Success is on the Books
Through successful talent selection and working with like-minded organisations, globally recognised insurance Group, Price Forbes is successfully demonstrating its capabilities in a new market
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Callum Philp
Since its establishment in 2012, Price Forbes Group Limited’s South Africa division, Price Forbes (Pty)Ltd, has witnessed exponential growth in a mere three years, in part due to its extreme client focus, Greenfield business and Group backing.
The origins of the Price Forbes name can be traced back to 1893. The business today is the result of a 2004 merger of two highly professional brokers, Prentis Donegan and Price Forbes. 2006 saw the formation of Price Forbes & Partners Limited, a truly independent London and Bermuda-based global, specialist broker that is 100 percent owned by management and its employees.
“The establishment of Price Forbes (Pty)Ltd in South Africa in 2012 was a significant step towards achieving the goal of being a global insurance specialist,” says Warren Bolttler, CEO of Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd. “Even with the well established brand name, we are still the new kids on the block in Africa. Therefore, we need to quickly demonstrate our capabilities to a new market.
“As our customer base grows in this area, we can offer more competitive rates than ever before. Additionally, backed by the Price Forbes brand that has existed for almost a century as a global household name from its base in London, UK, we have been able to leverage the Group’s reputation to fulfil our South African operating model; known for its direct partner relationships and unique value propositions that offer something completely different,” adds Bolttler, who was keen to emphasise that growth in South Africa was organic and based on a local retail model.
The Group’s South Africa operations serve to broaden the offering available to insurance and reinsurance buyers of domestic corporate and commercial insurance; providing enhanced access to international markets and introducing specialist skills and greater competition into the country’s insurance market.
“Following significant consolidation in the South African broking market, our books predominantly cover domestic risk and large domicile corporates in South Africa and the neighbouring countries. We heavily utilise our extensive knowledge of the domestic market to provide our insurance products.
“At present, the market is currently soft, therefore it presents a lot of opportunities for insurance buyers; where products are quickly commoditised and innovations are quickly replicated and moulded to suit the ever-changing regulations. This is a sign of a healthy and financially sound market, where there is capacity, competition and choice,” details Bolttler.
In 2013, the entire African insurance market only accounted for 1.56 percent of the global premiums, standing at $72.4 billion, compared to the world total of $4.6 trillion. South African premiums however, accounted for $54 billion of this total and penetration levels were ranked second in the world at 15.4 percent, reflecting a saturated market and the potential for growth in key areas such as property insurance, mining, construction and manufacturing. “These are the four significant insurance classes on our books and success in these areas has allowed us to grow our business at a healthy rate,” explains Bolttler.
Through a tailored insurance offering for each corporate entity seeking insurance, Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd is able to take advantage of high growth markets for sustainable revenue growth to secure a long-term future in South Africa. “A new high growth market for us is technology, where we have recently won some large global firms and will continue to seize the opportunity to build this book going forward. Not only this, but we must differentiate our product and service offering in a meaningful way to attract more retail customers,” adds Bolttler.
He says that the growth of Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd is not just constrained to South Africa, and this is a result of significant infrastructure development that characterises the African landscape. “We find that the dominant classes of business are construction, engineering, marine & transportation and energy. In light of the significant offshore energy resources in East Africa for example, we have strategically positioned ourselves to be able to handle insurance in this area by providing a facility to service the local East African markets. Not only this, but we have made significant steps in our oil & gas specialisations for the South African market.”
The high level of innovation and organic growth in the South African market has helped Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd to identify its capabilities and potential in a short space of time. By investing in people and a bespoke IT system, the insurer has been able to secure a strong team of service professionals for its offices in Johannesburg. “We are looking to invest in the best people who will bring the business and knowledge with them to aid us in targeting particular client groups this year,” says Bolttler.
“By ruthlessly sticking to the execution of our plans, the next 12 months will be about putting into action our strategies.”
Already equipped with a robust book of business in the South African market, Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd will aggressively target growth in the rest of Africa by working with independent brokers and securing partnership agreements that can help local businesses prosper. “Our intention is to look for business opportunities with our partners in order to improve our chances of competing for multinational business. As a WBN (Worldwide Broker Network) member, we are well positioned to achieve this.
“The entrepreneurial and innovative culture we instil in others combined with our African partners will encourage enterprise development and skills transfer across Africa,” Bolttler emphasises.
As a young and dynamic company stemming from a globally renowned Group, beginning operations in the rest of Africa has not been without challenge. Perhaps the most significant challenge has been South Africa’s sovereign credit rating downgrade to BBB last year, the second-lowest investment grade level in line with Brazil and Russia. “This means even though our local insurers have the individual credentials to warrant a far higher rating than this, they are immediately pulled down by S&P (Standard & Poor’s) to below the country’s sovereign rating. In a country and continent that heavily relies on foreign investment and lending, it poses a challenge when the foreign lenders and investors normally demand A rated insurers to cover the projects they are funding,” Bolttler further explains.
This may impact the macro-economic growth of the country’s insurance industry and can effect large insurance organisations with hefty international growth ambitions. However, Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd remains largely unaffected during the early stages of its business lifecycle as it is growing at such a rate that it outstrips both the country and the insurance sector’s average economic growth, mainly as a result of being small and agile in a market dominated a few large and cumbersome opponents
Initially operating as an independent South African broker, it quickly became apparent to Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd that it was imperative to gain access to partners beyond the borders in order to provide seamless insurance propositions for Pan-African clients. “Our methodologies allow us to provide more insurance capacity and a broader skill set to our allies across the continent.
“We have to seize every opportunity; of course, we make sure it is right for us first. Through their continent-wide businesses, our clients have Pan-African exposure and we have to be able to offer multinational insurance solutions that cover all areas which we service. In line with this, we now have partnerships in 11 African countries including Angola, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Uganda and the DRC.
“Multinational policies can be tricky to satisfy all; it has to satisfy local legislation which can be known to change regularly. By working closely with partners, we continuously improve our approach to this challenge,” highlights Bolttler.
In support of this, Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd has a number of initiatives that specifically focus on enterprise and skills development for black-owned organisations in South Africa. “We provide opportunities they would not normally have, developing local education and technical knowledge in insurance,” he adds.
The right expertise
From the outset, Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd were equipped with a comprehensive, multi-skilled group of staff; some extracted from the competition and some with more than 30 years’ experience in the insurance field. “These people formed the foundations of our expertise, but the next step was to secure younger people with the right entrepreneurial thinking to sustain the company’s future,” says Bolttler, further explaining that the company has a “healthy blend” of staff, with senior members of staff disseminating technical skills to the younger team members, and longstanding members of the team benefitting from the natural skills the young staff bring.
“We have a liberal policy when it comes to training including encouraging attendance to conferences and seminars. Additionally, our new secondment programme will begin in Spring, where we leverage skills from our UK operation in order to allow staff to learn different practices and experience the different geographies of the world,” he adds.
Creating a financially stable and viable insurance business in a saturated environment such as South Africa takes a little something extra, which Bolttler believes Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd offers through its attention to detail and heightened level of time spent with clients. “And our short-term goals revolve around this,” he says. By smoothing out internal and external processes, Price Forbes is able to demonstrate that it has the capacity to deal with domestic corporate business in South Africa to an incredibly high standard. “We want to get the message out that we are small enough to care, and large enough to handle big projects. Price Forbes offer the best of both worlds with a personalised service tailored to the client.
“In the long term we will leverage on our reputation in the industry. We’ve had the fundamentals in place built up throughout more than 100 years of history and through targeted acquisitions of like-minded people, Price Forbes will firmly root itself as an African insurance broker you can depend on,” he concludes.