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How to FICA your Root account

How to FICA your Root account

Louw Hopley  •  7 March 2018

Lowering barriers for developers to build great things in financial services is at the core of Root’s mission. We apply this philosophy in everything we do, from our APIs to our support tools. As software engineers, we’re always on the lookout for how to do things more efficiently and effectively. We often have to look at legacy systems and ask what the fundamental purpose is, and how we can solve for that.

As most people have experienced, FICA is one of the biggest barriers to accessing financial services. We want developers to access their new programmable bank accounts easily and efficiently.

This article is about how to seamlessly FICA your new private beta Root account.

Why FICA matters

Providing financial products makes it essential for us to understand our customers thoroughly, or as the industry calls “Know Your Customer” (KYC). We have a responsibility for preventing fraud and money laundering, reporting on suspicious activity, and performing sanction screening (read: terrorists and politically exposed people should not be given access to our accounts). We’ll publish more on how we achieve all this in the future.

The first step is to identify and verify who our customers actually are. For our private beta program, we’re sticking to current industry practices. However, given the recent shift in regulation to a risk-based approach to FICA, we will focus on optimising these processes to reach a more efficient onboarding state once we’ve officially launched. If you have any experience or ideas on how to do this better, please let us know.

For the private beta, we need two things from you in order to enable your account: proof of your identification and proof of your address.

Identity Document

To verify your ID, we need you to upload a copy of one of the following documents as part of your application:

  • Green South African ID book
  • New South African ID card
  • Valid South African Passport

The document needs to show your full names. This means we cannot accept a South African drivers license.

Proof of Residential Address

We need to verify where you live which is why we ask you for your residential address, not your work or post box address. We’ve compiled a list of acceptable documents below for your proof of address. Before uploading this document in your application, please double check that it indicates your name and your full residential address clearly.

  • A utility bill e.g. water and electricity (less than 3 months)
  • A municipal bill i.e. rates and taxes (less than 3 months)
  • A telephone account such as your landline or cellphone account (less than 3 months old)
  • A bank statement, mortgage statement or financial statement from a financial institution
  • A copy of your lease agreement signed by both parties (less than 1 year old)
  • An official tax return or tax assessment (less than 1 year old) Official correspondence from the South African Revenue Services ("SARS") (less than 3 months old)
  • A recent life insurance policy issued by an insurance company
  • A recent short-term insurance policy document or a short-term insurance renewal letter (less than 1 year old)
  • Correspondence from a body corporate or share-block association (less than 3 months old)
  • A valid television license document
  • A retail account statement or invoice (less than 3 months old) If you live in any type of residence (eg. hostel) a letter from their administration department on an official letterhead

Staying with someone else?

Like some us at Root, you may be living the couch-surfing life, or you may be staying with a friend, spouse or life partner. This can result in you not having proof of residence documents with your name on it. Don’t fret, we can still accommodate you (in our KYC process, not on our couch).

We’ll need a few things from you in these situations.

  • Proof of the relationship between you and the homeowner or leaseholder (this could be a marriage certificate, or a letter from the homeowner confirming that you live together),
  • The name, date-of-birth and identity number of that person, and
  • A proof of residence document (see list above) of the person you’re staying with showing their name and residential address.

To simplify this, we’ve created a template document that you can fill in and sign, here.


If you are a student staying in a student residence, hostel or boarding house, you can upload a written statement from your educational institution or the residence, hostel or boarding house confirming your residence at the physical address.

For your application, you can upload images or PDF files up to 2MB in size. We will let you know if a document is incorrect or can’t be accepted, but following the above guidelines will help us get you access faster.

If you get stuck during the application process, get in touch through the Intercom chat bubble on the application page, or mail us at [email protected]. We’ll gladly help you through the process.

If you have cool ideas on how we can do this better, please share! :)


Louw Hopley

Co-Founder / CEO at Root

Root is an end-to-end digital insurance platform that enables you to launch new products and digital engagement channels fast. We package all the compliance, regulatory and reporting complexities behind easy-to-use APIs, allowing your team to focus on building great customer experiences.

Are you interested in taking your insurance business to the next level today? Email us at [email protected] or get in touch here to hear more.

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