The state of emergency has created a false sense of comfort because many retrenchments are anticipated to follow after it ends, Batsho Dambe-Groth, Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited (BIHL) board chair, has said.
Commenting on the group’s recently released annual report for the year 2020, Dambe-Groth said this means people will have even lower disposable incomes for products such as insurance. “As a result, a large education drive is part of our business strategy to help people understand that insurance is not a luxury but a necessity, particularly during periods of crisis,” she noted.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi extended the state of emergency partly to prohibit retrenchments during the period of hardship. But inspite of the anticipated retrenchments, Dambe-Groth acknowledged that the SOE has been “useful for lower salaried positions but not necessarily for higher salaried positions”.
She pointed out that the BIHL business strategy includes Botswana Life Insurance Limited (BLIL) and Botswana Insurance Fund Limited (Bifm), along with other associates. BLIL is a leading life insurer with just under 70 percent market share. In the past year, said Dambe-Groth, Botswana Life felt the headwinds of the pandemic with reduced levels of new business as a result of various lockdowns which impacted face-to-face selling model, especially on the retail lines. Despite this, she said, Botswana Life overall was resilient with double-digit growth of net premium income, resilient file size and good growth of corporate scheme income. “The corporate business had a phenomenal 2020, despite the impact of COVID-19, showing double-digit growth on all major group products, namely Group Credit Life, Group Funeral and Group Life Assurance,” she said,
This was supported by “our ability to pay out claims and our long-term partnerships”. According to Dambe-Groth, P1.6 billion was paid out in benefits and claims despite tough economic conditions.
Bifm was impacted less by the pandemic. Its good performance is attributed to an improved AUM position compared to the prior year for the Botswana business following acquisition of new mandates and retention of existing ones. Bifm also benefited from disciplined cost management.
These two factors worked together to ensure much better profit performance compared to the prior year. “Our AUM have grown over the years and currently stand at P30.3 billion,” Dambe-Groth pointed out.
Funeral Services Group (FSG) had exceptional results this year, as did Nico Holdings PLC and Letshego Holdings Limited (Letshego). Through collaborative efforts with associates, particularly FSG and Nico Malawi PLC, the group has been able to assist with portable practices, ranging from risk management and governance, product development and business strategy contributing to the success of these associates, according to Dambe-Groth.
“One of BIHL’s strengths is the expertise to know when to let go and when to adapt in order to protect the business,” she said. Because of “our diversification strategy, we are able to be resilient against shocks, including one of the greatest operational challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic”.
COVID-19 has changed the business landscape by presenting new challenges as well as an opportunity to accelerate BIHL’s digitalisation strategy in order to work more effectively and secure new business. “We at BIHL spent significant time and investment on establishing our new way of work,” Dambe-Groth said. “In order to adopt this new model of remote work, we ensured everyone had the necessary equipment in order to do so.
“A hybrid model is still, however, necessary as working from home will not work for all aspects of the business, specifically for the retail business, which will require office space for occasional face-to-face interaction with clients.”