Bidvest Life wants to ‘change the narrative’ around income protection

FMI has rebranded as Bidvest Life in a move to become a consumer-facing brand and grow its market share by leveraging off the brand recognition of the Bidvest Group.

“We want to box among the heavyweights [of the life industry],” Bidvest Life chief executive Lulu Rasebotsa said at a hybrid event last week during which the insurer’s new identity was unveiled.

FMI, which was founded in 1995, was one of the first insurers in South Africa to specialise in income protection for business owners and the self-employed market.

As part of the rebrand, Bidvest Life is embarking on a marketing campaign to educate South Africans about the importance of income protection, which unlike, say, life or household contents insurance, is not top-of-mind among most consumers.

“Part of the reason that we rebranded to Bidvest Life is to tap into the massive brand equity that comes with the Bidvest name and to position ourselves firmly in the mind of the consumer. We’ve planned several marketing campaigns in the coming months across a range of channels, including digital and social media, broadcast, and community newspapers and radio stations,” said Rasebotsa.

FMI became part of Bidvest Financial Services in 2016 and has operated under Bidvest Life’s licence since 2017.

Asked why the rebrand was taking place some six years later, Rasebotsa said: “An acquisition doesn’t necessarily mean the name change comes immediately, but we knew that change was inevitable. A rebrand requires a huge investment, so the timing had to be right – and that time is now.”

Chief distribution officer Steve Piper said FMI had a deliberate strategy not to build a brand in the public domain. It relied on independent financial advisers to “double-sell” income protection and then FMI.

Rasebotsa said IFAs have “consistently” raised the need for better brand awareness and access to a greater pool of customers.

“Our new brand has been specifically designed to support the IFAs’ sales process and unlock growth opportunities for them by raising our profile with potential customers.”

A new narrative

During the brand launch, Rasebotsa and Piper emphasised how Bidvest Life wants to change “the narrative” around income protection in at least two important respects:

  • Income protection should take priority over other forms of insurance, because the ability to earn an income is a person’s most valuable asset that enables one to fund other forms of insurance.
  • Benefits should be paid as an income instead of a lump sum. Not only are income benefits typically cheaper, but a lump-sum benefit is liable to be squandered, particularly by young beneficiaries.

The rebrand takes place as the pandemic has heightened consumers’ awareness of the need to protect their incomes.

“What the pandemic continues to show is that income protection is still the most effective insurance against the risk of injury or illness, but awareness of income protection remains low. Our realisation was that if we were going to reach more consumers and drive a greater uptake of income protection, we needed to leverage the strength of the Bidvest brand and empower our advisers with greater brand awareness,” said Rasebotsa.

The rebrand will not affect the current product offering, “but we expect it will unlock new markets for the brand and provide us with the opportunity to innovate around product development soon”.

Asked whether Bidvest Life has any immediate plans to introduce new products, Rasebotsa said Bidvest Financial Services’ strategy is to offer consumers a range of financial services under one umbrella, “and we’ll certainly be reviewing our offerings to make them more accessible and tailored to our clients’ needs”.

Read: Why are income protection claims rejected?

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