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Sumendren Naidoo’s vision for empowering financial futures

16 January 2024 Sumendren Naidoo, Head: Distribution at Sanlam Corporate: Corporate Solutions
Sumendren Naidoo

Sumendren Naidoo

Sumendren Naidoo steps into the role of Head of Distribution at Sanlam Corporate with a clear vision to steer the company's growth strategy while delivering holistic solutions for employee benefits.

His appointment aligns with the Sanlam Group’s focus on innovation and growth to fuel its purpose of empowering generations to be financially confident, secure, and prosperous.

Here, he shares his goals for the role and his holistic approach to employee benefits.

What is your overarching goal for your new role?
As you can imagine, joining a corporate such as Sanlam and being responsible for ensuring the growth objectives of Sanlam Corporate are achieved comes with great responsibility not only to clients and our strategic partners such as intermediaries but to our very own people simultaneously.

My overarching goal is to fundamentally enhance how we approach employee benefits and financial planning, aligning closely with our client’s evolving needs in the broader South African context. At the core of my vision is the commitment to offer solutions that are not just comprehensive but also highly tailored. Each client's needs are unique, and we should reflect this diversity through solutions that encompass financial wellness, mental health, and overall well-being.

Another aspect of my goal is to foster a culture of financial literacy and empowerment. By educating our clients and their employees about the importance of savings, investment, and planning, we aim to transform how South Africans manage their finances. This educational drive is critical in addressing the country's savings culture challenge, equipping individuals with the knowledge and tools they need to secure their financial futures.

Lastly, I want to empower our employees to think creatively, take initiative, and deliver exceptional results. I aim to lead by example, fostering a culture of excellence, innovation, and continuous learning within Sanlam Corporate.

In line with the above I believe that if we achieve these goals in close collaboration especially with our intermediated partners, it will ultimately ensure that participating employers will identify and resonate with Sanlam Corporate in not only meeting their outcomes but trust us as their employee benefit solutions partner for the wellbeing of their employees.

This will certainly drive the growth objectives and strategy of Sanlam Corporate whilst ensuring that we are making a difference in clients lives whom we care for the greater society of South Africans wellbeing.

How will Sanlam Corporate help clients navigate the shifting financial landscape, such as the proposed two-pot retirement system and the SA’s challenging savings culture?
I'm part of what's known as the 'sandwich generation'. This has given me a unique perspective on the importance of financial planning. We support our ageing parents and children, highlighting the need for well-structured employee benefits that cater to individual needs.

For example, the two-pot retirement system will require educating our clients about the implications of these policy shifts so they can make better, informed decisions that benefit their long-term financial well-being. We believe that an informed client is an empowered client.

South Africa's savings culture is another critical area of focus. So, we must create awareness about the importance of savings and retirement planning and provide tools and resources that make it easier for individuals to engage in these practices.

How will Sanlam Corporate revolutionise employee benefits?
Our approach centres around a holistic strategy that caters to the evolving needs of the modern workforce. We are not just focusing on the traditional aspects of employee benefits but expanding our vision to include broader solutions that address the complete wellness of our clients and not be considered with the stigma of a “one-stop shop” but a partner of their employee benefit wellbeing.

One key aspect of our approach is integrating various components of employee benefits into a unified solution. This includes retirement funding, group risk benefits, primary healthcare, mental wellness programmes, and financial literacy initiatives.

How has your career journey shaped your approach to and vision for Sanlam Corporate’s distribution and client service?
My career journey, marked by diverse experiences across several prominent companies, has shaped my vision for distribution and client service at Sanlam Corporate. Starting in a high-pressured sales call centre environment laid the foundation for my understanding of sales that couples with client service excellence collaboration to deliver on our growth strategy. It also taught me resilience and the importance of clear, empathetic communication.

My tenure in the retirement fund industry was a pivotal phase. I honed my skills in understanding client needs and the importance of delivering tailored solutions. These experiences have culminated in a client-centric strategy at Sanlam Corporate, where we are not just providers but partners to our clients.

My journey also reinforced the importance of team development and empowerment in delivering exceptional service which I personally feel drives the trust from our clients to further enhance business growth. I believe in the power of a motivated, well-informed team that can think outside the box and go beyond expectations. Hence, a significant part of my role involves nurturing a culture of continuous learning and innovation within our team.

On a lighter note, if you had to have dinner with one person, who would it be and why?
I'm a passionate sports fan and have always admired how sports can bring people together, teach resilience, and inspire excellence. So, I would love to have dinner with Jürgen Klopp and Rassie Erasmus. These exceptional leaders have mastered the art of motivation and building team spirit, resonating deeply with my professional and personal values.

Klopp and Erasmus have a unique approach to handling individual talents, aligning them towards a collective goal. Everyone has unique needs, and understanding these is key to providing the best possible solutions and support.

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