We may just be emerging from one of the darkest, strangest times in modern history; but the pandemic has unearthed opportunity for many. It has revealed the necessity for tools, systems and ideas that we had no idea just how badly we needed.
Even before life as we had known it was pulled from under us; the acceleration of the gig economy in South Africa had already started creating big shifts in the way we work, our expectations from the workplace, and the implications on employee benefits.
The changing employee landscape
Now consider the fact that, according to the Kaspersky 'Securing the Future of Work' report, 35% of employees are thinking about changing jobs in the next year; most of whom have already moved around a few times in their career. This is alongside the fact that we have a workforce that is becoming increasingly discerning about what their employment packages look like. It makes for tricky terrain to navigate, especially for start-ups and small businesses, a sorely under-supported sector in South Africa.
These are all the factors that came into play with the founding of Bento. It’s an idea that has been marinating for months in the minds of founders Dennis Williams, Claudia Snyman, Bryn Divey, and Ross Horack. And when the AlphaCode Incubate programme’s call for entries opened in September 2020, the team literally went in with an idea on paper and a strong conviction for its need.
The freedom of personal financial management
With the team being seasoned entrepreneurs in the start-up space, they’d noticed a glaring problem that occurred consistently across the SME space—start-up founders simply don’t have the capacity to offer employees the benefits that they want and need. As a result, benefits like retirement annuity (RA), pension fund, disability cover etc. become the responsibility of the individuals themselves, in which case, it often just gets left out, according to Snyman. This doesn’t bode well for the individual in the long term, nor for the economy.
Bento is a platform that will allow SME founders to offer these benefits to employees, but better yet, tailored to the specific needs of the individual. In this way, employers are relieved of the administrative burden of managing and negotiating benefits, while employees are empowered to determine exactly what their remuneration package looks like based on their needs, desires and goals.
It’s an idea that’s almost too simple to get your head around, but that’s because we’re so accustomed to the traditional way of doing things, which is a big factor in SME founders’ reluctance to embrace employee benefits.
In disrupting the SME employee benefits space, Bento is taking it a few leaps further by insisting on a holistic approach that goes beyond the usual suspects like RAs and medical aids for example.
“What we’re trying to do is package things like further career development, learning, personal development, coaching, health, wellness, nutrition, savings, plus medical aid. Looking at the complete package: you want to become a better human being by getting your money to work better for you,” says co-founder Dennis Williams.
While it’s a product pitched to employers, Bento is committed to the platform being employee-centric; it’s all about shifting the power back into the hands of the individual.
To ensure that you get the best there is to offer as an employee, Bento will enlist the services of independent financial advisors in order to draft frameworks to curate a suite of products from which to select to add to your own, bespoke portfolio.
Lifestyle and needs-based employee benefits
At the core of the platform lies Bento’s acknowledgement of humans as humans, in that it wants to provide a tool that gives individuals the freedom and power to move and adapt their money as they need to, when they need to, based on whatever life is throwing at them in that moment.
“In the current landscape, that simply isn’t the case. It’s a one size fits all, take-it-or-leave-it approach. Most of the time they don’t even know what they have and why they have it and there’s a complete disconnect between the individual and their needs. We want individuals to take ownership of their choices; what happens with their money; and in the end have a portfolio that really suits their needs based on their lifestyles,” says co-founder, Claudia Snyman.