COVID-19 lockdown spurs uptake of online Wills

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 27 Aug 2020
Zale Hechter, CEO of CliqTech.
Zale Hechter, CEO of CliqTech.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and subsequent lockdown, SA has witnessed a boom in the use of online services, ranging from consumer shopping and virtual events, to online Will sign-ups.

CliqTech, the tech start-up behind online Wills platform SmartWill, says there’s been a 250% spike in the number of Wills taken out via its platform since the start of the COVID-19-induced lockdown.

In addition, there was a 500% increase in activity from April/May 2019 to April/May 2020.

As a result, the company foresees a sustainable increase in demand for online Wills, according to CEO Zale Hechter. “This is partly because there has been a forced awakening to the digital age where it is no longer uncomfortable – and, for the most part – no longer perceived to be unsafe to transact online, whether it be for grocery shopping, or more recently, purchasing fiduciary and insurance products online.”

Founded by social entrepreneurs in 2019, CliqTech developed SmartWill to enable clients to create personalised online Wills directly through its Web site and mobile platform.

Hechter highlights that the traditional way of engaging with insurance products has changed. “There are fewer barriers to the administrative process of making sure that a Will is taken care of. For example, personal meetings for hours are no longer required. The spike in uptake will continue to grow because it is easily scalable and time-efficient.

“A product like SmartWill can do 1 000 Will sign-ups a day or you can do one million a day at a fraction of the time it takes to do them the traditional way. The administration is all driven through 24/7 available technology and from the comfort of a customer’s couch in their own time.”

The company has now also ventured into a partnership with independent financial services provider, Fedgroup Life, to introduce an online Will with insurance cover.

Dubbed SmartCover, the insurance covers expenses, fees and taxes associated with the winding up of an estate after a person passes away.

According to the company, the partnership aims to ensure beneficiaries or family members of the SmartCover policy firstly receive a portion paid out within 48 hours to cover immediate expenses, such as funeral costs, school fees, groceries and living expenses.

Secondly, when the estate is finalised, the remaining portion is paid out to cover property transfer costs, capital gains tax, executor’s fees and estate duties. The cover is available to all customers that sign up for a SmartWill.

Hechter describes SmartCover as the “first-to-market” South African digital product that offers insurance cover in addition to a personalised online Will.

“Over the years of assisting clients with customised online Wills, we’ve realised that many people are unaware of the large sums of money that are often required for immediate expenses and to pay fees and taxes to finalise an estate. This means the families and beneficiaries of breadwinners are often left out of pocket with indefinite delays, adding to the emotional and financial burden of death,” he explains.

Fedgroup CEO Walter van der Merwe adds: “At Fedgroup, we believe in partnerships that add value to our clients, especially when these partnerships provide opportunities to do things differently. Our commitment to innovation means we continue to introduce new, exciting insurance products to the local market by investing in smart technology that simplifies people’s lives. The partnership with SmartWill is a natural fit.”

In addition to a SmartWill and SmartCover policy, the partnership also offers a policy-holder a SmartWish, which allows the policy-holder to leave a wish behind after they pass on.

The personalised wish could be for a family holiday or remembrance trip, or a donation to a charity of choice or other important cause.