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Not too bad

12 August 2004 Angelo Coppola

(11.8.04) The brand has been refocused and there are product developments underway.

* New business up 17%

* Individual new business up 28%

* Index new business up 11%

* Headline earnings up 29%

* Capital adequacy down slightly at 2.55 from 2.58

* Non recurring expenses of R50m

* Embedded value was flat at R57.59

(These are un-audited figures)

“Things are different now to 12 months ago, we now have a good blend of old and new. There was concern about the loss of the more senior people, initially. I am confident about the next 18 months.

Staff numbers are coming down, and they have cut out 190 people from the group, with news that some of the IT is to be out-sourced to Standard Bank. A fair amount of new blood has been brought in, and it seems to have been successful. Its time to exit the people that aren’t right for the business, says Ruck

In terms of the charter Ruck says that they are pretty good on the junior and middle management levels. “Quiet frankly we are lousy when it comes to our senior management level. We have a lot of catching up to do,” says Ruck.

“The charter takes up a lot of our time, and there is no direct benefit, other than perhaps loosing old business because the targets aren’t met.”

“Regulatory issues are becoming a major issue and things will slow down a little as we get used to the new environment,” says Myles Ruck.

He also announced that the London listing will be terminated from the end of August, and there will be a saving R500 000 per annum. “There were no shares traded over a 12 month period and we were being charged for the privilege.”

Liberty Personal benefits had a good period. Recurring premiums were down marginally. While the medical lifestyle and lifestyle plus were closed, although Ruck says that policyholder rights were protected. It was also important to protect the existing book.

On Charter Life, Liberty says that they are looking at a new business model, with plans to present to the senior exco before the end of August, and hoping to launch to the market early next year.

On Corporate benefits side there were lower new business margins and volumes were down. “The cross selling opportunities were disappointing with Standard Bank. We want to work through the account executives and not SBIC. This hasn’t worked here,” says Ruck.

In this area, costs now become an issue, and there has also been a 3% reduction in head count. Service does remain an issue, although they will need to look after the existing business.

On the question of the Investec book that they purchased last year, Ruck says they will look at this book once they have bedded down the current book.

The consultancy business has shown some interesting perspectives, and the IFA support has been encouraging.

In terms of Stanlib, they have had a great six months, with good inflows, increasing from R177bn to R184bn. The Stanlib like for like performance is up 43%, which is an encouraging story.

The CAR will be slightly impaired when the BEE deal finally comes through, says Ruck, dropping to 2.2.

On the product development side – there is a synchronized approach now, with focus groups looking at the new opportunities, with the head of the development team reporting directly to Ruck, focused on individual and group and Charter Life.

Quick Polls

QUESTION

Do you believe this is the toughest period for financial advice in many years?

ANSWER

Yes, it’s hard to navigate the challenges and difficult to adapt. I’m struggling.
No, I have managed to navigate the challenges and have adapted. I’m good.
50/50. I just feel like whether we like it or not, we have to ready ourselves for change… be resilient and scale for the future. It’s not about survival of the fittest anymore but survival of the quickest. We just have to move on with life.
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