Member profile: Hollard

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Hollard is South Africa's largest privately-owned insurance group with more than six million policyholders in 18 countries on four continents. We talked to Mark Robertson, Head of Strategy and Analytics, about the importance of successful partnerships and cooperation.

MiN: How has Hollard got to where it is now?

Mark: Inclusive insurance is baked into the Hollard purpose, to enable more people to create and secure a better future. Funeral products have always been a key part of the business, but in recent years we’ve diversified into other products that add value and inclusivity - such as our current partnership with Lumkani which offers fire protection in townships.

MiN: How does Hollard support inclusive insurance?

Mark: We always try to share our knowledge and experience across our businesses and with the broader industry. Participation is important for us - for example we partnered with MiN to stage a regional conference in Johannesburg and we’ve just hosted the accelerator programme Microinsurance Master 2020, of which the MiN is a supporting partner.

Microinsurance Master gave us a chance to learn from a diverse international group with an incredible variety of experiences and insights. We got to look at our business through fresh eyes - that’s extremely valuable. Sharing our experiences, successes and failures means we can better meet our customers’ needs. Forcing ourselves to look at our own business with a set of “outsider” eyes was extremely valuable and has enabled us to have the courage to pursue unique and improved ways of serving our customers, having a better understanding of their needs and how microinsurance solutions can enable more people to create and secure better futures.

We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time applying a human-centred design framework and design sprint principles to ensure we develop customer-centric solutions and address their pain points. For example, our inclusive insurance for micro businesses and small-scale farmers in Zambia, and the recently launched funeral product in Lesotho.

Continuing to build on these networks and knowledge and continuing to share our experiences, sets all of us up to better meet the needs of our customers, build an inclusive society and ultimately fulfill our purpose in the countries that we operate in.

MiN: Why does Hollard focus on partnerships as a business model?

Mark: From a very practical perspective, partnerships help us reach more customers faster and at a lower cost. We can also leverage mutual brand benefit to build trust and reach customers that we would not otherwise be able to serve. Partnerships are extremely exciting to work on - each has its own dynamics, opportunities and potential for innovation.

In Zambia we provide bundled solutions using mobile partners for cost effective distribution to customers in remote areas, and in Lesotho we’ve partnered with funeral parlours to access the low income market through burial societies and stokvels (credit unions or saving schemes).

We work with retailers to provide Fast Moving Consumer Insurance (FMCI) to low-income people who can now shop for groceries and insurance at the same time - the ultimate customer convenience. We also have our own Hollard branches which educate customers about insurance and how best to use it.

MiN: What are the biggest challenges for microinsurance in your markets?

Mark: You have to question your assumptions - design products and distribution channels that meet customers’ affordability, access and product needs. Many customers suffer significant financial and socio-economic stress, and we need innovative solutions for people who have been excluded from formal insurance. In South Africa it’s ironic that the extraordinary success of funeral insurance means other inclusive products aren’t getting the attention they deserve. We see big opportunities in low-income, short term products - the customers are there but their needs are often unmet or under-met.

InsurTech reduces the costs of serving low-income customers which can often price you out of the market. InsurTech plays big role in the expansion of microinsurance, but you can’t just paint InsurTech on top of a problem and hope that it fixes itself.

MiN: Why is Hollard a member of the Network?

Mark: We believe in building and sharing knowledge about microinsurance, and wanted to both leverage and contribute to that community. The MiN does a great job coordinating, organising and supporting event, as well as virtual events like the Expert Forums. Access to Network resources and the Landscape studies are really useful.

Going forward, technical skills development is a significant gap - we’re not training enough actuaries and inclusive insurance experts. The MiN can help create opportunities to solve that challenge - and that would be effort well spent.

MiN: What have been the highlights of your membership?

Mark: The biggest plus has been the interaction and engagement with other members – particularly those who belong to different stakeholder groups. This enables us to understand how they think about their businesses and what challenges they face.

A particular highlight was learning from different MiN members at the Microinsurance Master 2018 with Pioneer in the Philippines. That was an incredible experience - I had to re-think many assumptions about how insurance works.