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Nine leadership questions for Bridget Mokwena-Halala, Assupol Group CEO

Nine leadership questions for Bridget Mokwena-Halala, Assupol Group CEO
14-07-23 / Tau kaVodloza

Nine leadership questions for Bridget Mokwena-Halala, Assupol Group CEO

Bridget Mokwena-Halala's relationship with Assupol started while she was still serving as the area head of human resources in the South African Police Services. She would constantly turn to Assupol for help whenever her staff members who were Assupol policy holders would have financial difficulties or bereavement in their families. In 1995 this relationship with Assupol was formalised as she was appointed as part-time advisor.

In 1999, Bridget was offered a full-time position to join the Assupol management team, where she was very excited to take on the role, working her way up the ranks until she was appointed as Assupol Life CEO and an executive director for Assupol Holdings in 2011. In November 2021, she was appointed Assupol Group CEO, making her the 1st black woman to be appointed as a Group CEO in the South African insurance industry.

1. For how long have you led Assupol as CEO?

I became Assupol Life CEO in 2011 and became Group CEO in November 2021.

2. As a leader of one of the leading insurance brands, how would you frame the challenges and triumphs you have had to endure to get here?

It was not easy as I had to confront the common challenges of women participating in the economy, especially in an industry that is so male dominated. When I joined corporate many years ago, it was harder to find women mentors as there were too few women in leadership roles. We have since then made great progress however there is more work still to be done. Capital markets and investors are also paying a bit more attention to corporate performance in terms of gender diversity.

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

In my opinion, some of the top qualities for effective leadership include:

A – Vision, a leader should have a clear vision of where they want to take the company and inspire others to share that vision.

B – Adaptability, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and make informed decisions accordingly is crucial in today’s dynamic business environment.

C – Empathy, leaders should be able to understand and empathize with the needs and concerns of their team members, fostering a supportive and inclusive work culture.

D – Communication, effective leaders are skilled communicators who can convey their ideas, provide feedback, and listen actively to their team members.

E – Integrity, demonstrating integrity and ethical behaviour builds trust and sets the right example for the entire organisation.

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

As we embark on the next chapter of our journey, we remain committed to innovation, progress, and the pursuit of excellence. We embrace change, adapt to innovative technologies, and constantly seek ways to enhance the services we provide. We strive to stay at the forefront of our industry, ensuring that we are always equipped to meet the evolving needs of our clients and the challenges of a changing world.

5. As one of the leading insurers, what are some of the challenges you have encounter in talent attraction and retention, and what would you say is the winning formula?

As one of the leading insurers, we have encountered various challenges in talent attraction and retention. Some of these challenges include:

A – Competition, the insurance industry is highly competitive and attracting top talent requires offering competitive compensation packages and opportunities for career growth.

B – Changing expectations, today’s workforce values work-life balance, flexibility and a sense of purpose. To attract and retain talent, we must adapt our work culture and policies accordingly.

C – Skills gap, the insurance industry is evolving rapidly, and there is a growing need for employees with specialised skills in areas such as data analytics, digital marketing and customer experience management.

D – Diversity and inclusion, building a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial for attracting and retaining talent from different backgrounds and perspectives. It requires creating an inclusive work environment where everyone feels valued and has equal opportunities for growth.

A winning formula for talent attraction and retention involves a combination of competitive compensation packages, a supportive and inclusive work culture, opportunities for professional growth, and a focus on work-life balance.

6. There is so much change in the business space. How do you see technology playing a bigger part in how insurance and its products are distributed in the future?

Technology plays a significant role in how insurance products are distributed today, and its influence is only expected to grow. Advancements in technology have allowed insurers to:

A – Enhance customer experience, technology enables insurers to provide personalised services, streamline claims processes and offer convenient digital platforms for policy management and communication.

B – Improve efficiency, automation and digitization of various processes such as underwriting and policy issuance, help insurers improve operational efficiency and reduce costs.

C – Data-driven insights , technology allows insurers to collect and analyse vast amounts of data, enabling them to make better decisions, identify trends and develop targeted products.

D – Reach broader markets, online platforms and mobile applications provide insurers with the opportunity to reach and serve customers in remote areas or those who prefer digital interactions.

In the future, technology will continue to transform the insurance industry, with advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence, internet of things and blockchain, embracing these technologies will be essential for insurers to stay competitive and changing expectations of customers.

7. What would you point out as key areas of concern for the insurance industry (life and short-term) in the next three to five years?

The insurance industry is likely to face several key areas of concern in the next three to five years.

A – Climate change and natural disasters pose significant challenges for insurers, affecting risks, claims costs and overall profitability.

B – regulatory changes, evolving regulations and compliance requirements can impact insurers’ business models and operations necessitating ongoing adaptation and ensuring compliance.

C – Cybersecurity, as the reliance on digital platforms and data grows, the insurance industry becomes more vulnerable to cyber threats. Ensuring robust cybersecurity measures will be critical to protecting sensitive customer information.

D – Changing customer expectations, customers now expect more personalised products, faster service, and seamless digital experiences. Insurers need to adapt their offering and processes to meet these evolving expectations.

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

If I could give one piece of advice to my 18-year-old self, it would be to embrace continuous learning and personal development. The world is constantly evolving and being open to learning, exploring new ideas and developing new skills, you can adapt to change and seize the opportunities that come your way.

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

One book I would recommend is “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. This book provides valuable insights into the challenges women face in the workplace and offers practical advice for women to achieve their full potential in their careers. It encourages women to lean in, take risks and pursue leadership roles while also addressing the importance of gender equality and work-life balance.

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