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Short term Insurance
Monday, May 1, 1989
Responding to consumer needs

Charles Bothner epitomises the essence of duality. Model of the establishment and its predictable respectability, he also represents the new breed of lateral thinkers - espousing innovative and converse notions.
He hauled in academic honours from a young age: head boy of Bishops in Cape Town: B Comm from UCT; a Rhodes Scholar, which prompted an MA from Oxford: and, in later years, a stint at Harvard Business School.
An over-zealous interest in the South African economy in the late 1960s occasioned Mr Bothner to complete his studies in haste in England. He was to return home and join the business boom - just prior to the stock market crash! Academically a mistake, perhaps, but nevertheless it marked the beginning of his career in the financial services industry in SA.
He joined the Schlesinger organisation on the investment management side. Over the course of the next decade he worked with Mandy Moross, Joe Pamensky and Dudley Sanger of Wesbank. He helped in setting up an insurance broking division for Western Bank and became a director of Institutional Insurance Brokers - Schlesinger’s in-house brokers.
In 1971 Mr Bothner was appointed marketing director of Schlesinger’s’ Southampton Life in the UK.
“The Schlesinger group left an indelible print on me. I was thrown in at the deep end. My responsibilities were disproportionate to my age and there were short lines of communication.” Making a career change in 1977, Mr Bothner became a part of Robert Enthoven Nebicon, where he has remained.
Initially, it was very much a family business. It has since acquired the Board of Executors Insurance Brokers and Glanville Enthoven. Finally Willis Faber became its London-based minority shareholder in 1985 when its SA interests were merged and the company changed its name once again to Willis Faber Enthoven. Today it comprises “one of the largest corporate insurance brokers in South Africa” with a revenue growth of an estimated R2.4m in 1977 to around R30m in 1988.
Mr Bothner works for continued success and growth of his company. His ability to analyse problems and bring divergent interests together for consensus has no doubt helped. He could, indeed, be seen as the “thinking man’s broker.”
“It is essential to segment the industry. It must be seen in terms of, say, short and long, corporate and personal lines. All sectors are very different. For a company or a consumer, to wad them together is both short-sighted and perilous.” Mr Bothner is also a firm believer in the power of women in the workplace. He sees them both as “a persuasive force” and “invaluable on the creative side.”
To illustrate: generally, people don’t insure their possessions for correct values, usually because they want to keep the premiums low and because of natural inertia. “Traditionally when claims arise, they have to claim more than they should and inflate the claim to try and compensate. But because the original premium base is faulty, claims become disproportionate to premiums.
“It’s a vicious circle. And it’s not really their fault. The public should be shown that if they claim less, their premiums would decrease. Communication is the key word. Insurance companies have to become more consumer oriented, rather than product ion driven.”
Mr Bothner sees the re-establishment of the South African Risk and Insurance Management Association (Sarima) as an important development in the insurance industry. Sarima is the mouthpiece for the large buyers of insurance such as those in mining and large scale manufacturing.
“Insurance companies are able to find out what the clients want and can thereby be more responsive to customer needs. It is an assertion of real consumer power.” On the subject of consumer needs, Mr Bothner believes that ‘added value’ is what real service is all about.
“This is the true role of the broker, especially in the mass market. The more complex the product, the more potential for added value. After all, if you provide a premium quality product, you can charge a premium price.
“At Willis Faber Enthoven we place a high premium on close personal involvement with the client. We aim to provide a service which demonstrates concern and commitment, as well as technical proficiency. In fact, on a general level, the insurance industry should strive to become less technocratic and more management intensive, with continued emphasis placed on creativity.”
Market trends reflect a growth in self- insurance and increased sophistication of the big spenders. “Our products will respond to these changes. We are going to expand our personal lines branch which currently only constitutes about 10% of all our business.”
Mr Bothner is naturally reticent when it comes to his specific plans. “Our longer range objective is the expansion in employee benefits to about 300/ of Willis Faber Enthoven’s revenue/profits. “Most important is fostering the international connection. Ready access to world insurance markets is crucial for the survival of the corporate short term sector in South Africa. “The fuss about premiums leaving the country is mainly a confused red herring put up, especially when markets are soft, by the direct insurers looking for misguided protection from market forces. They should rather pay more attention to analysing and then satisfying the corporate buyer’s needs.
“Willis Faber Enthoven is fortunate still to have a powerful commitment from Willis Faber in London when so many other international companies have taken fright and left the country.”

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:2.5 1st May, 1989
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