Photo Contributed
Photo Contributed

Insuring for tough times in tough times

The importance of planning ahead
Monique Cloete, managing director of Liberty Life Namibia, is a doyenne in the local insurance industry. Business7 sat down with her, getting to know her as a person and tapping into her years of experience in the field.
B7: Tell us about your life in Namibia: where you were born, your childhood and early years as a young adult.

MC: I was born in Cape Town in South Africa and spent my formative years there including my Grade 12 at Rustenburg Girls’ High School and then completing my Bachelor of Business Science at the University of Cape Town. I majored in finance and economics and soon after joined a large employee benefits service provider in Cape Town. Soon thereafter, I was requested to come to Namibia and assist in setting up an actuarial capability in Namibia and arrived here in 2001.

* What attracted you to your career in the insurance industry?

MC: While I was with my first employer, I realised that I enjoyed making a difference in the lives of clients and assisting them through a particularly traumatic period in their lives, retirement. It is satisfying to me to know that I could have influenced clients positively and added value in their retirement journey.

In the insurance environment, I am once again presented with an opportunity to make a difference to customers at the points of their most human vulnerability.

I am also quite passionate about how people manage their money, and specifically women. Namibia is quite a traditional nation. We tend to have more traditional gender roles and I believe that this should be addressed within households to imagine the possible.

The empowerment of women is a multifaceted task. We need to teach female children to appreciate themselves and that they can achieve anything. Women in leadership positions should be available to mentor young women and guide them on the journey to high level achievement. From within corporate spaces, women in leadership structures should be celebrated more.

There is also a need for change on a nation level. The effects of gender-based violence and violence against children in this country stretch farther than one perpetrator and one survivor – it impacts all of us and stifles the potential of young women in this country to see that they can achieve any goal.

So even in my family, my parents - who were at the time very traditional in their thinking - ensured that that their children got a good education, however, their focus was their son, since he would need to support a wife, according to them.

B7: Looking forward, what does the future hold for Liberty Namibia in terms of products and services – especially looking at the whole of Namibia and helping make financial freedom possible for more people?

MC: At Liberty Namibia we see the northern regions of our country as our next growth opportunity. We plan to expand and hopefully soon we will be establishing an additional branch in the northern area. We are very excited about that. We want to make sure that every part of our beautiful country has access to our products and services, including our financial literacy programme, Mind My Money.

B7: From a business perspective, apart from knowledge and advice, service and convenience, how important is innovation for Liberty Namibia and ensuring that its products, particularly retail products, are geared for the Namibian market?

MC: As within every organisation, finding the correct balance between covering existing responsibilities while ensuring that your business is future-fit always takes priority. The importance of this balance became increasingly apparent when we realised that both our human capital and our customer base would need to interact with us digitally.

As a result, we had several innovative projects, such as our mobile office which is a fully-fledged office on wheels. This ensures that individuals who couldn’t connect with us were not left behind as we became more mobile.

We have made a concerted effort to ensure that customer needs are met via our online methods such as our e-signature platform. This meant that customers were able to sign their documents without needing to visit our offices.

These initiatives that we have undertaken have pushed us into the digital age much faster than we anticipated, but have certainly proven to be valuable in the day-to-day operations of the business going forward.

As part of being a multinational organisation, our customers are able to gain access to a wide range of our products across the continent. We are constantly innovating and shaping our business to ensure efficiencies in digital adoption.

B7: Looking at the overall economic landscape in Namibia, what are the biggest challenges currently facing the industry and how is Liberty Life Namibia tackling them?

MC: The past 48 months was a difficult time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As with other companies we were quite hard hit, but we paid out our clients’ claims because they were due, and that’s the business we are in. As an insurer, you are there to ensure that when the time comes, you do meet your obligations.

For us going forward, what we have seen is that the value of insurance has become more important than ever, and while we understand that insurance can be a grudge purchase, it has been proven necessary.

Because it is not a product in the sense that you pay and you walk away with it to enjoy immediately, I believe Namibians have seen that after the past 48 months, now one really sees the value of it ... and why it was important to keep it in the tough times.

For us going forward, it is to focus on what we’ve learned from the past and what we need to implement in the future to ensure that we do continue with the relationship we have with our clients and potential clients.

B7: What is your advice to consumers and business facing hardship as a result of the current rise in living costs? How important is insurance when consumers and businesses face tough spending choices?

MC: Insurance is something that you need to have but, like we’ve seen, once you need to start making tough decisions on what to spend your money on in your budget and what to cut first, it is usually the first thing to go.

People ask themselves whether they really need it at the moment. They feel that they would rather keep buying the same groceries and hence, they cut their insurance. We have seen it a lot during the pandemic, and now, as things get tighter again, we can see the same behaviour.

We know the repo rate has increased, we have those engagements with our clients, and they ask whether they can stop or just cancel their policies. We advise them not to initially think about cancelling, but rather to first engage with us to find out what other options there are. For instance, they could look at consolidating first, rather than having various insurance products from various insurance entities.

B7: What is your message to clients and Namibians in general?

MC: Liberty Namibia and my team are here to provide you with the opportunity to gain your own financial freedom. We’ll help you understand how insurances work, how you can change your financial situation to the better and - as it’s one of the most important aspects – how to be able to plan for your retirement in these very turbulent times.


Impressive CV

Monique Cloete, managing director of Liberty Life Namibia, has 20 years of experience in the insurance and pension administration industry.

Before joining Liberty in May 2019, Cloete was the MD of Specialist Administration Services (SAS), a company she founded in 2013.

She was the MD of Alexander Forbes Financial Services Namibia prior to this. Cloete also held multiple other senior roles at the pension administrator including, chief operating officer and head of actuarial and consulting.

She holds an MBA from the University of London and a BBusSc in finance and economics from the University of Cape Town. Cloete also holds multiple certificates in long-term insurance, retirement fund administration and actuarial techniques from the Insurance Institute of South Africa.


Namibian Sun 2023-05-29

No comments have been left on this article

Please login to leave a comment