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Back to serving the financial advisers

15 March 2018Myra Knoesen
David Munro, Chief Executive of Liberty Group

David Munro, Chief Executive of Liberty Group

Surrounded by unpredictable changes, businesses nowadays operate in a landscape that is inherently more complex.

David Munro, Chief Executive of Liberty Group, recently made a statement following the release of their year-end financial results, “Over the years our business has become layered in complexity and we have become distracted from our core goal of serving our financial advisers and customers at the heart of our business in South Africa. At the same time, we have been operating in a challenging macro environment, and a fiercely competitive market. This has led to pressure on margins and our ability to generate value from new business, reflected in the lower margin for the year.”

This a great statement to make and with this, FAnews approached Liberty for comment on the results and to get a clearer picture of their plans to restore the business.

A lot of work is needed

Going into the future, things will only get tougher and more complex. When asked how Liberty will handle this Munro said, “We are focussed on simplifying our business. We will achieve this by reviewing our operating model, our product suite and putting the client at the center of our business. Being customer centric involves meeting and anticipating our customers’ personal needs, and supporting them through appropriate solutions, at appropriate prices. The outcome of this work will be to continuously monitor, improve and evolve our products, improve our margins and deliver sustainable improvements in our Value of New Business (VNB).”

Munro believes Liberty can and will restore its financial performance and competitive position. “We have been developing, and are now executing, a plan that seeks to ultimately result in growing our business and improving margins in our life book.”

Within the next two years, Munro says Liberty aims to deliver the following key outcomes to its shareholders:

  • Firstly, a return to health for our business in our core retail affluent segment in South Africa, a market we know intimately, have a leading market share in, and which offers attractive margins when run well. This can only be achieved by increasing our sales volumes, reducing our acquisition and maintenance costs and beating our assumptions and models, with margins targeted to move back to the 1% to 1.5% range.
  • Secondly, we aim to deliver growth rates in embedded value that exceeds 12%.
  • Thirdly, ROE improvements with a medium term range of 15% to 18%.
  • Finally, we aim to maintain a robust capital position within our target ranges, which remain unchanged.

“This is a journey that will not happen overnight, and there is a lot of work that is needed, but we are confident we are prioritising the right things, taking the right actions, and have the right people and plans in place to achieve our goals,” emphasised Munro. 

Priorities to the team 

When asked what exactly Liberty is going to do to get back on track Munro said, “the highest priority to the team, is a simplification program focusing on the experience of our customers, which also requires us to enable their financial advisers better.” 

“We have conducted a detailed analysis of our customer and adviser journeys and have started instituting improvements that will result in better overall customer experience. We have also identified multiple opportunities to reduce costs and improve efficiency and effectiveness through intelligent automation. We have focused on enhancing our risk and compliance processes. Within this, we are also preparing for emerging regulatory changes such as the Retail Distribution Review (RDR), Solvency Asset Management (SAM) and IFRS 17 to make sure we are ahead of the game,” he continued. 

At STANLIB, Munro says they are focused on improving investment performance, enhancing the customer experience, generating additional new business, improving financial management and starting the journey of building a winning team. 

“We are focused on optimising the outcomes for our existing growth initiatives – Liberty Africa Insurance, Liberty Health and our recently launched Liberty Short Term Insurance, which is a joint venture with Standard Bank,” he continued. 

Unified client-adviser experience

In his statement, as mentioned above, Munro said ‘we have become distracted from our core goal of serving our financial advisers…’.

When asked what advisers can expect from Liberty going forward Munro said, “At Liberty we believe that personal connections and the value a great adviser brings remains essential for our clients, particularly in the uncertain times we live in. There are parts of the client-adviser relationship, such as reassuring clients through challenging markets, assessing priorities, persuading clients to act and synthesising different solutions, which can only be done with the help and support of a financial adviser.”

“With this in mind, we believe that it is essential to develop a unified client-adviser experience that seamlessly brings together the best of human and automated capabilities. Understanding where these capabilities can complement and enhance the adviser’s relationships is our focus and where we are directing our efforts accordingly,” he said.

We are an intermediated business and we aim to build stronger relationships with our financial advisers. We are focused on bringing together the best of human and automated capabilities in order to support our advisers. We also have a competitive product suite, which we are aiming to improve through our simplification process,” he concluded.

Editor’s Thoughts

The value advisers bring remains essential for Liberty’s clients and as mentioned, the adviser’s relationships are the group’s focus and where they are directing their efforts accordingly. What is your experience? Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts myra@fanews.co.za.

Comments

Added by Garrick, 22 Mar 2018
I started in the industry in 1981 & was trained by Liberty :

Over the years this organisation has deteriorated into something of a 'me too' operation characterised by (in my sole experience) indifferent service; particularly at H/O level.

From my observations the decline really accelerated when cover & investment were separated. At that point most of my 'investment' business migrated to other providers as service levels were much higher & appealing elsewhere. There has not been any reason to change since then.

I believe just one simple example illustrates how totally out of touch Liberty is with modern trends : If one sends in a request for policy information accompanied by a Brokers Note you will receive a reply promising a reply 'within 4 working days'. If Liberty actually believe this is acceptable in a modern, electronic environment of instantaneous responses then I believe this neatly sums them up.
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Added by Johann Britz, 15 Mar 2018
Liberty is a great company with excellent products and offer good value for money. Liberty service is excellent and they do assist the brokers and clients very good and do provide the kind of products and services that we as brokers expect from an insurer.
I am happy and proud to do business with Liberty
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Added by Paul, 15 Mar 2018
I have heard this type of promise before.
From my own experience Liberty is the most difficult company to do business with as a broker,unless you are a regular writer and supporter.(catch 22 I guess)
I would however wish them all the best in their endeavors to simplify channels and focus on the adviser.
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