What are the unique competitive advantages of South Africa as a place of investment?

South Africa is a real success story, there is a new middle class emerging, more people getting degrees. There are more people going into the work environment, paying taxes and supporting the community.
South Africa is one of the preferred business process outsourcing hubs in the world and the government has put incentives in place to encourage service centers here, employing local people, training them and giving them careers and in exchange for grants.

What opportunities does Innovation Group see in South Africa and on the rest of the continent?

Companies have created shared service hubs in India, South America and even Morocco. On the other side, South Africa has strong infrastructure, strong IT communication and it helps that South Africa is in the same timezone as Europe. However, the key thing that swung it for them was seeing unemployment in South Africa as a positive. It gives us a lot of young people that could enter a call-center environment.

Do you see insurance as a people business?

I have been in insurance for a long time and when you try and lead people in an organization and tell people: ‘I’m in insurance’ people tend to react and say that it is boring. But for me the test for insurance is at the claim stage. When that client phones and have had an accident, their house has been flooded, their car has broken down or whatever, they want someone to say ‘I hear you, we’ve got you covered and this is the next step of what is going to happen.’

“…I absolutely believe in South Africa. I do not believe there is any challenge that we cannot overcome and I believe that is the general mindset of South Africans…”

Does being a smaller company mean you are more agile than the big corporates?

I was the Managing Director of an insurance company and my mandate was to settle a R250 million claim. I couldn’t spend R15,000 on marketing and had to go to the Group and ask them, which was frustrating. Here, I report to the CEO, we speak every Monday and I phone him when I need him. I am empowered to make decisions and am happy to take accountability.

Is Innovation Group looking to take advantage of opportunities in Africa and take your solutions there?

The Africa strategy is on the back burner because I just started as Managing Director. We have relationships with most of the major banks and with some of the bigger insurers. The vision is to find opportunities to bring them into our systems where they make sense, scale them and be a service provider.

How do you bring awareness of what Innovation Group does to potential clients that might be interested in your service?

We do not want to be a first line brand, we want to be seen as a partner of other first line brands and the insurer.
We want to be seen as a partner. I have recognised while being here is that it has a lot to do with our networks in the industry and our output. Through some of Innovation Group’s networks we can get appointments with some senior people in the insurance market, and through good service you naturally create opportunities.

How is Innovation Group innovating and keeping up with constantly changing technological trends?

Our innovation comes in where we partner with a big automotive manufacturer and though our IT department, find a way to integrate with their systems, to help them and their clients. I see huge opportunity in utilising technology and automating systems. We have a development and IT team and I have a lot of access to them, to a point where I can encourage them to innovate and make things easier for us and our clients.

Where do you want to see Innovation Group in the next 3-5 years?

My vision, which aligns with the group’s vision, I want to be seen as the partner of choice to the automotive and insurance industry.

Would like you to leave a final message of confidence of what South Africa can offer the world?

I absolutely believe in South Africa. I do not believe there is any challenge that we cannot overcome and I believe that is the general mindset of South Africans.
We have a robust regulatory environment and sound banking. People complain about BBBEE but if you invest in people and study the BBBEE rules there are a lot of opportunities through local procurement, through skills enhancement you get government grants . It doesn’t have to be a business restrictor it can be a business enabler.