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Eight leadership questions for Yuresh Maharaj, CEO, Liberty Group

Eight leadership questions for Yuresh Maharaj, CEO, Liberty Group
06-03-24 / Kwanele Sibanda

Eight leadership questions for Yuresh Maharaj, CEO, Liberty Group

In our current 2024 series of the Insurance Business Leaders, we hit it off with eight (8) leadership questions for Yuresh Maharaj, Chief Executive, Liberty - the Insurance and Asset Management business unit of the Standard Bank Group:

  1. For how long have you been the Chief Executive of Liberty?

Thank you for letting me answer these questions. I stepped into the role in March 2022. It's been quite a journey. It's almost two years into the position.

  1. You have been at Liberty for well over 9 years, ascending to Chief Executive in 2022. How have your previous positions prepared you for this current role .... Any challenges, highlights or learnings?

I spent 16 years at Deloitte - the last 9 years as a Partner in the financial services team specialising in the insurance sector.

I joined Liberty at the end of 2015 and was appointed as the Financial Director. I joined the Liberty Board in 2018. As a member of the Liberty Executive team, I worked closely with the Liberty CEO in evolving Liberty's future strategic path and remediation plan.

We are now the Insurance and Asset Management business unit within the Standard Bank Group, and we have a unique opportunity to add value to the Bank's clients in South Africa and across the continent by offering insurance and investment solutions. Integrating at scale, an insurance and asset management business into a Banking Group seamlessly, is a remarkable achievement for the Group.

This journey has come with great learnings and understanding of how insurance and banking businesses complement each other, which will ultimately create a compelling competitive advantage for the Group.

  1. What would you say are the top qualities for effective leadership?

My father taught me to always use the power of knowledge and manage money carefully and these learnings have stayed with me. As an individual I believe in always being authentic and genuine.

At Liberty our clients trust us to manage some of the most important aspects of their lives, so building honest, effective relationships means a great deal to me.

  1. What would you say are Liberty's top priority areas for the next year?

Liberty now resides in a business unit within the Standard Bank Group. We follow a client-centric approach in defining our strategic ambition. Our clients span across individuals, corporations and institutions, so different segments and sub-segments require different propositions and solutions to meet their needs. We want to optimise our advice-led approach and distribution network, augmented by technology enablement to complete the suite of financial propositions to the Group's client base.

  1. Do you see technology playing a much more significant role in how financial, including insurance products are developed and distributed in the next few years?

I strongly believe new technologies like artificial intelligence enhance human relationships through offering better ways of doing things.

You can think of it as human augmentation, because at heart, we're a people focused business that thrives on long-term relationships, particularly those built up by our adviser network and we leverage information to help our clients live better lives.

We have embraced these types of technologies because they have the ability to bring together large amounts of data about individuals and our clients, and this can be used to inform better solutions and choices.

  1. What would you point out as key areas of concern for the financial sector, especially the insurance industry (either life or non-life) in the next three to five years?

 These past few years have been tough with low economic growth and understandably, reduced consumer spending, some of this due to the COVID pandemic. Even though the pandemic highlighted the very essence of life insurance protection; being there for our clients in their most vulnerable time, it has also meant that as an industry, we need to constantly evolve with the needs of our clients by meeting them where they are in their realities.  

It is no longer a one size fits all approach, so the next few years are critical to us being more agile but pragmatic in the way we create or enhance insurance solutions for clients.

Despite the fragile economy, there is still a widening insurance gap and as an industry, we have a duty to continue to strive to close the gap and provide a safety net for our clients.

In addition, the raft of regulation, from the Two-Pot Retirement changes to accounting changes per IFRS 17, has fundamental operational impacts on the industry.

Lastly, we want more young people looking to insurance and investment as key to building their future and contributing to the economic growth. To this end, promoting financial literacy is a focus area for our business.

  1. If you could go back and give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

 I'd tell my 18-year-old self that hard work and playing to win is a good combination, and that humanity and compassion for others is important.  I'd also tell my 18-year-old self to use every opportunity given to learn. I would look forward to getting older because as you get older, you get wiser.

  1. What is the one book you would recommend to your audience, and why?

In general, I enjoy autobiographies and motivational books. But if I had to recommend just one book, that would have to be Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About The World - and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. It teaches the key lesson that we should only hold opinions that we can back with facts that we understand.

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