Insuring Peace of Mind
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Stuart Parker
Borne out of the short-term insurance industry and blossoming into a multi-faceted Group of Companies, B-Sure Group Holdings has evolved in line with a strategy that not only ensures continuous evolution and diversification of its Group structure, but also brings an invaluable flexibility in order to cater for any future industry fluctuations or additional divisions.
Such forethought and entrepreneurial thinking has been the backbone of B-Sure’s development since 2010, with the business growing over the years to now comprise seven operating companies; a culmination of hard work and diversification that has largely been overseen by Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Stephen Williams and the BSG Management Team.
Since inception he has witnessed key milestones that began as B-Sure Africa Financial Brokers CC (BSAFB) in a 25 metre squared office with a staff base of just three, before springing into action over the initial two years via the establishment of the Group’s insurance brokerage, B-Sure Africa Insurance Brokers (Pty) Ltd (BSAIB).
“This allowed BSAFB to focus on managing the property portfolio we had started to acquire,” Williams recalls. “This then left BSAFB in a key position for property acquisition, renovation and development.
“By the time 2014 came, we had built a staff base of around 120 full-time employees. With us having had such a strong focus on technology and systems, we had built quite a substantial team of IT staff - both general as well as specialised - and as such decided to launch B-Sure IT Solutions (Pty) Ltd (BSIT). BSIT primarily started servicing BSAFB and BSAIB but that soon changed to encompass new business development and servicing partners in the area.”
The birth of B-Sure Africa Recruitment Solutions (BSARS) soon followed through the internal strive for suitable employees; and with a portfolio of four companies by the beginning of 2015, the next natural avenue was to become centralised, thus bringing about the introduction of B-Sure Group Holdings (Pty) Ltd, as it is now known, to cater as a hub for areas of finance, HR, IT, marketing, auditing and risk management.
Williams continues: “Later in 2015, with BSAIB still growing from strength to strength and with the training regime, processes, systems and procedures now stable and conclusive, we decided to leverage off of this knowledge and launch our second short-term insurance brokerage, UberSure Insurance Brokers (Pty) Ltd (USIB), with the same structure but with a slightly different culture. Whereas BSAIB’s image was more corporate, USIB’s image was more light-hearted and fun loving. This slight culture change would allow the brokerage to appeal to a different market demographic in an industry in which we already doing so well.
“In 2016, with our property portfolio now having 10 commercial properties in it, we realised that we had built a resource base that could service the general public with this skill-set and therein came about the launch of B-Sure Properties (Pty) Ltd (BSP); an estate agency focused on private and commercial property sales as well as rentals in the East Rand.”
By removing all of its eggs from one basket and putting them into numerous specialised ones, B-Sure is now leveraging its current resources and skill-sets in order to diversify its earning ability and to grow strategically into new markets.
“This mind-set not only constantly keeps us on our toes, but also ensures that our revenue stream is not dependant on the performance of one specific market,” Williams elaborates.
Engulfed within this ethos is a necessary commitment to continuous improvement and ongoing capital investments to ensure that the Company is moving forward from an innovation perspective, and not just growing sideways from a divisional point of view.
“In terms of pure product, I’d have to say the most exciting evolutions have been from the Office Automation division of BSIT, whereby we have started to place some strong emphasis on paperless solutions. Equally as exciting in our Telecommunications division, has been the focus shift to a hosted business solution,” Williams details. “These hosted options, keeping almost the entirety of a business’s connectivity hosted at an offsite data centre, has been a great shift in terms of educating our clients as to the value of this technological advancement as well as the value of changing your business’s IT budgeting from a capex model, to a less volatile opex model.
“With our economy in the state it currently is and the Rand going through such volatile fluctuations, it is difficult to forecast the costing on replacing and enhancing your hardware, the opex model allows for the stability a lot of budgets could do with in such trying times. We really enjoy the challenge of educating not only our staff, but also our clients when it comes to such fast-paced spaces.”
A substantial amount of time and effort is placed into research and development before implementing these tactical nuances, ensuring that every new investment is backed up by substantiated data.
Williams continues: “For instance, our Business Development representatives for our Insurance Brokerages are given a Group induction, running over the portfolio and options of all of our companies. They are then trained more specifically on certain divisions of our IT business so that when they are engaging with clients, they’re ensuring their insurance needs are met; they can create a conversation on connectivity, printing solutions or even recruitment processes; and can then feed this data back to the Group by way of a centralised report.”
Of course, to carry out these strategies with optimum success, the onus is on the Group to employ, train and retain the best people for the job.
As such, B-Sure has a stringent three tier interview process ranging from competence assessments to departmental considerations and cultural suitability to fulfil the requirements of the business.
“Competence assessments ensure that our HR department puts the right people forward for a given position, based on each individual’s ability to perform a certain function,” Williams explains. “Departmental considerations require the various team leaders and managers to interview the candidates to ensure they will be able to perform the necessary job requirements within the various departments. Finally, the cultural interview consists of two Executive Committee members interviewing each candidate to ensure that the candidate is the right fit for the Group.
“We have a strong belief that our committed staff are our biggest asset, and as such, we put copious amounts of effort into training and staff retention. We have training teams for our various divisions, and our Executive Committee themselves have designed a leadership development programme for our Managers and Team Leaders, as well as for individuals identified to be top talent within the Company. The sessions themselves are presented by the Executive Committee members, ensuring that our current and future leaders are able to manage our staff according to the culture we have so carefully cultivated.”
Subsequently encouraging internal promotion throughout, B-Sure’s strive for enrichment extends into a local philosophy where possible; finding the optimum balance between providing the best possible service, through the most refined local skills, and via the most established local partners.
“Having built the Group in a small town, we have the ability to have a strong impact on local initiatives and we pride ourselves on supporting such initiatives,” Williams adds in relation to the Company’s role in corporate social responsibility initiatives also. “We are constantly participating in fund raisers, and as our Group thrives on a competitive nature, we often have spin-offs on this to challenge the departments and different companies to outdo one other when it comes to the gift of giving.
“This in turn creates a hype and sees all the staff really coming together to support the less fortunate.”
Ultimately - across the Group’s seven companies, and its all-encompassing empowerment initiatives - Williams believes that B-Sure’s rapid rise to prominence can be attributed to three core areas; namely systems and procedures, synergies and the aforementioned human element.
The former represents the constant development of the Company’s internal systems backed up by a 100 percent auditing record of its data to allow ongoing analysis and continuous improvement, as well as improved client engagement to aid the business’s reputation.
Williams picks up: “A massive focus of the Group, as can be seen by our growth strategy, is creating a synergy between companies. These synergies are not just for lead generation, but also for client convenience and having a centralised business support team. Our aim is to be able to facilitate all of the business items that are not central to our clients’ income stream.
“This synergy gives us a stronghold on our clients by ensuring that we are able to facilitate most of their business needs, however this also leads us to focus heavily on our service levels or we run the risk of losing all the business. It is a double-edged sword that we gladly accept as this ensures we always offer the best service delivery.”
The aforementioned dedication to B-Sure’s people completes a three-pronged tactic that Williams believes will stand the Company in perfect stead to negotiate the crest of the wave that the Group is currently riding.
The CEO’s enthusiasm as such is evident when being quizzed about the Company’s future term plans: “Wow, this is quite the question with the way our Group constantly evolves and diversifies; opportunities are rife and our teams are always keen to explore new opportunities, so to answer as best I can I would split this into three sections,” he offers.
Firstly, from a geographical perspective, additional branches in Cape Town, Pretoria, Bedfordview and Bloemfontein are in the pipeline for 2017 while on an international front, B-Sure IT Solutions is set to reach New Zealand’s shores by the end of next year.
The second focus embraces industry progression and the ongoing incubation of its long-term insurance brokerage, B-Sure Life and Invest which will leverage off its substantial client base initially before ensuring its personal and business clients alike receive a more holistic offering in the future.
“Finally, expansion within our current offerings,” Williams concludes. “We are currently looking at expanding our Group Finance department to outsource finance functions for our clients such as payroll and other similar finance functions. We are also currently looking at expanding B-Sure Recruitment Solutions’ service offering to include outsourced HR functions for our clients by leveraging off our current HR department’s extensive experience in all things HR.