Redefining growth: Specialist Risk Manager Backs The Wellbeing Economy To Drive Future Growth

15 February 2019 MUA

As the world transitions from the third to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) businesses and their executives have an opportunity to reflect on their future interactions with key stakeholders and society at large.

For specialist bespoke high net worth underwriter MUA Insurance Acceptances, their brand evolution is informed by answering: ‘What do we need to do differently to build a business that engages with the financial services industry, makes a valuable contribution to the domestic economy and leverages our human capital to the benefit of our clients?’

The ability to reflect on both past successes and the ‘shape’ of the future-fit business is crucial in addressing this question. “The knowledge we have acquired over three decades in business adds incredible value to our brokers and clients, while informing our deep understanding of how our brand will evolve alongside 4IR,” says Dawie Loots, CEO at MUA. “We are inviting our high net worth clients, assisted by our network of hand-picked brokers, to partner with us as we try to change South Africa’s economy from one that is focused on ‘growth only’ to a ‘wellbeing’ or ‘generative’ economy”. He adds that local firms should work proactively to ensure that the economy delivers beneficial rather than harmful outcomes, for all. “South Africa face huge challenges in income inequality, poverty and rising unemployment that are not being remedied under existing economic growth measures – it is time for us to expand our economic construct to include new alternatives,” says Loots.

Economists have long struggled to find suitable alternatives to measure economic growth. Attempts to incorporate the human angle led to concepts like ‘green GDP’ – which acknowledges the impact of resource depletion – and the notion or wellbeing or generative economies, to name a few. The term generative economy was coined by Marjorie Kelly – Senior Fellow and Executive Vice President of The Democracy Collaborative – who defined it as a living economy that is both socially fair and ecologically sustainable. A wellbeing economy – described by Professor Lorenzo Fioramonti in his book ‘Wellbeing Economy: Success in a World Without Growth’ – is one that “puts people and nature first and realises that without these two, there is no future”. Firms can contribute to the wellbeing economy by investing in human capital, encouraging mindfulness amongst employees and by partnering with like-minded institutions, individuals and businesses.

MUA is among the first South African firms to recognise the value in wellbeing-focused economic development in achieving sustainable business outcomes. They aim to improve outcomes for all South Africans by helping them to achieve good, enjoyable and fulfilling lives outside of the narrow construct of GDP growth, which is a measure of industrial output only. “Thought leaders like Lorenzo Fioramonti, Marjorie Kelly and the late Nelson Mandela have us thinking,” says Michelle Ashen-Abrahams, Head of Marketing at MUA. “We want to infuse their thinking into our brand, our brokers, our clients and the whole of South Africa – we will partner with leading South Africans who share our thinking for living life to the fullest”. To achieve this MUA has bought into the wellbeing goal of an improved state of existence for humanity and the ecosystem.

It is hoped that other private sector firms will follow suit, creating a tipping point to replace the current extractive economy defined by ‘excess and more’ to one where the primary focus is on self-awareness, social responsibility and wellbeing. The journey started at the firm’s recent broker summit where intense discussions with brokers singled out leadership development as a key requirement for growth and sustainability in the sector. Savannah Steinberg, founding director of Star Leadership (Pty) Ltd and advocate for the wellbeing economy, articulates that “leadership development is about personal mastery”.

Ashen-Abrahams says the firm is now working closely with its extensive broker network to promote the wellbeing economy concept: “We are consulting with brokers around the country to co-create a personal mastery program that will improve and enhance the partnerships we have with both our clients and business partners – we are investing in people and programs that allow us to build on the wellbeing economy that many of our high net worth clients are already actively engaged with”.

Encouraging employees and business partners to be mindful has a significant impact on a firm’s interaction with its clients and other stakeholders. “We use each of our consumer touchpoints to explore self-awareness, wellbeing and mindfulness because through our deeper understanding of the self we can care more for the clients that we serve,” says Ashen Abrahams. Countless opportunities exist for insurers, underwriters and their various business partners to improve their service offering to clients through a deeper understanding of the clients’ needs – and this requires an understanding of what drives clients’ underlying behaviour.

IMISA Chairman and medical psychotherapist, Dr. Simon Whitesman comments that “mindfulness is so often overlooked and not considered a skill that can be applied. It is exciting and encouraging to see a business committed to mindfulness practices to become a valuable economic contributor through purpose-driven leadership and considered business practices that care for the needs of their clients and human capital.”

A journey towards mindfulness will move South Africa from its current ‘extractive’ economy to a wellbeing or generative economy that uplifts all sectors of society. “We must recognise and acknowledge that we have the power to create the change that will contribute to economic growth and the sustainability of our planet – our focus should always be on making a positive difference to our country, the world and the lives of the people we serve,” concludes Loots. “To build a better world, individuals, organisations and global influencers must drive positive change with the best interests of the people in mind – and this holds for any business that wishes to make a contribution to the wellbeing, growth and sustainability of the South African economy”.

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