STEPHEN CRANSTON: Prescient Thabo Dloti weighs up insurance innovations

STEPHEN CRANSTON: Prescient Thabo Dloti weighs up insurance innovations

20.9.2019

STEPHEN CRANSTON: Prescient Thabo Dloti weighs up insurance innovations

He has the experience and CV to replace his old friend Peter Moyo — but looks on his time at Old Mutual as a different era

Former Liberty CEO Thabo Dloti has kept a respectful silence since he left two-and-a-half years ago. No dirty linen was washed when he was replaced by David Munro, an insider at parent Standard Bank. Liberty chair Jacko Maree was a model of tact.

He says he underestimated the influence of the bank on Liberty and argues that the status quo is untenable: “

Absa was the first bank to go this route, and more recently FNB ditched its bancassurance arrangement with Momentum and set up wholly owned FNB Life. FirstRand CEO Alan Pullinger told me recently that traditional bancassurance means supporting two different companies and administration systems. Nedbank, now no longer a subsidiary of Old Mutual and already a large player in credit life, is expanding its insurance offerings.

Dloti always believes the CEO of Liberty was responsible to all stakeholders and must be especially sensitive to the sentiment of minority shareholders. He was puzzled to see that Liberty results are now held in the Standard Global Leadership Centre in Morningside, Sandton — hardly convenient for the Liberty offices in Braamfontein.

As a former head of the Old Mutual Investment Group (OMIG) and Stanlib, it was natural for Dloti, along with his partner, Discovery veteran Themba Baloyi, to invest in Prescient, through their Sithega Holdings investment vehicle. Prescient is a quant-based fund manager, with a timely focus on risk management. It has had a large turnover in staff, but its chief investment officer, Guy Toms, remains and is considered one of the best bond managers in SA.

Dloti is still working to bring a mid-sized insurer into Sithega. He says many of the life offices in its sweet spot are owner-managed and reluctant to share control. Dloti is chair of Rand Mutual, but that already has a BEE partner in African Rainbow Capital. Perhaps there will be room for Sithega at African Rainbow Life, which is modelled on Group Schemes as it operated under Dloti in 2002/2004. “But insurance is a tough industry to disrupt given that the start-ups are subject to the same regulations as the incumbents. We can’t just follow Takealot.com, set up a website and start selling.”

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