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NEY NCIAL FREEDOM Group Chief Executive Officer Andrew Darfoor highlights how Alexander Forbes remains committed to the digital customer experience 03

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isted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), specialised financial services group Alexander

Forbes provides retirements, employee benefits, health, wealth management, asset management and insurance solutions to institutional and retail clients across seven jurisdictions in Africa. To drive its expansion across the continent, the company is undergoing a significant transformation under its new Group CEO. Titled Ambition 2022, its new growth strategy aims to transition Alexander Forbes to be a leading pan-African financial services organi04

zation, delivering the right outcomes to shareholders and clients. Its strategic anchor will help customers achieve financial freedom and a lifetime of financial well-being. “We are a trusted brand and we are building a great place for our employees to work, where they feel they’re having a social impact,” observes Group Chief Executive Officer, Andrew A. Darfoor. “We want to have a bigger social impact across our markets. For instance, in our home market of South Africa, only 6% of South Africans can retire with any level of certainty or dignity, which by default means 94% can’t. That’s entirely unacceptable,” he explains. “We therefore want to work with more people, both corporates and individuals to

ensure that both employers and employees can work smarter to ensure that employees can reach retirement stage having much more set aside.” With this in mind, Darfoor notes that unlike developed countries such as the UK and the US, individuals gain access to their entire pension pot in one lump sum once they leave their employer in South Africa, providing minimal financial incentives for many to preserve. “Most people cash that money and then spend it. We therefore want the preservation rate to be as high as possible such that when people move from employer to employer, we can preserve the assets they have accumulated,” he says. “There are a number of social impacts, particularly around retirement, that we’re absolutely focused on in terms of having a much more social impact in our markets.” Responsible for driving Alex-

Inside Alexander Forbes head office in Sandton

ander Forbes’ strategic anchor, Darfoor strives to support corw w w. a l e x a n d e r f o r b e s . c o . z a


Inside Alexander Forbes head office in Sandton

We believe in being a proactive force for positive change

A local, data-led, customer-centric approach to digital transformation




Creating unique, data-led customer experiences

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porate businesses and individuals to provide

customers better services and

employees with an integrated platform,

solutions,” he says.

encompassing retirement solutions, pen-

“We want a single view of cus-

sions, savings and employee benefits. In

tomers and then aggregate that

addition, the company provides exceptional

single view to drive more impor-

financial advice through a broad range of

tant decisions through data

solutions within savings, asset management

analytics. So, AI and data ana-

and more.

lytics are fundamental to our

“We want our clients to make smarter financial decisions and we have these broad range of solutions,” says Darfoor. “Whatever clients need financially, we’ve

future business model.” With a long-term goal to shift its customer relationship from payer to partner, Alexander

got it. We partner with clients to help them

Forbes is fully committed to

make smarter financial decisions, whatever

becoming part of its customers’

stage of life they’re in or whatever corporate

life journey.

they’re in to drive the right outcomes.”

ENHANCING THE CONSUMER BUSINESS Investing over R1bn ($76m) to upgrade and strengthen its digital infrastructure, the largest single capital investment commitment in its 83-year history, Alexander Forbes intends to overhaul the way in which it engages with customers across its operations, spanning products, sales and the solutions provided to individuals to enhance the customer journey by making it more digital. “We’ve got access to the entire portfolio of an individual. The question is how we then use this information to drive predictive analytics to better price and offer


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“It’s entirely different if you think that the relationship is where my financial services partner can help me make smarter decisions that in turn

based systems is therefore essential.” However, this has not been without its challenges. Regarding cultural biases, where many

help me reach the right out-

markets consider insurance as a luxury item,

comes. This simply gives you a

Alexander Forbes aims to inform its custom-

more in-depth perspective

ers’ view to one which where financial

much more than you could do

solutions are repositioned as an essential

by yourself,” adds Darfoor.

part of protecting what is important to them.

“The journey for somebody

“I also often say that our biggest competitors

who’s a millennial is also going to

in many markets are fast moving consumer

be entirely different in terms of the

goods companies,” explains Darfoor.

journey of somebody aged 55 08

right technology including CRM and cloud-

and above. “We use these insights to

“It’s a lot easier to go and buy the latest iPhone or flat screen TV rather than put that money towards pensions, savings or

determine the type of advice and

retirement. It’s largely a question of

solutions that are most appropri-

education, intervention, and improving

ate for your journey. Having the

awareness. We’re trying to change behav-


Andrew Atta Darfoor was appointed as Group Chief Executive of Alexander Forbes Group Holdings on 1 September 2016. Under his leadership, the business has defined a new ambition titled “Ambition 2022” for the organisation with a focus on becoming a globally distinctive panAfrican financial services leader with an integrated model supported by technology enablement.

Darfoor is an experienced financial services leader with a successful 20 years plus track record of bringing bold vision and all-encompassing strategic planning to international next-stage business growth, re-invention and turnaround challenges in the financial services sector across multiple continents including North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle

iours to drive the right financial outcomes. “The level of financial literacy is relatively low in many markets we operate in. So half the battle is improving financial awareness and education to then have a discussion around what’s right for individuals, based on the outcomes they want to achieve.”

MULTI-CHANNEL ADVANTAGES Partnering with Israeli technology giant Sapiens and FIS, a US based global


provider of financial technology solutions, Alexander Forbes has sought to modernise

East. Previously, he was Chief Executive Officer at Sun Life Financial International, a division of Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, leading a division providing life insurance, protection, savings and wealth management solutions across 50 countries in Asia, Middle East and Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Prior to this, Darfoor held a number of senior leadership roles at Old Mutual plc, where he was President and Chief Executive Officer of Old Mutual (Bermuda) Ltd. He previously held international management positions focused on strategy and business development at Credit Suisse AG, UBS AG and Ernst & Young LLP. w w w. a l e x a n d e r f o r b e s . c o . z a

its retirement, retail and digital platforms, spanning pensions administration, book-

tionship with learning, the

keeping and recordkeeping.

organisation has partnered with

“We’re trying to get to the stage where an

online learning platform Degreed

employee can look at their benefits, their pen-

to launch a new business, Alex-

sions, contribution amounts, online, and then

ander Forbes Empower, to

see whether they’re on the right path to

customise its content for the

achieve the outcome they want,” says Darfoor.

benefit of staff members as

Microsoft has also been brought on board,

well as offer this platform to

where the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics software has enabled the business to aggregate its customer data and build an online portal. Taking on board the importance of engag10

Encouraging a lifelong rela-

ing with customers on any device they wish to use, from face-to-face, digital or online, modernising its digital infrastructure to support its future growth has led to an improvement in the client experience, but also optimised Alexander Forbes’ ongoing costs. “We plan to serve our clients more efficiently, more effectively at a lower cost whilst maintaining our ability to interact with them through whatever channel or media or device they want,” adds Darfoor.

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE Whilst Alexander Forbes has stressed the importance of its digital transformation, the company would not be where it is today without its employees.

corporate customers.



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“If staff are interested in a specific area, they can go online and have access to that content. For us in the business, we can also push content and link it through a report. It becomes one additional channel of encouraging a lifelong relationship with learning to our workforce,” states Darfoor. “We think this is critical and believe that 60% of the skills in the workforce today will, quite frankly, be irrelevant in 10-20 years’ time. So, the ability to rein12

vent, re-learn, to have that passion for evolving your skillset, I think is going to be critical in the workforce of the future. “We’ve also now started to offer our online internal platform to some of our clients.” Not one to rest on its laurels, the business has also placed significant focus on its corporate social responsibilities, which Darfoor states is not only ‘the right thing to do,’ but is also a great ‘recruitment tool.’ “Millennials are placing a great deal of emphasis on the company they work for having a

social impact as it’s cool for them to talk to their friends and their communities around what the company’s doing,” he says. “We have accelerated our engagement around social initiatives and embedded this through to our business model. We are also engaging much more with universities and have developed a graduate development programme in collaboration with a number of leading universities. We are also stepping up what we do in our communities much more actively than we’ve ever done before. Whilst Africa continues to be a growing continent in terms of GDP growth, the discussion around financial awareness, as well as various financial products and solutions, remains an essential area of focus for Alexander Forbes in its ambition to remain a leader in the African financial services market. “The business is on a transformation journey and we’re on that journey to build a leading pan-African business,” concludes Darfoor. “We believe technology is a key component but, ultimately, we’re trying to change behaviours to ensure more people can retire with dignity.”

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1st Floor


Independence House

Private Bag 00410

Plot 203 Independence Ave


Gaborone | Botswana


+267 390 9603 |

Profile for Business Chief Africa

Alexander Forbes - Brochure 2018  

Alexander Forbes - Brochure 2018  

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