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Brave new woman for Broker Distribution

05 September 2006 Old Mutual

Old Mutual South Africa has announced the appointment of Jeanette Marais as General Manager: Broker Distribution with effect from 1 September 2006.

Marais will take over from Dean Richards, who is taking up an international position within Old Mutual plc.

As o­ne of the country's most experienced investment strategists, Marais comes with a strong track record of successful entrepreneurship and team-building that is sure to come in handy in leading Broker Distribution into the future.

Building strong relationships with brokers, positioning Old Mutual as a preferred partner to brokers, and managing Broker Distribution to propel it to be a lean, profitable division producing high-volume business are the immediate operational challenges facing Marais.

Having existing relationships with about 7 800 brokers nationwide, Marais says Broker Distribution needs to be ultimately structured to dominate service delivery to brokers.

To this end, adds Marais, the division is currently re-looking some of its focuses to ensure that it has the best structures in place to service brokers in an economically viable way.

"I will continue to drive these initiatives and ensure that we implement our decisions to drive our expenses down, while constantly improving our valuable offerings to brokers and customers to increase our growth and income."

When looking at the insurance industry, Marais agrees that brokers are currently facing many challenges, regulatory as well as economic.

"Increasingly, consumers tend to avoid life type products, many new competitors are emerging, the media are more aggressive towards life insurance companies and product margins are thinner than ever before. Obviously, these challenges to brokers also impact o­n our business. Therefore, we nee d to think smarter about the support we need to give to our brokers and the solutions we develop for customers," she concludes.

Marais is known as a results-driven leader who rolls up her sleeves and gets her hands dirty. She observes that organisations sometimes spend a lot of time o­n rethinking their strategies, but tend to neglect the implementation. "This is my strong point. I will spend a lot of time to follow-through o­n the successful implementation of our strategies," she asserts.

She adds : "I am a very passionate person who believes in commitment, hard work, honesty and always strive to be the best at what I do.

"I am absolutely passionate about service delivery of the highest standard, and that you should strive to surprise and delight your brokers and clients by delivering outstanding service and honouring the promises you pledge to them. I expect and demand outstanding results, and I am never happy with delivering o­nly enough to reach targets and goals. The old adage that 'good enough is never good enough' rings true for me as I believe that goals and expectations are there to be exceeded."

To build a powerful team, Marais will focus o­n having the right people, rewarding outstanding delivery and having a zero-tolerance approach to under-performance. She sees it as a key priority to set new standards and to have very specific and measurable targets in place to manage the performance of teams and individuals.

Marais is not daunted by the prospect of being at the apex of a male-dominated division at Old Mutual.

"I've always worked in male-dominated areas," she says, "and I've never found that to be a problem for me. In my experience I've always found that fellow colleagues accepted that my appointments were based o­n merit - hence the gender issue has never come into play. I don't think anything of the fact that I am a woman, and I certainly don't expect to be treated differently because of my gender."

"The stereotype would expect me to act differently - more emotional, softer, less driven - just because I am a woman. I don't!" says Marais. "I know what we need to accomplish as a team, and I will lead and drive to reach and exceed those goals."

Marais hails from the Free State and studied at Bloemfontein University where she obtained an Honors degree in Mathematical Statistics. She started her career as an actuarial student with Momentum (Actuarial Product Development division), before joining their Broker Marketing, Training and Product Research team. Her career in financial services distribution was further established when she moved to STANLIB as Director : Retail Distribution in 2002.

Marais was recruited into Old Mutual in October 2005 to head its new Specialised Investment Unit (SIU), a position she held until her new appointment as General Manager of Old Mutual Broker Distribution.

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