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Old Mutual poaches Telesure execs

Sees opportunity for direct insurance in the rest of Africa.

JOHANNESBURG – Old Mutual Emerging Markets (OMEM), part of Old Mutual Plc, has hired three Telesure executives to launch a direct insurance business in the rest of Africa.

Anton de Souza, Connie Kruger and Hannes Wilken were, until recently, executive directors at Telesure Investment Holdings – the holding company for a number of insurance brands, including Auto & General, Dial Direct, 1st for Women and 1Life. Other Telesure subsidiaries include Steyn City Properties and The Saxon Hotel.

“We think that they are very experienced across the industry and people we know well who understand the Old Mutual business and our value systems,” commented Ralph Mupita, CEO of OMEM, on the appointments.

De Souza was COO of Nedbank Retail for 14 years.

Telesure Investment Holdings CEO, Leon Vermaak also stepped down at the end of February; although his contract was due to expire only in June 2016. “When Old Mutual approached three members of my team (a team of four), it made sense for me to step aside and allow the new CEO to build his team, rather than me making the appointments and then leaving directly afterwards,” Vermaak told Moneyweb.

Telesure has yet to fill the vacant executive positions. For now, Stephen Klinkert, who is deputy chairman and CEO of Telesure’s Guernsey-domiciled parent company, BHL Holdings, is acting CEO of Telesure.

Tom Creamer, CEO of Telesure’s short-term insurance businesses, said it is natural for top talent to be targeted in a highly competitive environment and “Telesure is an obvious choice”. “We wish them well and the best of luck for their future endeavours,” he said.

Creamer said the CEOs of Telesure’s various group companies “remain fully committed to driving the group forward”. “We are confident and excited about what lies ahead,” he said.

Opportunity for direct business in Africa

Discussing the new business venture, Mupita said there was opportunity in South Africa and beyond for direct insurance propositions. “Not just property and casualty, but also direct life insurance businesses. We see this as a key step in advancing our strategy more broadly across the African continent,” he told Moneyweb on Thursday.

Mupita said the new executives were predominantly working “in the rest of Africa” and were restricted from operating in South Africa – under a restraint of trade – until January 2016. “Beyond that we will certainly look at working with them in South Africa,” he confirmed.

“Anton and team are focused as we speak with our UAP acquisition in Kenya,” Mupita noted. Old Mutual completed its acquisition of a majority stake in UAP in the first quarter of 2015, placing it in the top three insurers in East Africa.

Mupita said Namibia is another market where OMEM is looking to build a direct insurance business and it is “exploring two others”, where the availability of technology, customer preferences and cost structures are advantageous for a direct business.

For the first quarter of 2015 OMEM saw gross sales jump 20% to R50.5 billion (£2.7 billion), it reported in a SENS filing early on Thursday. Mupita said the business is seeing very good sales growth and momentum in its retail affluent and asset management businesses in South Africa.

“In the rest of Africa, strong sales growth continues as we build out our franchise in that part of the market,” he said.

Group finance director Ingrid Johnson said Old Mutual was beginning to see “good signs of change” in its South African business, with good emerging market growth. “We’re starting to see across the board that we understand our clients’ needs,” she said.

Johnson emphasised Old Mutual’s focus on “operational execution and integrating the businesses we’ve bought”, in Africa and the UK, in order to realise synergies.

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