By: Lizé Lamprecht, CEO, Santam
Our leaders and our people have always been our biggest differentiator. We encourage our people to “come as you are” as we foster an environment where our people’s opinions matter, because we know that our diverse perspectives create opportunities for growth, innovation and exceptional performance.
This was once again reinforced as our leaders pulled together in a unified manner, as South Africa went into a national lockdown and COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
As an Executive leadership team we understood the requirement of harnessing the diverse thoughts, opinions, and skills which each leader brings to the business – so we met daily to ensure that we were thinking of all possible scenarios as we led our business during these unprecedented times. Not only did these daily check-in’s allow us to foster unity and deeper collaboration, but it also ensured that we made decisions that were best suited for our people, clients and all stakeholders that we serve.
Someone once said that it is hard to resist what you were part of. And herein lies the key for inspiring staff, executives and Board members about the strategic building blocks. Sharing and listening, authentically make people part of the process, removing the need to sell them the vision and direction of an organisation.
As the lockdown stages eased
We reflected on the benefits of connecting, collaborating and harnessing our diversity of thought – and could identify various benefits that this brought about. It was in this spirit that we aimed to grow, connect and collaborate further as a full leadership team – I then started what we call the “Santam leadership community” where all senior leaders across the Santam group have a monthly connect session where we reflect on lessons learnt and collectively think about how we want to lead Santam into the future.
It has been well received and will definitely be a platform where we continue to learn from each other, strengthen our leadership capability but also build a stronger platform where every leader in Santam can contribute and share their diverse thinking and opinions on how we respond to challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 brought us as a business.
In addition to this we also have the Santam leadership accelerator that during these times provided fundamental leadership skills to every leader across the Santam group as they navigated during these times.
Last but not least, we also understood that each individual deals with change differently, and to ensure that all of our leaders put their best foot forward and we harness their best talents, we offered key emotional, physical, psychological and intellectual well-being initiatives for them and their teams, so most leaders started their day off with mindfulness, ergonomics or resilience building to make sure that they were well equipped and completely passionate to deliver on our Santam experience.
Sharing leadership with brokers
Over 85% of broker facing staff across 50 cities and towns in South Africa were available to ensure ongoing support to intermediaries from the first day of lockdown.
Amongst a host of relief measures were measures such as R190 million premium refund to clients for April (without commission refunds), premium relief initiatives of R85 million, also aimed at retention and actively engaged with intermediaries to restructure and reduce client premiums, responding to changing market risks through the lockdown.
We have started with a podcast series, sharing information on non-financial support initiatives such as how to expand your digital reach, which technologies to invest in now and how to reposition for growth.
Setting strategy in uncertainty – If one understands the word “strategy” as command and control, prediction of the future … then it will be difficult to set strategy.
However, at Santam we have invested in strategy as a practice, a “learning about the future” practice. We think this kind of attitude is key, as the reality is that the VUCA world is here to stay. Now we are dealing with covid-19 but that does not mean that cyber development or climate risk has gone away. We therefore, as an executive team, supported by the extended Santam Group team, regularly scan our environment for trends and possibilities and then invest time exploring what this can mean for us as a business, including our stakeholders.
As a result we have become more practiced about staying in tune with an unfolding future and making decisions in this kind of environment, and when necessary changing the decisions as new insight comes to light.
Finally, it is also the quality of one’s leaders. Being able to lead despite uncertainty is a characteristic of innovators and market leaders, and we are blessed in the Santam Group with many individuals who are able to do this with their staff and peers’ support.
This is a shortened version of a more detailed article written by Lizé Lamprecht, which you can find on our website.