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Breath of fresh air

01 February 2007 FAnews

In what is sometimes a stuffy, traditionalist industry, Margaret Massie can only be described as a breath of fresh air. Despite her success and the dizzying heights she has reached in the industry, she has not lost her sense of fun. FAnews spoke to Margaret to find out about her new life and her new career at Santam.

Margaret may be better known to many readers as Margaret Louw, MD of Compass and well-known industry figure. Before making Compass Insurance Company a force to be reckoned with in the industry, Margaret was the Financial Director of Hannover Reinsurance Group Africa. In this capacity she served on the Board of Compass Insurance. "When the MD of Compass resigned, I took up the task of caretaker of Compass," explains Margaret. "I enjoyed my interaction with the direct market and Compass to the extent that I never returned to my FD position."

A new challenge

Last year, Margaret made the move from MD at Compass Insurance Company in Johannesburg to Executive Head of People and Brand Services at Santam in Cape Town. About this momentous move, Margaret says, "I believe Santam is a dynamic company and as the leading short-term insurer in South Africa, embracing change and building on a proud heritage, it is filled with opportunities to play a significant role in the industry by embracing challenges and making South Africa a better place."

Margaret says she particularly enjoys the fact that Santam is a vibrant company, filled with opportunities to make a difference. "I have recently returned from a countrywide road show, where I met with over 1 000 of our employees. Our people are the heart of our business and the interaction was very rewarding and enriching. I work with a very dynamic Exco team, and this is a company where we do not only want to remain the leading short-term insurer in South Africa, but also put emphasis on family values, personal development and show our people that we are passionate about them."

Success

As a qualified chartered accountant, Margaret's career is filled with highlights and successes. She serves on the South African Insurance Association Board and was the first female president of the Insurance Institute of South Africa. She is also a patron of the Women in Insurance programme, and was the former chairperson of the Proudly Insurance campaign.

"I have been privileged to enjoy many occasions during my career where I was presented with opportunities to make a difference," says Margaret. "My most rewarding experiences have been where I was presented with a task where many others believed success was not possible, and I worked with a team to prove otherwise. I look forward to embracing many more such opportunities in life."

Making a difference

Margaret says that interacting with people and having the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life, inspire her. "I enjoy working with people who challenge my thinking so we can arrive at the best possible solution. I am privileged to be surrounded by many opportunities and inspirational people and colleagues. I also enjoy opportunities to laugh, and my current environment not only challenges me, but also provides me with many opportunities to enjoy life."

At the top

Margaret's leadership style clearly worked well at Compass, but in a major corporate company a new approach may be necessary. "I enjoy an involved leadership style, where I get to know people, what motivates them and what they enjoy doing," Margaret explains. "I believe one should focus on the strengths in others and I have learned to adopt a very transparent communication style. No matter how large or small an organisation, people are individuals and they need to know that their individual input is valued and encouraged and that you trust them.

"Santam is a much bigger stage, but it is still made up of individuals, wanting to make a difference and living the Santam brand. Richard Branson said business should be an adventure, for both your clients and your staff. This should be the challenge to any organisation, no matter how big or small."

Where there is a will

"I enjoy getting involved in areas believed by many as difficult to sort out. I see potential in circumstances and people and believe there is a solution for most challenges in life," says Margaret.

Margaret believes, "‘If you can dream it, you can do it', and if you're going to do something you must either do it well or not do it at all. Also, we do not stop playing because we are old, we grow old because we stop playing.

"I have learned a lot about life and people over the years and I would like to make use of this experience to do the same things better in future, although I'm sure I'll still make many mistakes and hopefully continue to grow and develop in the process. Kim McMillan in her book When I loved myself enough, says ‘I began to know I was in the right place at the right time, and I could relax'. We need to learn to love ourselves a bit more."Margaret is planning on staying at the top and sees herself still at Santam, living the brand, in five years' time.

Deep footprints

Margaret has some sage advice for young women who see themselves following in her footsteps. "Our industry is a dynamic one, full of opportunities to make a difference. I believe the opportunities within insurance are one of the best kept secrets in the world! Be yourself, and enjoy the unique contribution you have to make in transforming this insurance industry to a new level.

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