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SA’s biggest casualty insurer backs Mboweni on growth

The fact that there is a plan for economic growth is a positive start for Santam CEO Hennie Nel.

Santam, South Africa’s biggest property and casualty insurer, is backing finance minister Tito Mboweni’s road map for turning around the nation’s economy as a step in the right direction.

“The positive message is around the fact that we have a plan,” Chief Financial Officer Hennie Nel said by phone from Cape Town on Thursday. “We can discuss it and talk about it. That’s a positive.”

The National Treasury this week released a policy paper suggesting ways of reversing a slump in the continent’s most industrialised economy that has contracted for three of the past five quarters. The proposals range from selling the government’s debt-laden electricity utility’s power plants to privatising assets and surrendering near monopolies in port and rail services, much to the dismay of the ruling party’s labour union allies.

Read: SA sees selling coal plants and visa reform boosting GDP

Eskom could sell some coal-powered plants to raise R450bn

With limited growth in the pool of assets that the insurance industry can cover, and a South African consumer that is increasingly under strain, Santam is focusing on expanding new products, Nel said. The company, controlled by Africa’s largest insurer Sanlam, will also zero in on strengthening the pan-African specialist insurance business it is developing with Casablanca-based Saham Finances, he said.

Read: Less ambition is a good thing in South Africa’s economic plan

Other highlights from the interview:

  • As Santam reaches the end of a strategic program to drive lift profits, known as Vision 2020, it will look into reskilling workers to suit the need of a digitising organisation, Nel said. It will also centre most of its future recruitment on roles in the digital economy.
  • Santam plans “to start writing more international business and to slowly expand on that business” outside of Africa, he said. The insurer has businesses in India and Southeast Asia.
  • Clearer objectives of an updated strategy will be announced later this year.
© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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