him without the help of my network of caregivers almost completely pales into
insignificance next to the obvious fact that I need to earn my contribution to
the household income.
It could be argued that working from home is an option.
In that way, I could always be present at the close of the
school day, available to help with his homework and projects before 7pm in the
evening, poised, mixing bowl in hand, to bake batches of cupcakes required for
Bake Sale day, and the enthusiastic sideline motivator at his numerous sporting
However, running a department in one of the top financial
services companies in SA would become exponentially more challenging if
performed from a laptop at my dining room table dressed in my favourite Donald
Duck PJs, appealing as that kind of work scenario might be to me.
So every morning I diligently drop my child off at school
and begin the 45-minute commute to my corporate office job.
The need for simplicity and convenience in every sphere of
my life has never been as critical as in the time I have been a mother. There
is just no time for anything complex or time-consuming.
Bless the day some techno geeks got the coding right and, as
a result, spared me the extra 20 minutes twice a week that it takes to detour
(in peak hour traffic of course) to our neighbourhood post office to clear the
post-box of our mail.
Voilà! This seemingly simple technological change has saved
me hours, possibly days, over the past few years – valuable time that could be
spent assisting my child with his long division sums.
At the push of a button on my cellphone I have my bills and
payment reminders at my fingertips. And with an equally simple flick of a
finger, I can pay some of those bills using the same device.
And, who would have thought I could pay for petrol at the
filling station using my debit card? No more extra bank or garage cards for me,
or having to draw cash to pay the attendant. Life just doesn't get any better.
Mealtimes present a similar challenge. Any dish that
requires more than 40 minutes' preparation time is just not going to make it to
the Top 10 week-night supper list. Hats off therefore to websites like
Those guys recognise the need for convenience and instant
gratification for time-strangled working moms looking to feed their families
more nutritionally rich cuisine than two-minute noodles.
They offer quick, wholesome recipes you can literally
download on a phone as you push the "Defrost Chicken" button on your
microwave. Forty minutes later you could be serving green chicken curry that
would do a Thai restaurant proud.
Now, if only financial services companies were as in touch
with me and my needs. Insurance has been around since the Dark Ages in some
form or another, but the concept has become the formal entity we know today
only in the last 100 years or so.
Insurance is distributed pretty much as it always has been:
through an intermediary, broker or some other form of agent. There has been
little deviation from this model.
Frills have been added like call centres and "sms
us", but the concept has remained the same. Traditional insurance rules
dictate that I have to fill in forms, and I have to provide every proof that
it's me applying.
I have the pleasure of working for a company that offers
insurance by applying the simplicity and convenience of modern shopping.
The idea is that getting insurance, particularly single-need
cover like funeral or accidental death, should be no more complicated than
activating a cellphone starter pack. This need has been answered by an
off-the-shelf offering in one of the largest grocery chains in SA.
Although times have changed and advanced substantially,
savings and investments will probably always require some sort of
intermediation and advice (not even some of my university-educated friends
understand how share markets work, or could invest without some assistance).
An uninsured, unbanked population of some 14 million South
Africans are still often overwhelmed by the variety and complexity of finance
They function in a cash-based economy and hail from the
poorest settings, where cultural events such as funerals are big business and
can prove financially crippling to a cash-strapped consumer or one with no
insurance to cover the death of loved ones.
But the need for convenience does not end with low-income
consumers. Everyone - even monied people in the higher income echelons - seeks
convenience and value for money.
Traditional payment methods like bank debit orders simply
don't offer a solution for everyone all of the time. We are all looking for
cheaper, better and faster (did I just quote the past pay-off line of one of
our banking peers?) ways of running our lives, no matter what our individual
Why should this be any different when we approach insurance?
After all, time is money. And who has oodles of that these
* Sandy Wilde is head of Sanlam icover. She is the latest guest columnist taking part in Fin24's
Women's Month campaign celebrating women in business.
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