Nine leadership questions for Linah Mabena, CEO, Standard Bank Insurance Brokers
Linah Mabena has over 20 years’ experience in the insurance industry spanning across Long and Short-Term insurance. Throughout her career, she has embraced various roles, including those within Standard Bank Insurance that have shaped her expertise in the insurance sector. Linah has worked across the breadth and depth of the bancassurance space including training management, customer service, claims management, product development, and operations management.
She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Standard Bank Insurance Brokers (SBIB), where she is responsible for the overall strategic direction and leadership of the business.
1. For how long have you been Head of the Standard Bank Insurance Brokers?
I have been in an Acting CEO role for 18 months but have recently been formally appointed.
2. How have your previous roles prepared you for this current role .... Any challenges, highlights or learnings?
My journey through various roles within the insurance industry, and particularly Standard Bank Insurance, has indeed uniquely equipped me for my current leadership role. I have spent many years in various roles that have given me a lot of depth in terms of understanding the business.
I have worked a Senior Customer Service Manager within SBIB responsible for contact centre management, which included claims servicing, complaints, quality assurance and fraud detection services. I was appointed Head of Product, where I was responsible for end-to-end product management from a broker perspective for the Life Insurance segment which comprised of funeral and credit life offerings, including life claims management.
My tenure as the Head of Product was defined by crafting the broker product strategy through sourcing of innovative product solutions from the underwriter in line with customer needs, fostering key partnerships, and achieving financial goals.
In my previous role as Chief Operating Officer of SBIB and Head: Enablement, I was responsible for the operational aspects of the business, including contact centre-based sales, customer servicing, claims, retentions, and regulatory compliance. I also played a key role in the development and implementation of the company's strategic goals. The enablement role included driving future ready solutions including salesforce, data solutions, multi-channel enablement as well as Automation solutions for stabilisation of legacy platforms.
This great exposure enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of our business ecosystem, while also allowing me to build solid relationships across the bank and the industry. In addition, my ability to lead and deliver through empowered people has also been key to ensure attainment of business results. I guess challenges will always be there in any role, however, what has sustained me is my ability to remain objective, focus on the solution and to rise above the noise.
3. What would you say are the top qualities of an effective leader?
I believe that the top qualities of an effective leader include strong communication skills that foster clear understanding and collaboration among team members. Being able to clearly articulate the business or organisation’s direction, and taking the team along is a remedy for business success. So, I regard communication as a critical integral part of effective leadership.
The ability for one to exhibit adaptability and open-mindedness, and navigate the ever-changing business landscape, while inspiring and motivating their team is key, coupled with the grit to make those tough decisions should the need arise. Important for a leader is to be empathetic and understand the immediate and long-term needs as well as concerns of the team, while also being able to have those tough conversations when required to do so.
Lastly, an effective leader is one who continuously strive for personal and professional growth, setting an example for their team. The world is moving, as a result its important to stay abreast of the changes so that one is empowered and enable to effectively deal with the challenges of the modern business world.
4. What would you say are your top priority areas for the next year?
Sharing much in this space might give away our ticket to the game. However, at a very high level, we will continue to focus on brand awareness from a brokerage perspective. SBIB will also continue to focus on continuous improvement in customer service and client experience, retention through various strategies, as well as digitisation and automation for efficiency.
5. As one of the leading global bancassurance brands, how do you attract and retain talent?
Our approach to attracting and retaining top talent is anchored on several key principles. We foster a culture of innovation and continuous learning, providing opportunities for professional growth and skill development. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion creates an environment where diverse perspectives thrive, leading to innovative solutions.
We offer competitive compensation packages, with comprehensive benefits, and performance-based rewards incentives as well as the recognition of exceptional contributions. Additionally, we emphasise on work-life balance, and flexible arrangements to cater for individual needs. Our strong brand reputation, impactful projects, and opportunities for leadership enable us to attract and retain the best talent, fostering a collaborative and thriving workforce.
6. How do you see technology playing a much more significant role in how insurance products are developed and distributed in the next few years?
As we all continue to see the transformative power of technology first hand in the insurance industry, I believe that its role will even be more prominent in the development and distribution of insurance products in the coming years. Advanced data analytics and AI will empower us to tailor insurance products based on individualized customer profiles, ensuring that they get precisely what they need.
The emerging InsurTech landscape, combined with the current industry players, and collaborations with tech innovators will certainly streamline product development processes. I foresee a heavier reliance on digital platforms, apps, and online channels to widen our distribution reach, making our offerings more accessible. At SBIB, we remain committed to leveraging these tech advancements to deliver more personalised, efficient, and customer-focused insurance solutions.
7. What would you point out as key areas of concern for the broker/insurance fraternity (life and non-life) in the next three to five years?
Looking ahead, there are several key areas that will be of concern for the broker/insurance fraternity, both in life and non-life sectors. The rapid pace of technological advancements raises concerns about cybersecurity and data breaches, emphasising the need for robust security measures to safeguard sensitive customer information.
Secondly, the increasing complexity of risks and the potential for catastrophic events require a proactive approach to risk management and underwriting. As customer expectations continue to evolve, providing personalised and digitally driven experiences will be crucial for customer retention and acquisition.
Lastly, the industry's efforts to achieve sustainability and address environmental concerns will require innovative product offerings and strategies to navigate the changing landscape. As we navigate these challenges, a proactive and adaptive approach will be essential to ensure our continued success and relevance in the insurance market. Top of Form
8. If you could go back and give your 18-year-old-self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell her to embrace every opportunity that comes her way, even if it seems daunting. Take calculated risks and don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. The experiences you gain from pushing your boundaries will shape your resilience and foster personal growth.
Also, never underestimate the power of building relationships and networking. Connect with mentors and peers who inspire you, as their guidance will prove invaluable throughout your journey. Remember, setbacks are part of life; they'll teach you more than success ever will.
Believe in your capabilities, stay curious, and remain adaptable to change. Your determination and willingness to learn will propel you forward, helping you achieve remarkable things in your career and beyond. “Be authentically you, at all times!”.
9. What is the one book you would recommend to your audience, and why?
I would highly recommend "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. This book offers invaluable insights into what sets exceptional companies apart from the rest and how they sustain long-term success. As someone deeply involved in the insurance industry, the principles outlined in this book about disciplined people, thoughtfully chosen strategies, and a culture of excellence resonate strongly. It's a guide to transforming good organisations into great ones, aligning perfectly with our pursuit of operational excellence, strategic innovation, and customer-centricity within the insurance world.
Another great read is “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek. Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home feeling fulfilled. In this book he investigates leaders who don't just sacrifice their place at the table but often their own comfort and even their lives for those in their care, each putting aside their own interests to protect their teams. Too many workplaces are driven by cynicism, paranoia, and self-interest. But the best ones foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a "Circle of Safety" that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside.