The South Africa insurance industry is in dire need of leaders to emerge and pioneer innovative ways to sustain business growth, as well as contribute towards transformation and skills development in the financial services sector, said Jonathan Holden, an executive of Lion of Africa Insurance.
Holden said the insurance industry was rapidly changing partly as a result of a slew of new regulations which calls for innovation from industry leaders.
“Innovation not only changes an industry, it also has huge potential to improve the reputation of the industry if true value is conveyed to the buying public as a result. Many businesses are happy to just ‘weather the storm’ as opposed to continue on a growth path and look for new markets and innovate. It would be fair to say that the image of insurance world-wide needs a fresh and innovative approach.
Holden says South Africa is seeing signs of this as consumer awareness and risk appetites are changing daily. “Leaders must be in tune with this shift by finding ways to attract skills that can deliver additional services and revenue streams in coming years, especially as there is a lack of new skills and talent currently, coupled with a loss of experience as older employees retire from the industry.”
Moreover, Holden says in the near future South Africa is likely to see traditional insurance solutions compete with other value-add solutions or services that change the way people think and act towards their own risks.
According to Holden, leaders have an important role to play in the industry and must embrace and drive industry issues wide of the agendas of their own companies.
“The industry consistently bemoans the dire lack of skills and experience. Senior figures in the industry need to be vocal about the industry and more specifically, its attractiveness as a pillar of the financial service sector, the economy and as a desirable employment option. Company figure-heads therefore need to be leaders in thought and commentary on the industry and the wider economy.”
Furthermore, he says employees and the greater public are looking for intelligent and fresh comment on matters that may affect them in future where insurance can play a part.
In addition to this, Holden says that a lack of emerging leadership is high on the list of challenges in the industry. “Leaders cannot bear the full brunt of expectation from all stakeholders. Consequently, they need to surround themselves with capable generals to help navigate the changing environment and continue to grow their businesses.
“Another challenge leaders are faced with is that of an “eat or be eaten” mentality, which has businesses watching their backs, or waiting to see who will make the next move at the expense of looking forward for new opportunities.
“Perhaps it is time for the industry to ignite “young leaders forums” where emerging leaders are given the opportunity to debate and discuss common problems and challenges with a view to a collaborative and collective solution. This will certainly be a start to tackling industry challenges from another angle and could provide a valuable platform from which young leaders could promote the industry to potential future employees,” concludes Holden.