New Britam CEO on consolidating gains, driving growth at insurer – Business Daily
Insurance group Britam has seen one of the most dramatic corporate boardroom shake-ups in Kenya after it slashed the number of directors from 19 to 11 and replaced most of them. It has followed this with employee restructuring and several CEO exits since Benson Wairegi left two years ago.
Tavaziva Madzinga left after just 10 months in office and was briefly replaced by Charles Njuguna on interim before the firm finally settled on former CIC Insurance boss Tom Gitogo as the new managing director.
Mr Gitogo, who spent seven years with Britam during his early years in the industry, sat down with the Business Daily on his first day in office to discuss his plans to steady the ship, consolidate gains and drive growth.
You retired in 2019 and now you are back. You missed some action?
I think when you have done something for an industry, it’s hard to not keep being interested, if you know what I mean.
Do you think Britam was the best choice to make your return?
The Britam brand is quite strong, it is an organisation that has undergone quite a bit of change in the last few years, as you know. But it has a strategy for the next five years that I broadly agree with and we can already see the results of that strategy.
What are the immediate tasks on your table?
My immediate task is to consolidate the gains they have made and to steady the ship. And once we have done that to use the platform for growth. There is no doubt that there is a lot of growth potential in our industry.
Which opportunities do you think will help you have the biggest impact?
Our brand sets us apart, and the consolidation of the position that we currently occupy will be a very good springboard into dominance in the life insurance market, steady and significant growth in our general insurance market.
Our medical business is not as large as it can be and therefore one of our target areas will obviously be to grow it profitably. In asset management we think we can consolidate and have an opportunity to enjoy significant growth from the regional businesses.
Britam has had quite a huge turnover and the CEO door is literally revolving, has the dust settled?
Part of my coming in and my role is actually to consolidate. The word I’m using is to consolidate, which involves steadying the ship.
Change is good, change is inevitable, but you can’t change all the time. So we need to make use of the change that has already happened to launch growth. That is the role I see myself playing over the next few months and quarters.
For your employees they have also witnessed drastic staff cuts over the years, what do you plan to do to ease the tensions and rally them behind you?
As most people will tell you my leadership style is quite inclusive. Remember a lot of our staff interface with our existing and target customers, so their input is important. Whe have to listen to what staff have to say, that is key.
It provides even the stability and the assurance that they need, especially in an organistion that has undergone drastic change. I’m not looking for significant change now going forward because you do not want to disrupt an organisation too much — you may lose the plot.
What do you bring to the company?
The company was definitely looking for experience, it was looking for a track record. But they were also looking for confidence, someone who will confidently take the ship forward.
You have been out of the market for quite some time, does that disadvantage you?
Every businessman today knows that you have to future-proof your business because what used to take five years to change in the years gone by to date it is a much shorter period. And we see this rate of change in the market dynamics increasing.
But a steady hand, experienced hand and a confident leader who will give the stability that is required going forward is what you need.
How has the market changed and what opportunities do these changes offer for Britam?
Strategic alliances, especially in the technology space. Like the other insurance groups, we may not have the DNA necessary for the insure-tech space. Our populations in the region are largely young, I think there’s no debate on that.
And young people are looking for convenience, convenience in terms of accessibility, ease of access and options. To do this profitably, you need to be able to do it at very low or efficient costs. Therefore technology has to come in.
So the strategic alliances have to involve organisations with a DNA of technical advancements, technical implementation. So that when we are looking at our ICT capabilities, we are engaging input from such strategic alliances.
Does Britam still have the muscle to do some mergers and acquisitions in the market to kind of scale up?
It’s not out of question because strategic alliances take different shapes and forms, being distinct institutions with a common purpose to serve the customer. But some of the strategic alliances may work better if you have a symbiotic relationship that may involve cross-shareholding.
So we are not ruling that out, but for now consolidation of what we have is paramount. Never ignore the importance or the role of consolidating what gains you have achieved.
Britam has reported huge losses in the recent past and share price has tanked, what image do you want to project about what you are building here?
I want to continue projecting the confidence that our market has in our name. One of the reasons our brand is big is the confidence we project out there. We would like to continue projecting confidence.
We know what we are doing, we will grow together, we will look after their assets, their investments, their policies, professionally, and we can be trusted.
Lastly, what targets have you set yourself for short term and the long run?
It’s important for a group such as ours to have targets along several parameters. The first one is obviously profitability. Linked with that is return to not just shareholders, but also to our investors.
The clients that have invested with us, we want to be competitive. So it is an offer of value proposition to all our stakeholders — be they in insurance customers be they tenants or be they investors in our asset management business.
Another target is growing our client portfolio from currently a million to about 5 million in the next few years.