Funding SA's future - Standard Bank's Feenix takes flight

In response to the highly charged ‘Fees must Fall’ protests that began in 2015, South Africa’s students were desperate to be heard, and Standard Bank opened their ears. Jayshree Naidoo, head of the Standard Bank Incubator and CEO of Feenix, spoke to the gathered crowd on 13 October 2017 at Finance Indaba Africa about student access to fees. In the aftermath of the aforementioned movement, the need has become even more pressing, she said.

"I didn't have the financial means to study when I finished school," Jayshree said. "I assumed my dad would be able to unlock a bursary at his company as he did for my siblings." However, her siblings hadn't completed their studies, which meant she had no access to a bursary and was forced to work and study simultaneously. Jayshree spoke openly about the challenges South Africa's youth face in getting access to funding for their education.

Behind all the negativity, violence and hurt is a deep-rooted need and that is what innovation is about, Jayshree said. She believes that innovation is about solving challenges, otherwise all you're doing is coming up with ideas.

Feenix, Standard Bank's latest innovation, is about solving the funding problems for students. An enthusiastic Jayshree calls it "an amazing platform" and says it showed what an phenomenal knack South Africans have for pulling resources and efforts together when there is a need. "We tried to make it as easy as possible for corporates to use everything from their socio-economic development spend and CSI budget to address this crisis," she said.

Of South Africa's tertiary students, 94 percent need financial assistance. Government funds are only able to assist 17 percent. The Feenix platform, however, might be able to help the rest. To date, Feenix has helped 31 students. On the platform, students can motivate for funding on their own terms. They upload a profile and their fees account, which allows funders to connect with them. You, as the funder, have a choice to pay a portion of, or all of, the student's fees, though you may also choose to pay into the Feenix pool fund, which is recorded with a B-BBEE social-economic development criteria.

"We see Africa as our home. Part of the Standard Bank strategy is to drive the growth of Africa," said Jayshree.