Diversity and teamwork gives Metropolitan Retail its Get Up and Go
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PETER Tshiguvho’s journey to leading one of the biggest and most successful financial services companies in South Africa is a lesson in fortitude, foresight, and determination that circumstances do not define one. Self-belief in a better future is critical to success, he says.
Before taking up his current position, Peter began his career in the financial services sector at Old Mutual as a trainee administration head, thereafter taking up a position as an assistant manager (sales support manager).
After nearly 10 years with Old Mutual he moved on to Sage Life as a divisional manager, which was the beginning of his sales and distribution trajectory. There followed a variety of similar roles in different insurance companies, including companies like African Life, Ithala, Avbob and Absa Financial Services, progressing to senior and executive roles over the years.
In 2013, Peter returned to Old Mutual for a period of three years as head of distribution for the rest of Africa, subsequently becoming its head of market access in personal finance.
He joined Momentum Metropolitan Group, as Metropolitan Retail Head of Channel in March 2017, and a year later was appointed as the chief executive of the business.
BR asked this indefatigable leader to share some insights:
Metropolitan merged with Momentum in 2010. What are the benefits and challenges?
Before the merger, the two entities had two complementary strengths in their retail divisions – Metropolitan was good at the lower to middle market and Momentum the middle to upper.
Pre-merger, both attempted to enter each other’s market, but struggled to break through the dominance that each held. There are several key benefits namely:
Cost efficiency, especially in the employee benefits, asset management and healthcare spaces where comparative-sized businesses merged and fully integrated their operations.
Integration and migration of products and administration systems (this is still under way).
Increased scale, benefiting the operating margins.
Efficiency in consolidating businesses outside of South Africa, such as Namibia.
In the health sector in South Africa, Momentum was strong in open schemes, while Metropolitan was strong in closed schemes (including GEMS).
Within Employee Benefits, Momentum had a strong umbrella fund presence, with Metropolitan stronger in the administration of large schemes.
Naturally, there are challenges in merging two large entities too. Some of the more prominent were:
The two businesses had different cultures then, leading to real-world challenges in aligning practices, for example, client services, human capital, etc.
A geographical split of bases between Cape Town and Joburg.
We lost our competitive edge while we were internally focused.
We also lost some key resources.
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on Metropolitan’s business and bottom line?
The impact of Covid-19 on our business has been huge but we are managing. We sadly lost some of our employees to Covid-19 and with some employees also losing their loved ones. This has weighed heavily on all of us in the business, as evidenced by the increase in the use of our wellness programme – Wise and Well.
On the other hand, we saw a huge increase in death claims, up 78 percent compared with the 2020 financial year.
This has certainly affected our earnings as we found ourselves carrying substantially high death claims, as well as reserving for future claims.
Our business value chain was disrupted: starting from the first lockdown restrictions, we had to adapt to the new way of doing business. Employees had to be enabled to work from home and we did this successfully within the shortest space of time.
New business is key to keeping business going. Call centre sales agents were also enabled to operate remotely
to meet the requisite physical distancing requirements at our offices.
Our tied agency advisers were somewhat lucky that we had the sales onboarding tools, as we had been struggling to get full buy-in way before Covid-19 hiatus.
Out of necessity, they found themselves using these tools, which has been to the benefit of all stakeholders. The foresight we had in this case, has fortunately put us ahead of the curve.
Because of this and together with other informed interventions as part of our “Rest and Grow” journey, we saw a market share claw back of 5 percent by December 2020.
It was also pleasing to see Metropolitan being ranked and voted number one on the South African CSI survey.
What makes this achievement even better, is that this was attained during the extraordinary year in which Covid-19 entered our lives. To me, it shows confidence in our brand and our ability to build a trusting relationship.
Do you have any new policies in the pipeline to protect people against the outbreak of viruses such as Covid?
No, we do not have new policies in the pipeline against outbreak of viruses such as Covid-19.
What product offerings do you offer to the youth?
While we do not necessarily have a new solution targeting the youth, we did launch a full value chain digital business, Metropolitan Get Up in July 2019. Eighty percent of business from this channel are clients under 40 years of age. These are “Bot-driven” sales where we engage clients on various digital platforms.
We are also investing our time in better understanding this market, so that we can develop solutions aligned to their needs and expectations.
What is your five-year strategy with Metropolitan?
As a group, we are now deploying a “Reinvent and Grow” strategy. Our long-term vision is to be a household name with at least a policy in every emerging market home. Ours is a distribution-led strategy, which will see us optimising all our distribution channels, owing to the lessons learnt since the inception of the Reset and Grow strategy some three years ago.
It is also going to be key that we future-proof our business by modernising and automating systems and our business, as well as building on the Metropolitan Get Up journey.
More will have to be done to build our brand as a whole to ensure that we remain relevant.
Can you elaborate on the benefits of diversity; as per our telephonic interview?
Team diversity is not an end, but one must find a way to harvest the benefits of a diverse team. From the Metropolitan side, this has been intentional.
From how I assembled the Exco team members to how I encourage robust debates to get to a desired outcome and the best solutions, which are all borne out of diverse views and the freedom we encourage to express their ideas. It is important for team members to feel included, to be meaningfully engaged, so that we are all aligned and supportive of the journey we are on – together.