Neesha Parbhoo, the CEO of MNK Re of South Africa
Tony: Our industry runs on relationships and when you talk about an advisory role, you obviously talk about relationships. But let’s start at the beginning, first of all, can you tell us a bit about MNK Re how you see your role in the local market.
Neesha: MNK Re is a Lloyd’s broker and was established in 2010, remaining a small to midsize broker for the last few years. Last year, with COVID hitting the world, and then finding sort of an opportunity to expand, the CEO of MNK Re UK decided that it was time to actually leverage off the current situation. Because MNK Re is built on niche, innovative products, as much as we do traditional reinsurance, just like every other broker does, the focus is on bringing new products for emerging risks and emerging problems. With that said, we started a conversation early last year, about opening the office in South Africa, as a hub for Africa. By the end of this year, we will have five new offices around the world. Our staff compliment, since we started on the first of July 2020, is up by 400%. So we are rapidly growing and looking at interesting areas of the world to grow in. This is a very exciting space for us and we are very happy to be part of a team that is so diverse and so energetic.
COVER: The first conclusion for me, looking at the uncertain times we are in, is that there is definitely a role for you or a place for what you do as a reinsurance
place. This then brings me to ask you, how you see, in today’s insurance industry, the role of the reinsurance broker?
Neesha: I think the role of the reinsurance broker has evolved massively, especially given last year, it needs to be less transactional, and more in line with understanding the needs of the clients and the needs of the market. There’s huge uncertainty, even now about where we end up, whether we’re going to be stuck in this phase for a year or two years, no one really knows. This is also compounded by the fact that the economy around the world has shrunk significantly. So there will be less spend available on insurance and reinsurance. At this point, the reinsurance broker plays a vital role in finding the balance between the clients’ needs and the market out there. The way we see it, having these offices around the world gives us a bit more insight into what’s happening all over, and we are able to draw on all of that knowledge and give our clients the best advice possible. I also believe that this is the time to be highly in tune with everything that is going on because, to give clients the best advice, may not always mean making the most money, and we all have to be ready for that.
COVER: We always have the challenge that clients have to work with you to fully benefit from the diverse benefits you offer. So, when it comes to reinsurance
broking, do you feel that clients are optimising that relationship? And, if either way, what do you think are the sort of leavers for optimising your services?
Neesha: I don’t believe that clients are optimising the value of reinsurance brokers, especially in the South African market. If you look at the structure of our market,
there are a number of smaller to mid-size UMAs and yet, there is a drive for 90% of our market to focus on what would be the top two reinsurance brokers in South
Africa, once AON and Willis merge. This is why I think, in this environment, there is a huge place for the small to mid-size broker to fill that gap. If there’s more alignment between the broker and the client, I think you’d get much better results while at the same time, the smaller broker is in a position to give more attention to that client than the bigger brokers would.
Tony: So, from an MNK Re perspective, how do you plan to get your clients to take up your services, and I would say to work a bit more closely with you to optimise
Neesha: I think that’s the challenge here, there are a number of brokers out there and differentiating ourselves is the biggest challenge that we’re facing at the moment. What we are trying to deliver, and the message we’re trying to get across to clients is that we’re moving away from words such as bespoke, and agile, and we want to be in tune. I think the key to assessing the client’s needs and being able to provide the optimum service is being very intuitive about the client almost anticipating what they require before they actually know it themselves. And that’s what we are trying to do. Build very close relationships with clients and completely understand their needs from a holistic point of view, not just reinsurance based. In addition to that, I would say that the innovation that we’re trying to bring into the market is key, the focus on lower priced products, because of the state of our economy at this point, trying to bring in products that fill the gap and almost try to build everything back up again. Consumers are not in a position where insurance is just a natural spend, and we need to give them some sort of comfort or level of cover that protects them but doesn’t take a chunk out of this spend every month.
Tony: In closing, a little bit of a softer question. How do you feel about the year ahead? I mean, the economy is challenging, it’s a tough environment after the
experience last year, etc. How do you feel about the year to come?
Neesha: I think that my personal and not the MNK Re view is such that this situation is here to stay for a while. And, instead of letting it drag us down and remaining stagnant for yet another year, we need to learn how to work with it and work around it. With respect for new boundaries, and I hate the phrase the new normal, but basically, we’ve got to embrace it for what it is and start finding ways to work around it. We all live in hope that things will change soon, but I think staying stagnant and being in limbo is not going to work for businesses, the economy and the world over. It is about thinking out of the box now, more now than ever before.
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