Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu is an executive with extensive international experience in insurance and investment management. He is currently the CEO of the African Risk Capacity “ARC” Ltd. ARC Ltd is a specialist insurance company that provides parametric insurance coverage to African countries against extreme weather events and natural disasters. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Lesley shares his goals, disaster risk solutions, COVID-19 and the future. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about ARC Ltd and the gap its filling in Africa?
Lesley: ARC is a specialist insurance company that was established by the African Union to help African governments improve their capacities to better plan, prepare, and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, and adapt to climate change. ARC works through collaboration and innovative finance, to enable countries to strengthen their disaster risk management systems and access rapid and predictable financing when disaster strikes to protect the food security and livelihoods of their vulnerable populations.
From 2014 to 2019, ARC cumulatively provided drought insurance coverage worth US$590 million to insure 59 million vulnerable people in Member States and paid out US$61 million in insurance claims.
Alaba: As its new Chief Executive, what are your set milestone in terms of growth and impact?
Lesley: Our target is to achieve US$100 million in gross written premiums in the next 5 years, providing gross insurance coverage of US$1 billion. This level of scale will allow us to reach 150 million people in Africa and more effectively use insurance to protect people against food insecurity brought about by natural disasters such as droughts and floods, the frequency and severity of natural disasters is increasing as a result of climate change.
Alaba: Establishing a risk pooling insurer is clearly a difficult task. What can other Regions learn from the ARC concept?
Lesley: The idea of sovereign risk pooling is catching on globally, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility was the first pool set up in 2007 after the devastating hurricanes suffered by the Caribbean countries. ARC Ltd was set up in 2014, subsequently other risk pools have been set up for the Pacific Island nations, the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative and SEADRIF in South East Asia.
The success of the risk pools depends a great deal on political support by the member countries and a clearly demonstrable value for all the pool members.
Alaba: What are the benefits of your products for vulnerable member sovereign?
Lesley: The main benefit of working with ARC Ltd, is that we are owned by the African countries and therefore exist to cater to their unique needs. We are able to build customized insurance solutions for each country. Our parametric insurance product pays claims very quickly, typically within 10 days of the insured event, giving governments timely funding to start the relief and recovery efforts. Furthermore, ARC Ltd has an Agency arm which provides capacity building for countries to help them understand the risks that they face and development mitigation strategies.
Alaba: Could you discuss more on The Extreme Climate Facility (XCF) initiative?
Lesley: The XCF is an exciting and very innovative concept. The main objective of the Extreme Climate Facility (XCF) is to reduce vulnerability to extreme events by providing enabling conditions for increased adaptation investment and improved risk transfer. The XCF structure combines a green bond and a catastrophe bond, issued centrally on behalf of member states can address critical barriers to adaptation investment and increase post-disaster funding.
Alaba: How is the current global pandemic affecting ARC? Are you Post COVID-19 prepared?
Lesley: Financially, the COVID induced volatility in the financial markets reduced the market value of our investment portfolio. However, our investment portfolio is made up of high quality, investment grade bonds which we fully expect will pay at par, the default risk remains extremely low.
From a business perspective, our sovereign clients had to respond to COVID 19 and this put a tremendous strain on their finances and in some instances, negatively impacted their ability to pay insurance premiums. Furthermore, due to the lockdown restrictions it was challenging to sustain ongoing interactions with the governments. However, the ability to work remotely has improved over time and the lockdown restrictions are slowly being eased.
All the teams within ARC Ltd have been able to adapt to working remotely and there has been minimal disruption to our activities.
ARC will be launching an insurance product covering Outbreaks and Epidemics, the insurance payouts will provide the funding required for an early and effective government response.
Alaba: How does the use of technology provide opportunities in the fact of natural disaster?
Lesley: Insurance is a data driven industry, data enables us to understand and calibrate risks, to develop appropriate mitigation measures. In parametric insurance we rely on satellites for rainfall data and we use technology to model and predict losses that arise from weather events. This data can be used to anticipate disasters and take timely action to prevent them or reduce their severity.
Alaba: What is the future for ARC in terms of its size, products and impact?
Lesley: ARC Ltd is currently diversifying its product range to include coverage against floods, tropical cyclones and outbreaks & epidemics. We already have a very successful drought insurance product which has been the mainstay of the company. The new products are essential to more holistically meet the needs of our clients and to ensure diversification on our balance sheet. These additional products will allow us to reach our ambition of US$100 million in gross revenues while ensuring that we are more relevant and credible in meeting the needs of our clients.
Alaba: As an industry leader, how can Africa better develop and position its insurance market?
Lesley: Insurance penetration, which is the ratio of insurance premiums to GDP remains rather low in Africa at 1 to 3% compared to over 10% in most developed markets. This low penetration is linked to limited knowledge of insurance as a risk management tool, lack of trust of insurance companies and products that are too complex and do not fully meet the needs and expectations of customers. The insurance industry plays an importance role in the economy by making households more resilient to shocks and giving entrepreneurs’ confidence to launch new ventures, in addition insurance companies are long term investors in the financial markets.
To grow the insurance industry, governments need to create an enabling regime through risk based supervision of insurance companies and the insurance industry needs to develop appropriate and relevant products and build distribution systems that make it easier and more cost effective to reach customers.
Alaba: How do you relax outside work? Tell us one of your favourite destinations in Africa? Why?
Lesley: I am an avid long distance runner, I run about 80 to 100km every week. Running clears my mind and makes me sharper and more focused. My favorite destination is Diani Beach in Kenya; it has dreamy unspoilt white sand beaches that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
B I O G R A P H Y
Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu is an executive with extensive international experience in insurance and investment management. He is currently the CEO of the African Risk Capacity “ARC” Ltd. ARC Ltd is a specialist insurance company that provides parametric insurance coverage to African countries against extreme weather events and natural disasters.
Lesley spent close to a decade in various senior management roles in insurance and asset management with the AXA Group in London, Paris and Singapore, including as CEO of a Lloyd’s of London insurance syndicate, Head of Corporate Development for AXA Global Asset Management and Chief Investment Officer for AXA Singapore.
Prior to joining the AXA Group, he was Vice President, Investments at AXIS Capital in Bermuda, as part of an institutional investment team managing US$15 billion in a global multi-asset investment portfolio. He began his professional career with Deloitte, where he had various assignments in corporate finance, audit, tax advisory. He currently serves as a Non-Executive Director for various financial services companies around the world.
Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu is a graduate of Christ Church, University of Oxford in England and at the Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD) in France. He is a CFA charter holder, a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales and a member of the Institute of Directors.
Chantel Cooper: The Epitome of Empathy and Care
Chantel Cooper, CEO of The Children’s Hospital Trust (Image: Supplied)
Chantel joined the Children’s Hospital Trust in 2013 as the Head of Fundraising and Communication and was appointed as CEO in 2019. For her, 2020 was a year that reinforced the importance of the core purpose of the Trust and the difference the organisation wants to make in the lives of children. “Our cause is driven by the need to make a difference in the lives of sick and injured children. We are people who work together to save the lives of the children who matter. We all have a purpose!” she says.
Sharing excerpts from her journey, Chantel says:
“My purpose in life is to serve those who are most vulnerable: women and children. My career was driven by my passion to make a real difference in the lives of women and children. When I was 18 years old, I volunteered for an organisation that provided support for women who had been raped. While volunteering, I started working with women in rural areas in the Eastern Cape where we found opportunities to grow their businesses.
“My passion for women led me to Cape Town where I became Director of Rape Crisis Cape Town when I was 27 years old. After the birth of my two children, I moved to an organisation called St Joseph’s Home for chronically Ill Children. St Joseph’s is a step-down facility for tertiary hospitals like the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. It was a profound move for me as I was able to work with children who inspired me.
“One of the most valuable lessons I learnt is the power of love. You can offer a child the best healthcare in the world, but what a child wants most is their parents to love them and be by their side. This is the value I most appreciate about the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and my past experiences. This hospital believes in child-centered care and knows that a child heals when their parent or caregiver is by their side – even during the COVID-19 pandemic. All other hospitals had restricted access to patients, but the presence of a parent is imperative to their sick or injured child’s healing.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic taught our team that life can change in a blink of an eye and that we need to be prepared for all possibilities. The pandemic hit the world with such speed and velocity that we had no choice but to find a way to not only sail through the storm but also find ways to get out of the situation stronger than before.”
Chantel also states that 2020 provided the Children’s Hospital Trust with the opportunity to learn extraordinary lessons that they would not have normally had the opportunity to learn and some of these include:
- The value of deep listening and the importance of demonstrating kindness.
- Working in collaboration created the opportunity for meaningful impact for our beneficiaries.
- Opportunities do exist during challenging times; positivity exposed the opportunities.
- Adapting to change during uncertain times helped to build a resilient team.
“Our Trust team demonstrated ingenuity, compassion, resilience, commitment, and fortitude during a very difficult time. As a result, we surpassed our goals, and this enabled our organisation to reach more children and families. We are grateful for the contribution from every individual,” adds Chantel.
“Walking through the corridors of a children’s hospital during a crisis gave perspective on the real value of care, kindness, and collaboration. While children were not the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Social Work Department experienced first-hand the profound impact the pandemic had on children’s health and well-being.
“Unemployment, food insecurity, child safety and schooling were common concerns for many patients and their parents who entered the doors of the Hospital. The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital values patient and family-centred care which includes care for the whole family from a holistic perspective.
“In response to the needs of the families, the Trust secured funding to enable the social workers to provide additional counselling services and material support such as the provision of food, hygiene, and home-schooling supplies to vulnerable families when children were discharged from the Hospital.” Read more on the Family Care Project here.
The core to achieving our vision is upholding our values of Integrity, Accountability, Kindness, Dynamism, and Collaboration in every aspect of our work. The Trust has a sound financial record in administration and good governance. For the past 28 years, we have raised funds to address many pressing needs, but much has yet to be done. With the help of many donors, we continue to give hope and healing to our little ones who need it most.
The Trust raises funds for the upgrade and expansion of the Hospital’s buildings, the purchase of state-of-the-art medical equipment, and new medical treatment projects and funds the training of medical professionals across Africa – ensuring that the Hospital not only retains its world-class stature but is able to continue providing life-changing and life-saving care for children.
The Trust relies on donations to fund these needs. When you donate to the Trust, 100% of your donation goes towards funding projects that change children’s lives (and the lives of the people who love them). The operational costs of the Trust are funded from an endowment, so your generous contributions are never used to cover administration costs.
Donate to the Children’s Hospital Trust today! www.childrenshospitaltrust.org.za
Neya Kalu, the new Chairman of The Sun Nigeria
Neya Kalu (Image supplied: Her Network)
Neya Kalu is the Chairman and Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, founded and published in Nigeria. A reputable company that publishes relevant news in Nigeria and around the world in over ten categories. She is also the founder and CEO of Basecoat Nigeria.
Educated at the University of Buckingham with a degree in Law and Finance, Neya leads the Board on strategic matters, establishes high governance, and oversees the company’s business.
Before becoming Chairman/Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, Neya, an entrepreneur, built and runs several successful businesses, the most recent being Base Coat, a nail salon chain in Lagos. She is also the Vice-Chairman of Sun Heavens Hotels and Resorts.
With a strong interest in social issues and a desire to empower women, Neya works with the OUK Foundation to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs one through six.
IoDSA CEO Parmi Natesan on Building Great Directors in South Africa
IoDSA CEO, Parmi Natesan
Established in 1960 as a branch of the Institute of Directors in London, the Institute of Directors South Africa (IoDSA) is a non-profit company (NPC) with members and is the only professional body for directors that is recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) (ID422). IoDSA mission is to influence, develop and advance corporate governance and directorship by pursuing ethical and effective leadership in South Africa. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online (BAO), Parmi Natesan talks about the IoDSA she leads, its contribution to the south african economy, challenges, gender inclusion and diversity and much more. Excerpts.
Alaba: Το begin, brίefly tell us about the loD South Africa and your strategic role?
Parmi: The Institute of Directors in South Africa is a non-profit company and a SAQA-recognised professional body for directors in South Africa. It is also a promoter of corporate governance, acting as convener and secretariat of the King Committee and having ownership of the King Reports on Governance for South Africa.
Its vision is – Better Directors. Better Boards. Better Business.
Its mission is – To influence, develop and advance corporate governance and directorship by pursuing ethical and effective leadership in South Africa.
We drive corporate governance awareness and improvement through thought leadership, hosting learning events, performing governance advisory services and board performance evaluations. We contribute to enhancing the effectiveness of directorship through training and certifications.
Alaba: What would you say are the major contributions of the institυte to the South African economy?
Parmi: The enhancement of corporate governance and directorship has a knock-on positive effect to the South African economy.
Major recent contributions include:
- We submitted a letter written to the Chair of the Zondo Commission containing good governance recommendations for director competencies and appointment processes.
- We issue numerous media releases and broadcast interviews to raise awareness of governance learnings
- We offer discounts on our services to NPOs and SMEs, in an effort to assist them with improving their governance and thus growing and thriving as a business.
Alaba: Since your appointment as the institute CEO, what are your biggest challenges and role in corporate governance?
Parmi: We have a duty to hold our members to account in the public interest. This has meant introduction of a new member code of conduct and disciplinary regulations to govern this. What has been a challenge is that membership of the IoDSA is currently voluntary. An individual does not need to be a member in order to serve as a director. So there is unfortunately no common benchmark or standard for directorship.
Sometimes the IoDSA brand gets tainted by “bad” directors who are found to have acted unethically, as the public does not realise that these directors are not necessarily our members, and thus we have limited mandate to act against them. Another challenge is the way in which corporate governance gets applied in corporations, often in a tick-box compliance fashion. This is form over substance and not conducive to achieving the desired outcomes of good corporate governance. Changing mindsets and behaviour around this is critical and there is no one size fits all solution.
Each organisation needs to consider what makes sense for their business. Instead of wanting to follow a compliance driven approach of ticking boxes, organisations should follow a mindful application approach of putting practices in place that in their judgment ultimately achieve the necessary outcomes of ethical leadership, effective control, good performance and legitimacy. The judgment of the governing body is critical in this approach.
Alaba: What is your view on how leadership is changing, amid broader efforts in society to see greater inclusivίty in terms of race, gender, and socio-economic background, and a move towards making a more positive and sustainable contribution to society?
Parmi: We are advocate for diversity on boards, not only in terms of race, gender and socio-economic background, but also in terms of skills and experience. Diverse groups are able to tackle problems from various angles and this leads to better decision making. We have a specific focus on advocating for more women on boards. With women controlling consumer spending and forming half of the educated workforce, it does not make sense that they are still largely underrepresented in South African boardrooms.
The role of directors is definitely changing as we move towards a more stakeholder focused way of running business. In the past, the primary focus of directors was financial return for their companies. That has changed considerably over the years, where business is now seen as a corporate citizen of the country in which it operates. And it thus needs to be conscious of the impact that it has on society and the environment in which it operates. This is why integrated reporting (as opposed to just financial reporting) is so critical.
In today’s fast-paced world, achieving the right skills as a director is not a target but a journey: business models, socio-economic models, political models – sometimes it seems everything – are changing and old certainties seem to be in the process of continual redefinition. Directors, who play such a critical role in organisations and, indirectly, the fabric of public life, are least able to feel they have achieved the right skills mix.
In general, professionals have a certain credibility and respect in the market, which they need to protect through ongoing learning, adapting and competence.
Alaba: Let’s talk about entrepreneurshίp. What is your view on how female entrepreneurship can be fostered?
Parmi: Entrepreneurship is a critical contributor towards our economy and should thus be fostered.
Alaba: Το what extent can digital connectivity catalyse South Africa’s economic recovery, for example helping foster both flexible working and the levelling-up of rural areas?
Parmi: Digital can open many doors and opportunities for people to participate in economic activity.
Alaba: Before the year ends, what would you ultimately like to achieve?
Parmi: Greater awareness of the power and impact of good corporate governance can make, not only on companies, but also on a country. South Africa as a country desperately needs ethical and effective leaders to steer our country in the right direction to prosper. We have been lobbying for enhancements in director appointment processes in both the private and public sector in South Africa. It would be great to see some traction on this from the policy makers.
Alaba: Lastly, what has been the most significant-ever moment for you professionally – and what advice would you give your younger self?
Parmi: I have received many accolades including:
- Rising Star Award from the Nelson Mandela University.
- Finalist for Businesswoman of the Year at the Top Women Awards.
- Global Woman Achiever at the World Women Leadership Congress.
- Ethical Leadership Award at the SAICA Difference Makers Awards.
However, I think my most significant moment professionally has to be having the privilege and honour to lead the IoDSA. In fact I was the youngest person to be CEO of the IoD SA, and the first ever person of colour. This platform gives me an even louder voice to influence and advocate for ethical and effective leadership in South Africa.
In terms of advice to my younger self, a few things I actually often tell my daughter
- Girls can do anything boys can do – never let our gender hold you back.
- Pick your battles and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Watch IoDSA HERE
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