Nearly five months later, 29 September 2021 will be her last working day as Managing Director (MD) of Liberty Life Botswana. Her parting shot: “When I return after my contract, I may become a board member of Liberty Life.”
Perhaps the Board of Liberty was unable to offer the rousing lifestyle changes that she is undertaking. She quips: I am moving to a place where there is a beach. Or maybe she has had sufficiently fulfilling experience as a labour export to represent Botswana and nothing could keep her from doing so. She tells this publication: “When I had a conversation with my boss, he said to me: the fact that such a big entity has picked you is a demonstration of what we have done.”
Ever so grateful for the coaching, mentorship, the guidance and friendship in over 10 years in preparation for her giant leap back to South Africa. She has been there before most certainly appreciates that she would not have landed in this role 10 years ago.
From a leadership perspective, she is a different person and her life will mightily pivot when she jets off to Durban, the coastal city in eastern South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province where she officially start work on 6 October. It was “never about the money”, she opens up in a conversation with this reporter. “I am an MD of a life company and I am moving to a life company.”
At her approaching new perch, Rasebotsa’s portfolio will be generally similar to her present one at Liberty. However, from a scale perspective, Bidvest Life is much larger. The life entity, which was acquired by Bidvest in 2016, is about transformation and has been around for more than 20 years with its heritage based in Durban. Bidvest is associated with turning around ordinary companies into extraordinary institutions.
Rasebotsa is aware that one of the reasons that drew the company to her was her diversity of experience and her different flavour. Her personality buttressed the package: From the feedback they gave, she says, they have never met anyone with her level of emotional intelligence. But obviously her track record at Liberty overlaid this. “They did look into Liberty Life and what I have done for Liberty Botswana,” she responds to a question from this publication. “At the end of the day, I was the most suitable.”
At the onset of her journey with Liberty in June 2011, Rasebotsa was assigned priorities, some of which were set by Liberty and some purely deliberate on her part. Uppermost in her task was to diversify from Stanbic Bancassurance by developing other channels, grow earnings, recruit talent for growth and development, grow the brand, leverage on her networks and further deepen and widen them. Lastly, she wanted to leave a resounding legacy (her personal priority).
As she looks back, Liberty has moved from a predominantly Bancassurance business to now having strong affinity partnerships, securing broker-led business, and offering retail through an agency force. “Earnings have grown sustainably over the years (save for the impact of COVID-19),” she says. Pre-COVID, she notes that profits have more than quadrupled, making Liberty Life Botswana a significant contributor to Liberty Africa Insurance and displaying the highest New Business numbers in some prior years, particularly in 2020/21. But what strikes her is that the business has been able to maintain its capital position even beyond the adequacy requited by the regulator, NBFIRA.
Picking up the cue from this reporter’s interjection, Rasebotsa turns her attention to her focused and deliberate recruitment for talent. Liberty has in-country capabilities to price and perform valuations, both through a trainee actuary programme. She declares her coaching and grooming of the executive team as the foundation that is so firm that states with confidence that her departure will not leave Liberty in a leadership crisis. She displays her faith by professing the confidence the Board has in Joy Buno, Head of Finance, whom she describes as a safe pair of hands holding the fort in the interim.
When she and Buno engage in banter, she never fails to mention that she took upon herself “to make her my project”. “Ms Lu, I’m really your project,” Buno would confirm as Rasebotsa shares this with this reporter. Rasebotsa asserts that Buno knows the business like the back of her hand. “I wanted to transfer certain skills because nobody is a hundred percent fit,” she continues, convinced that the caretaker will succeed so long as she is partnered with someone who can complement her. Rasebotsa too had to be partnered with people who complement her efforts to steer Liberty along a good course. The ship has stood the test of time.
A brand has grown to be a well-recognised one. For this, Rasebotsa cloned strategic thinking by leveraging off existing strong brands through partnerships which the business has had with Township Rollers, KTM Choir and of late with the Desert Bush Walk, to name a few. Through her networks, she actively played a business development role and has been able to open doors that many could not have imagined. “I have forged long and lasting relationships across the financial services industry and broadly across most sectors,” she says.
In building her legacy, she has been authentic and true to herself as a leader, availing herself to young people as a way of giving back and inspiring them rid themselves of self-doubt.
Before being appointed MD of Liberty, Rasebotsa was always in middle management roles, her progress almost stagnant. Mindful of this, she decided to move to South Africa to jumpstart her career. But before she joined Liberty, Rasebotsa kick-started her insurance career in customer services with Botswana Life. She did a good number of years with them before going away to pursue a BSc honours degree in Mathematics and Statistics. A lot of the concepts of this degree are driven by mathematical modules which influence discipline for assessing financial risks in the insurance and finance fields.
From Botswana Life, Rasebotsa transitioned to broking, joining Marsh Insurance Brokers before going to Debswana Pension Fund. Her three-year stint in South Africa focused on employee benefits or what is properly called pension fund administration. Whilst in SA, she got a call from Liberty Life Botswana who were then hunting for an MD. “They said ‘we believe there’s a Motswana in South African and you are that Motswana,’” she remembers. “So we spoke and that’s when I came back and this was in 2011.”
At the very core of things, she has always known that Liberty is her ‘baby.’ But at the back of her mind, Rasebotsa has been aware that she needed to transition to the next phase of her life. Even so, at no point did she ever think that while she was transitioning, she would end up working for a competitor. “I built Liberty up,” she states matter-of-factly, noting that working for a competitor could mean killing the very child that she brought up. Whilst at it, she recognises those who have allowed her to lead them, enabling her successful journey with Liberty.
“I remain forever grateful for the past 10 years as I move into the next decade of my life,” she says. Amidst this pomp, she is 50 this November and reminds this reporter to order something to drink, lest I puncture such celebratory atmosphere at the top of the swanky Masa.