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Friday, July 19, 2013 - 08:42
Marsh to Africa

In 2012 Marsh acquired Alexander Forbes’ insurance broking businesses in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, adding Uganda, Malawi and Zambia towards the end of the year. Further African acquisitions are likely during the course of this year and in 2014. These acquisitions, coupled with Marsh’s existing investments in several North and West African countries, aim to create “a truly pan-African insurance powerhouse”.
“It is important to remember that for our clients in Africa, many of whom were with us as Alexander Forbes Risk Services for many years, it is important to maintain continuity – or business as usual, if you like,” says Michael Duncan, Executive Leader, Marsh Africa.
Since the risks, which organisations face are constantly evolving, Marsh has worked hard to ensure that the transition from Alexander Forbes to Marsh Africa happens seamlessly with as little disruption to current servicing as possible. While integrating and tightening up finance, human resources and IT functionalities can happen relatively unnoticed, what will soon become evident to Marsh’s new African operations, and their clients is the unparalleled global industry expertise and risk solutions that Marsh is bringing to Africa.
“In short, connecting Africa to Marsh’s multinational client base and extensive range of resources is what our footprint on the continent is all about,” says Duncan.
The extent of the opportunities that Marsh is bringing to Africa became truly apparent when it learned how many of its global clients already had operations or interests in the African continent. “Despite being the acknowledged market leader in several African countries, by integrating our clients’ African risks into their existing global risk management programmes we have substantially increased our client base and market size on the continent before even landing one new client,” adds Duncan.
In the nineties, most South African companies focused on those English-speaking countries in Southern and East Africa, close to South Africa. Today, however, both South African and foreign investors are investing in some of Africa’s more challenging countries. As such, Marsh now offers clients local service through its own offices or carefully selected correspondents and local insurers in most African countries.
“In the more challenging countries being able to identify and then manage the best people on the ground becomes critical,” says Duncan.
Should a client merely have a small office in a country, their risk can generally be managed by an appointed correspondent. Larger infrastructural, mining and industrial projects on the other hand require the involvement of Marsh’s industry experts. These are deployed to work with Marsh’s local office or local correspondents to develop bespoke and compliant solutions for specific clients.
All this is delivered by bringing Marsh’s global know-how, supported by, for example, risk engineers, valuers, forensic and claims professionals, to each project. The importance and need for high level global risk expertise cannot be over emphasised. As the African risk environment becomes more sophisticated and investment projects more complex, there is a growing need for much more detailed underwriting information along with expert formulation of both larger and contentious claims.
“Also, in Africa’s generally high inflationary environment, valuation services to determine the realistic replacement cost of buildings and plant are absolutely critical to the insurer and insured alike,” he explains.
For example, in collaboration with colleagues working on a major hydro project in Brazil, Marsh developed a unique set of solutions to address the risks identified with a new hydro project in Southern Africa. This represented a direct transfer of knowledge and expertise gained in South America - to Africa. “Certainly, competently underwriting risk of this nature in Africa would not have been possible without the expertise, advice and guidance of colleagues working in similar environments around the world,” says Duncan.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:26.7 1st July, 2013
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