There are few people as driven in their insurance career – and in promoting insurance as a career – as the Insurance Institute of Gauteng’s (IIG) president, Carla Jordan.
“The insurance industry has given me a career that I never could have dreamed of. I am grateful for the companies and individuals that have been with me on my journey, whether for parts or all of it,” says Carla, whose “real” job is as CFO of Emerald Risk Transfer, of her own path in insurance.
“When myself and a group of women leaders in the industry founded Gauteng Women in Insurance (GWII) in 2013, it was done with a desire to give back to the industry that has been so good to us. My association with the IIG just continues this desire. I want people to be as passionate and proud of being part of our insurance industry as I am.
Many don’t realise that Carla started out in the industry as a PA, a position she took purely because it was an entry point to her career – and it took years of study and hard work to reach the point she is at now, as CFO of a R2-billion company.
“Success very, very rarely happens overnight. Success takes years and years of hard work. In my case, 12 years before I was appointed CFO of Emerald. Another year or so before I was appointed as a director of the company. And three years later, when we decided to further diversify our company by expanding outside of Africa, I leapt at the chance to lead a brand-new team in challenging territories we had never worked in before,” says Carla.
“Because although I knew so much about Emerald in terms of the departments I had control over, I had never really been exposed to underwriting. And here was a chance to learn something new, something completely different, something to challenge me and grow me and perhaps take my career on a different path. And I am still learning, and still growing, both as an individual and as a leader.
Promoting learning and growth for others, too, is central to her role as the current IIG president, Carla continues.
“Our theme for the year is PRIDE – PURPOSE – PASSION; this speaks to doing everything we do as the IIG with these three things in mind. It was important for us not to extend the programme or event offerings too much this year.
“However, you will perhaps have noticed that we have added one education programme to our offerings this year, which is giving 15 school leavers a wonderful opportunity to enter a one-year Insurance Academic Programme, ending off the programme with an NQF5 certification, as well as being prepared to write their RE examinations,” says Carla.
“This exciting opportunity, which is facilitated by the Graduate Institute for Financial Services (GIFS) at Wits, not only gives learners exposure to student life, but also aligns perfectly to our tagline of ‘Insurance as a career of choice, not chance’.
“This tagline alludes really to the fact that not many people enter our industry by choice. Insurance is not seen to be a ‘sexy’ industry; it doesn’t naturally draw people in. By offering this programme to school leavers, we are hopeful to attract people to our industry who would never have considered insurance as a career.
“As president this year, I’d like to really impart some of my passion to others in the industry. Let’s work together to make insurance a true career of choice,” Carla declares.
These are tough times for the insurance industry, with a sluggish economy and corporates under pressure, as well as people’s incomes. Traditional insurers also face stuff competition from non-traditional players – but Carla believes there is a “massive opportunity” for companies that can introduce appropriate solutions to South Africa’s unpenetrated insurance market.
“Charles Darwin said that ‘it is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change’. Those organisations that are flexible, agile, can keep up with technological advances, and adapt quickly to changes both within our industry and broader environment, will have the true competitive advantage,” states Carla.
But even an industry dynamo such as Carla – who apart from her Emerald and IIG responsibilities is also studying towards an MBA degree – must have down time. Not that it’s particularly restful, however.
“I have a very socially active 10-year-old son, and spending time with him and my husband is of vital importance to me. I love entertaining and cooking for friends and family, if I get chance (usually on airplanes!) I enjoy watching unusual series such as Nordic crime dramas and reading a good novel! To keep me fit and sane, I enjoy running and try to fit in three to four runs a week,” says Carla.
“As a family we love travel, but it has become a bit tricky lately as my husband’s health deteriorates (he has motor neuron disease). However, we are always on the lookout for great wheelchair-friendly places to explore locally and abroad!”