As a business consultant, first for Deloitte and subsequently in a self-employed capacity, Dr Caesar Mwangi got such a buzz from helping businesses fulfil their potential that he went back to school in order to formalise his qualifications in the field.
First, by completing a Master of Business Administration in Strategy and Finance at Wits Business School, Johannesburg, and then by embarking on a PhD in Organisational Performance and Change Management at the University of Johannesburg.
“In every place I’ve worked, the approach I always take is how to manage all the ingredients – the people, the processes, the policies, the governance and the resources – to make that business a success,” he explains to The CEO Magazine.
Since he was awarded his doctorate in 2003, Caesar has held executive positions in fields such as agribusiness and energy, and he understands that his value doesn’t lie in specific industry expertise, rather in his ability to “look at all the levers that somehow need to play in harmony to deliver the best outcome for customers, shareholders and, most importantly, for the people who work to generate value in those businesses”.
He was exactly the type of leader that ICEA LION Insurance Holdings was searching for in 2019 as it looked to appoint a new CEO to coordinate and enhance synergies across its eight insurance and financial services companies in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
“I didn’t come to turn around this business because it was already a very good one,” Caesar says. “But there was scope for us to be a really great business, and that’s the space in which we’re operating.”
First, he’s had to get to grips with the local market dynamics, especially the level of penetration of insurance and the evolving market dynamics.
There’s also the split between the corporate and retail business to consider, “without forgetting the highly regulated nature of insurance”, Caesar adds. Now more familiar with the ins and outs of the industry, Caesar is free to concentrate on what he deems of utmost importance in the role: the unlocking of potential opportunities.
“I bring in what I call ‘the unlocking of potential third eye’,” he explains. “In our business, we have highly qualified and experienced professionals who understand the insurance industry much more than I do. But through asking engaging questions, making suggestions and interrogating existing paradigms, we are able to unlock opportunities that hadn’t been spotted in the past.”
We can improve our businesses, countries, continent and people.
In ICEA LION, Caesar has joined a company whose heritage dates back to 1895 and the birth of the industry in East Africa itself. He attributes its longevity to its reputation as a trustworthy insurer and custodian of other people’s funds, as well as its focus on correct business practices and a commitment to its principles, particularly the “basic value of integrity”, Caesar explains.
“We’ve steadily grown over the years and we’re very proud of that legacy.” Drawing upon that history, Caesar is looking towards the future with a singular focus.“We want to be the leading insurance and financial services group on the continent,” he says.
“If we want to be the undisputed leader in finance and insurance in Africa, we don’t want to be shy about it. It’s a big goal but if we apply the right principles and the right actions, eventually we will reach it. As we aim to lead in Africa, we are also striving to be a really world-class business.”
“To really grow in leaps and bounds, we have to start looking in the areas where there is a huge growth potential, and that is the retail segment. We have a robust clientele in the corporate market. But where we have to innovate is the market that has yet to start using insurance and financial services solutions to better their lives,” he says.
It’s an area of enormous potential – he puts the current figure of insurance penetration at around 2.5% of GDP. While he isn’t in a position to disclose specific details of what is currently in the pipeline, Caesar does explain that part of the focus has been innovative solutions to reach more clients especially through the use of digital technology.
“It’s a cost-effective way to reach and onboard new audiences without too much hassle,” he says. But Caesar also knows that this future must be a sustainable one, having seen firsthand the effects of global warming on the region.
“Excess rains are causing major floods, which are disrupting a lot of businesses, including many of our clients,” he explains. “We’ve experienced increased claims due to the affects of climate change.”
How, as a business, it can influence the climate change agenda, is an issue of great significance. The company is the first in Eastern and Central Africa to sign up to the Principles of Sustainable Insurance, a UN Environmental Programme Finance Initiative and, in April, will be hosting the program’s African delegates to explore potential areas of collaboration to promote sustainable insurance practices for a better world.
Caesar was recently appointed as a board member representing Africa and the Middle East on this sustainable insurance initiative. “We have taken the lead in the region and it’s something of which we are very proud,” he explains.
Still, with his organisational improvement hat on, he says he is motivated by helping Africa fulfil its enormous potential. “It’s the big picture that drives me,” he says. “Through running good businesses that innovate and provide employment opportunities and solve people’s problems, we can improve our businesses, countries, continent and people.”
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