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Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Tenacity from birth

“It is not how you start a journey that defines your character, but how you finish,” remarks Vusi Sithole, managing director of Nestlife assurance.


Despite challenging year globally, he says his company “was able to toast the tenacity of not only its own workforce, but that of its clients, who persevered despite tough operating conditions.”
At a function held 28th November 2012 at NestLife’s Sandton premises, Sithole honoured those men and women who worked with the company during the year, affirming they were crucial to the company’s future success as it “continued its journey of building a legacy.”
In October Sithole had been named Businessman of the Year at the 2012 Van Ryn's BBQ Award, which had as its theme ‘Creating a legacy and building a future’. Sithole took over a company which was insolvent in 1996, then called Life & Pensions Corporation, renamed it Nestlife, and transformed it into an entity that is seen as a significant player in an industry that tends to be dominated by very large competitors. In those days it was staffed by just five people working from a small office in Mafikeng, North West, with only a restricted Financial Services Board (FSB) licence. Today NestLife has nine offices, over 85 employees and underwrote well over R200-million in annual premium last year.
Sithole shared words of caution with guests, warning that the FSB is taking a firm stance on funeral undertakers who do not comply with the rules that govern the industry. “The FSB insists that all undertakers or parlours that provide funeral insurance benefits must be underwritten by a registered insurance company, to ensure that the industry is properly and effectively regulated. With many burial policies historically managed by funeral undertakers and parlours not registered or compliant with the FSB, ‘bad apples’ were allowed to operate in the industry, and some were responsible for tarnishing the reputations of those who were genuinely committed to helping people in their time of need.”
Adhering to the Long-term Insurance Act and other regulations has been difficult for many funeral parlours that are not necessarily equipped to deal with the complexities of compliance. “Many are still not coming to grips with the stringent new requirements,” Sithole pointed out. “The Solvency Assessment and Management regime (SAM) is a monster and will have a big bearing on your businesses,” he added.
He made a call to the industry to respect the FSB regulations. “Show discipline in how you run your business and prove you can be successful without violating these regulations. Self-underwriting needs to be stopped. Commit to good business practice and you will enjoy sustainable success.”
Sithole then challenged those present to rise up and become good leaders in the industry. “After 17 years of democracy, this industry remains lily white.” Despite funeral parlours being the main distributors in the funeral insurance sector, contributing around R6-billion, they remain on the lower ranks of the industry ladder. “You in essence control the insurance industry yet your standing is low in the sector. This is an injustice and begs the question, ‘Why can’t funeral brokers grow to such an extent that they are able to challenge the dominant players and take centre stage?’ The industry is crying for leadership; rise up.”
Touching on the current political situation in South Africa, Sithole said the nation is going through a dangerous transition that requires solidarity from the citizens of this country. “Let us work together with the commitment to build a post-1994 insurance group that shows the world that given the opportunity, great achievements can become a reality in South Africa. Let us work together to create a giant insurance group that will carry our aspirations for the future. Let us make an impact; our time is now.” Nestlife is a 100% black-owned life assurance company.

NestLife’s management team joined Sithole on the stage to honour the recipients of the two main awards. Everest Funerals, Mpumalanga was named the Overall Broker of the Year. Sharing the limelight was Corporate Broker of the Year, Welsh and Associates. Regional Broker of the Year awards, which acknowledged profitability and premium growth, went to: Eastern Cape – Abaxolisi Funeral Directors; North West - Everest Rustenburg; Limpopo – Mateko Group Holdings; Free State – 21st Century Kroonstad; KwaZulu-Natal – Manaba Funeral Fund; Gauteng – 21st Century Life Brokers; and Mpumalanga – Everest Mpumalanga.
“Next year we hope to have nine provinces present,” Sithole said of NestLife’s vision to have a bigger presence in the North West, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal as well as expansion into the Northern Cape.
Progressive Awards went to Tshipi-Noto Funeral Home, Mvuleni Funeral Services, and Indlovu Classic Funeral Home; while Loyalty awards were given to Jama Funeral Undertakers and Everest Polokwane. Best New Broker for Nestlife went to J and B Funeral Services, and the Nestlife Prestige Award, which acknowledges various aspects of the company’s relationship with the broker, went to SDL Benefits Services.
Welsh and Associates’ Nazlee Kyriakidis, speaking on behalf of the clients, said she believed that NestLife put its clients’ success above its own. “You have an extraordinary relationship with your clients. We are partners in a shared dream. Thank you to each NestLife employee who brings such heart and soul into the business, you make it a pleasure to be your client.”

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:26.1 1st January, 2013
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