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THE FULCRUM GROUP Q&A:
WITH Thabo Twalo

-President, Insurance Institute of Gauteng

“The beauty of insurance is that it utilises a large variety of skills. No matter what your background is, there is space for you in insurance. From Engineering to Finance to Law to Marketing to Statistics to Information Technology and Data Analytics. Whatever your skill and background you can add value to this industry”. 

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, and how came to your current position in insurance.  

A: I’ve been in the insurance industry for over 20 years and the majority of those years were spent in underwriting. I started my career with Swiss as part of their International Graduate Programme (IGP). Through this programme I got to travel to different parts of the world and learn about different roles within the company. I fell in love with Underwriting.

What I enjoy about underwriting is the analytical side of it. You must look at the characteristics of the risk in question, the price & coverage that is being sought and compare these to the mandate, directive and strategy that you as the insurer have. If there is a match then you make a deal. If not, then things become interesting.

It is my love for underwriting that led me to my role where I am responsible for underwriting governance across the Santam group. Santam is a large group offering many different types of insurance products. In my role I have an opportunity to learn about these products and how they are delivered to the customer. I am then able to advise on how these products can be sustainably delivered to our customers.

Q: Being involved with an insurance institute suggests furthering yourself, your peers, and your industry. Which of the three is most important to you?

A: If I must choose one, I will say furthering the industry but the way I look at it, is that the industry needs me and my peers to be better to truly deliver on its promise.

Those of us in the industry understand the value of insurance and its importance to the growth and resiliency of society as a whole. Nonetheless, it remains a grudge purchase.

We all need to be better at articulating the value of insurance to the population at large. We must be better at making this product accessible to those who would benefit the most from it and we need to continue to create products that meet the customers true needs.

This requires that the industry advance in its offering, that my peers advance their understanding the customers’ needs and that I advance my advocacy for the industry.

Q: To which kinds of people should the insurance industry be offering career opportunities? How do you see your institute helping to make this happen?

A: The beauty of insurance is that it utilises a large variety of skills. No matter what your background is, there is space for you in insurance. From Engineering to Finance to Law to Marketing to Statistics to Information Technology and Data Analytics. Whatever your skill and background you can add value to this industry.

What we focus on as an institution is helping you leverage those skills to build a successful career in insurance. Through our mentorship programmes, Class Of programme and even the Insurance Leadership Development Programme (ILDP) which we offer via Henley Business School we help you realise your true potential and make an impact in this industry.

Q: If you had to make an elevator pitch to someone on why they should belong to an insurance institute, what would you say to them before the lift doors open and they’re gone forever?

A: For this exercise let us assume I am in an elevator with a leader of an organisation in the insurance industry.

As an employer you want to get the best people, develop them and keep them engaged. The IIG has a jobs advertising portal where you can attract the best talent. We have various educational programmes to help them grow as individuals and thought leadership sessions to inspire them to contribute beyond their job descriptions.

Finally, insurance is a people business and we provide a platform for you to interact with your industry colleagues, clients and service providers. It’s good way to profile your people and showcase how your organisation is making a difference in the industry.

In short, the IIG is for people and organisations that want to Connect. Engage. Grow. We just ask that you #ShowUp

Q: What innovative product or service have you seen in the insurance industry that inspires you?

A: When I see how the industry is offering products to cover Cyber risks, I feel proud to be part of an industry that is remaining relevant with respect to emerging risks. What I particularly admire about these programmes is that they don’t only focus on pay-outs when an incident occurs but more importantly, they help you recover from a hack and/or ransom attack so you can resume operations as smoothly and quickly as possible.

I am also looking forward in anticipation to when the regulations start allowing for index products. I think this change could be a catalyst for many more innovative products.

Beyond products I think that as an industry we are getting better at using partnerships and technology to get our products to the customer. These advances make interacting with our products easier and also put the customer in the driving seat in terms of what kind of cover they want.

Q: No doubt you’re very proud of your institute. But is there anything you’d particularly like to improve or introduce during your tenure and make it even better?

A: The way we have designed our education programmes, networking events and thought leadership sessions is to give opportunity to those who otherwise couldn’t afford to take part. We believe that this is the key to growing and transforming our industry.

Our education programmes are offered at a discount thanks to our members who sponsor part of the costs of the programme. Our thought leadership webinars are for the same reason. Unfortunately, there are still many organisations in our industry that are not yet members, particularly in the SME space. It is my aim to reach out to as many of the smaller insurers, intermediaries and service providers as possible to articulate the value that they derive by becoming members.

Q: Name one person in the insurance industry who inspires you and tell us why.

A: Having worked in the insurance industry for over 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to engage and interact with many inspirational peers and leaders. For instance, one person who I have always admired and with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working for, is our current Group CEO Lizé Lambrechts. I admire her depth of knowledge and inspirational leadership. More importantly, over the years I have worked with leaders who have each left a bit of themselves in me. I am currently excited that as Lizé retires, she is being replaced by Tava Madzinga, a person who is in the same age group as me, but whose travels and experience ensures that our business will thrive and succeed even further.

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