My journey as a woman in the SA insurance sector

27 August 2019 Grace Winter, CMO at FMI, a Division of Bidvest Life
Grace Winter, CMO at FMI, a Division of Bidvest Life

Grace Winter, CMO at FMI, a Division of Bidvest Life

Let’s face it, the financial services industry is still heavily male-dominated. But we’re seeing encouraging signs of change: transformation and equal opportunity for men and women is increasingly being spoken about at the highest levels of business all around the world, and it’s great to see South Africa is making strides in this regard.

So how did I get to be CMO (at the age of 27) at the fastest-growing life insurer in the country1? It all starts with my employer. FMI stands out in the industry for giving incredible opportunities to not only women, but a diverse range of people from all walks of life. FMI encourages gender-equality and promotes diversity in everything it does – truly living its values of bravery, empathy, and excellence.

Part of what gives FMI such a unique, refreshing approach to culture, staff and leadership development is having a young, dynamic CEO; Brad Toerien. His leadership and progressive thinking around empowerment and transformation has been a huge contributing factor to helping me and other women at FMI ‘get ahead’.

FMI fundamentally believes in having a well-rounded view of the world, its customers, and staff. These views and insights are what make FMI’s people succeed – in relationships, product design and business. Diversity is key: having different views around the table creates a business culture where different ideas can be explored safely.

There’s no doubt that women bring valuable insights to business that men may not consider, and our eye for design and communications, organisational planning abilities, user and customer empathy/experience, and staff engagement brings a richness and depth to the business. By appreciating, and leveraging, these nuanced understandings, FMI is able to forge even better relationships with its customers and stakeholders.

We’re not perfect. No organisation is. But we have good people, solid values and a passion for the success of our country. We also have the building blocks to ensure we are getting better every day, and we embrace every opportunity to transform our business and allow for equal opportunity.

Often, people see success in business as luck, or being at the right place at the right time. I like to think I got to where I am because of my sense of humor and flawless dance moves. But there’s no doubt that good things happen to those who work hard – and that’s critical to anyone wanting to get ahead in business, no matter what culture or gender you hold.

My advice to young women wanting to make their way in the business world? Work hard and back yourself. Get a mentor who backs you and believes in you, even more than yourself. Don’t be afraid – and when you are, don’t let it be because you’re a female or the only person of colour in the room. Use your different viewpoint to your advantage. That’s where your magic lies.


1NMG 2018 Q4 Results

Quick Polls


No developing economy has ever built a single-payer complementary NHI equivalent covering the entire population. NHI promises comprehensive care but it is also 100% free at the point-of-service. Is this practical?


It is doable but collaboration is key
South Africa is not in a position to build NHI
The only conclusion possible is that the private healthcare sector is not going to disappear or change
There is little chance that the NHI will be able to receive significant government funding
A E fanews magazine
FAnews August 2019 Get the latest issue of FAnews

This month's headlines

Create designer policies through AI
Are advisers in a precarious position?
A claim, COIDA and a dog bite
Non-disclosure never an innocent fraud
Prescribed assets: The threat to pensions
Cannabis and the issue of trust
Getting the most from disability claims
Subscribe now