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As Finance Minister Tito Mboweni grapples with the near-impossible task of balancing the country’s books following the economic devastation of COVID-19 lockdowns on an already ailing economy, Old Mutual Insure has identified practical steps that are making a positive difference to the survival and long-term growth of small and medium enterprises.
Progressing and protecting SMEs to advance economic recovery
The small and medium enterprise (SME) sector is key to the recovery of the South African post -COVID economy. SMEs are also the country’s biggest employer, offering the largest potential for both future growth and future employment.
Given the centrality of SMEs to South Africa’s economic future it is hoped that Minister Mboweni will include measures aimed at supporting their recovery in this year’s budget. As a responsible corporate citizen, Old Mutual Insure, is already playing its part by supporting the SME sector. Practical and easily implemented SME-support measures that Old Mutual Insure has deployed in response to SME clients in crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
1. Targeted and informed financial assistance
During the initial COVID-19 lockdown, for example, Old Mutual Insure committed to pay all suppliers within seven days to support their cash flow and set aside R40 million to assist qualifying SME customers with interest-free loans, to help them remain solvent in these difficult times. By maintaining dialogue with the worst impacted SMEs after lockdown and through the subsequent lockdown, Old Mutual Insure has assisted 20 SMEs remain operational, directly keeping more than 300 people employed during lockdown through cashflow support.
2. Payment holidays
Premium deferment, with a delayed pay-back over a set period, leniency on debit orders missed due to COVID-19, reduced premiums, allowing customers to amend cover temporarily and various premium relief packages worked well.
3. Leveraging technology
Old Mutual Insure developed a raft of online capacities to support SMEs to operate in the new remote and digital work environments that evolved in response to lockdown. Ubi – standing for User Based Insurance, for example, is a fully operational bot designed by Old Mutual Insure enabling clients to use their phones to photograph their odometer readings, sending pics of individualised mileage via WhatsApp to Ubi each month.
Focused SME support
Learning from our Covid-19 SME crisis interventions, we have now decided to change gears in our SME support initiatives and have developed a long-term campaign designed to protect and progress small businesses on a permanent basis.
Old Mutual Insure’s long-term SME-support campaign currently offers an online Growth-in-a-Box business support programme, providing; a Google-based business tool, an easy to install Instagram account package, and guidance on building an online business capability. Any small business downloading the application stands a chance of winning an electronic YOCO payment device. Furthermore, any small business requesting a business insurance quote from Old Mutual Insure automatically stands a chance of winning one of ten R100 000 cash payments for their business.
Old Mutual Insure has found that insight, guidance, and practical, incentivised, online capacity building combined with either direct cash or temporary payment relief to be effective in supporting small businesses, not only through lockdown, but also for long-term growth and survival.
SMEs are a significant part of Old Mutual Insure’s client base. Investing in supporting and growing them – through both direct financial assistance and capacity building – is an area in which Old Mutual Insure has learned how to make an effective contribution to mitigating the devastating impact of Covid-19 and growing small businesses over the longer term.
We have heeded the President’s clarion call for the private sector to partner with government to drive economic recovery, Old Mutual Insure’s SME-support measures are focused on actively growing the South African economy and ensuring and developing its own future business. We remain committed to doing great things every day to support the SME sector through this crisis and enable them to grow into the future.