Thu, 24/03/2016 - 12:50
Current Issue 59
Alexander Forbes’ extensive presence in East Africa’s gateway continues to make an impact based on simplicity, expertise, relationships, value and enrichment
Proudly Serving Kenya
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Callum Philp
Working in response to a higher purpose on an international scale, Alexander Forbes Group has long been renowned for providing an impactful range of financial services with client enrichment in mind, and its role in Kenya continues to epitomise such an ethos.
With the Group headquartered in South Africa, Alexander Forbes’ Kenyan operations may seem like a replication of the established global model when analysing its concerted range of consultancy and administration services and solutions, but has made a name for itself on a local level as a result of its pioneering market-driven solutions and commitment to corporate social responsibility.
Working in the financial services, investment and risk sectors and serving individual, corporate, state, parastatal and SME clients; the Company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sundeep Raichura believes that the Company is “at the forefront in the products and services we offer in East and Central Africa and have earned a reputation in providing cutting-edge services in this region and creating benchmark standards aspired to by an entire industry”.
He continues: “We have a proven track record and a capable leadership team that encompasses diverse talent, skills and vast experience packaged together to provide a service offering that is without peer in the Kenyan market.”
Consequently making huge gains in market share across its entire customer demographic over its tenure in Kenya, Alexander Forbes’ success is attributed largely to its core motto - SERVE - which ensures a consistent and impactful service driven from leadership and emanating across all areas of the business.
Raichura explains: “The ‘SERVE’ calling card invites every employee at Alexander Forbes to continually strive to deliver to our clients with greater ‘Simplicity’ through the ‘Expert’ and innovative solutions we provide. We build long-term ‘Relationships’ based on the priceless ‘Value’ of hard-earned trust in order to ‘Enrich’ people’s lives.”
Established in the country in early 2003, the Company adopted the wider Group’s continental ambition to be a “truly African, globally distinctive organisation that creates wealth, protects clients’ assets from risks, and in doing so, impacts positively and sustainably on their lives”.
Raichura’s rallying cry is more than applicable still in 2016, looking back at an evolution in Kenya that began on a solid platform of actuarial foundations and has since diversified in response to both its clients’ and the wider market’s requirements.
“The principal services provided by Alexander Forbes in Kenya include actuarial services, retirement fund administration services, investment consulting, employee risk benefits and healthcare consulting, personal lines as well as business insurance solutions,” he says. “Whereas 12 years ago, our business was largely actuarial consulting, the coming on-board of Alexander Forbes enabled us to offer a much wider, holistic service offering in Kenya.
“In 2003, we entered the pensions administration business through the acquisition of Corporate & Pension Trust Services Limited and in 2005, we entered the insurance broking space.”
Alexander Forbes has subsequently become a market leader across all its focal points, leveraging unrivalled levels of innovation within the business that has led to groundbreaking market introductions and industry firsts; the launch of Kenya’s first multi-employer post-retirement medical plan, and the offering of digital solutions to trustees and members of Kenyan retirement funds being two more recent additions to the portfolio.
“I am pleased with the number of new product and service enhancement initiatives that were implemented in the past year,” Raichura continues. “Early this year, recognising an important need in the market, we launched a new post-retirement umbrella medical plan, Ngao Milele (Kiswahili for eternal shield).
“Ngao Milele is a simple vehicle to save for post-retirement medical needs and secure medical cover in retirement; targeted at employers and using the concept of an umbrella scheme in which a number of employers may subscribe. The response thus far to this product has been very encouraging and we hope to see this product gain traction in the coming year.”
Value-add services contributed to the mixing pot over the past 12 months also include online service improvements, an eboard solution for retirement scheme trustees and enhanced online functionality for members of retirement benefit schemes.
For the Company, such levels of proactive development and continuous improvement have helped to achieve ISO:9001 certification as well as escalated revenue growth and profit margins; but these are just by-products of Alexander Forbes’ overriding aim, to give back to the Kenyan population.
“At Alexander Forbes, we are deeply committed to our higher purpose of helping people achieve peace of mind by securing their financial wellbeing, now and in the future. To this end, we have been at the forefront of debate on financial wellbeing in Kenya and the Alexander Forbes brand has been synonymous with financial expertise and innovative yet reliable pensions, medical and insurance solutions,” Raichura states. “For the 20 years that I have worked in East Africa, I see the need to improve the savings culture and long-term financial security of Kenyans as increasingly critical.
“The savings culture in Kenya and in most African countries is sadly lacking... statistics suggest that for every 10 Kenyans retiring today at the age of 55 and above, nine are likely to be forced to continue working or be dependent on their families for subsistence. Only one out of every 10 people retiring is likely to be financially secure and able to cater for their needs in retirement.
“It is time to break the successive cycle of poverty that has plagued Kenya and Africa for generations and to take decisive steps towards securing our financial future today.”
The decision between saving and spending has therefore become a pivotal and unsavoury challenge for much of the Kenyan population, but one that Alexander Forbes is addressing as it strives to empower the country to take more control over their own long-term financial securities.
The CEO continues: “We are looking to promote a culture change for Kenyans through creating awareness and providing education on the importance of savings. We strive to provide innovative solutions that meet the needs of Kenyans and thereby enabling them to fashion a roadmap for achieving their financial security.
“This is the vision of the Alexander Forbes team that drives us to provide the best solutions for savings for Kenyans.”
A people’s business
The commitment to Kenya continues internally also, epitomised by an employment strategy that addresses both the aforementioned savings shortfalls in the country, as well as general skills enhancement.
“Ours is a people’s business and one of the key reasons for our success has been the building and retaining of a team of the highest calibre,” Raichura notes. “At Alexander Forbes, I have the privilege to lead a team with some of the brightest and most talented people in Kenya.
“Leadership of a dynamic team is a challenge that I am excited about and people only give their best when they are passionate about what they do and are committed to giving their best.”
Considerable investment into the training and upskilling of staff ensures that this commitment, passion and affinity with the Company is maintained, while adjacently improving the level of operations within the business; based on an equally well-honed IT infrastructure and the adherence to the most modern regulations.
Compounding this dedication to sustainable, long-term growth is Alexander Forbes’ equally proactive philosophy surrounding capital expenditures; thus making sure that the Company has an internal infrastructure every bit as advanced and capable as its external offering.
“Over the past three years, we have continued to invest in new systems and procedures to enhance customer offerings and to grow the value of our business,” Raichura says. “These include aligning our administration systems to those used at Group level.
“The new system provides superior administrative capability and functionality to any other operating system in the Kenyan market, including electronic access by designated Trustee officers and internet access to individual member benefits information by members.”
Watch this space
Planning for even more concerted structural developments in the near future, the Company is looking to move to new, more modern premises in Nairobi in 2019, but arguably the business’s most influential investments are seen through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts.
Staying true to the actuarial foundations of the business, Alexander Forbes has recently committed KSh500,000 to exam support for science students at Strathmore Business School with the aim of also developing an internship programme for pupils seeking industry support.
Raichura adds: “In terms of social responsibility, we are committed in our support of pressing community issues of the day. We have an active CSR Committee at Alexander Forbes Kenya who have the mandate to identify and spearhead community service initiatives.
“Last year our focus was on the children’s cancer ward at the Kenyatta National Hospital, one of our leading referral hospitals in Nairobi. We resolved as a Company to raise funds towards the purchase of medicine and made a contribution of KSh750,000 towards the cost of purchasing much needed cancer medicines for the children.”
It is this ability to balance business acumen and success with wider social considerations that has made Alexander Forbes the winning Company it is today, both in Kenya and on a global scale; consistently leveraging its market differentiators across innovation, localisation, attention to detail, optimising talent, adherence to governance, close industry collaboration, and competitive and transparent fees.
“We have doubled our business in Kenya in the past four years. The next four years promise to be even more exciting for Alexander Forbes as we embark on an ambitious growth plan to introduce new business segments and expand our service offering,” Raichura concludes. “From the vantage point I sit, I see huge opportunity for the financial services industry in Kenya and with our market leadership in pensions and the employee benefits industry in Kenya, I believe Alexander Forbes is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that the market presents.
“Watch this space as Alexander Forbes continues to lead the market with new expert, yet simple innovations.”