Newly appointed Executive Head of Sales and Marketing at Botswana Insurance Company (BIC), William Surmon breaks down his new role at leading insurer. He talks to LAME MODISE
Kindly introduce yourself?
My name is William Surmon, born in Johannesburg, South Africa and currently residing and working in Botswana. I am the Executive Head of Sales and Marketing for Botswana Insurance Company. My experience in the financial services industry has largely been gained over the past 30 years within the retail banking, mortgage lending and insurance industries. During this time, I have had the opportunity to work for First National Bank, Absa Bank, Standard Bank, Zurich Insurance Company, Coface South Africa and now for Botswana Insurance Company.
What is your line of work?
I specialise in Sales, Distribution and Marketing for financial and insurance institutions. This includes Bancassurance, General Insurance, Credit Insurance Mortgage Lending and Retail Banking.
How does that work?
Insurance provides cover to individuals or companies to prevent them from financial loss in the event of unforeseen circumstances. The cover is determined by the terms and conditions of the policy undertaken by the individual or company.
What propelled you to do the kind of work you do?
My entry into financial services as a career was prompted through advice given to me by my father. He could see the potential in me to build a solid career within banking. During my years in banking, I was exposed to the insurance industry and managed to build strong competencies across both industries.
When and how was your first encounter with the profession?
My first encounter with the Financial Services Industry was in 1989 with First National Bank (FNB) in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.
How long have you been doing what you do?
I have been selling and marketing financial services for over 30 years.
What would you change about the industry?
I believe we have the opportunity to create new value propositions for the local market, through better understanding the risks locally, and then using our regional presence and cross group collaboration to develop integrated products and services that unlock additional value for our clients.
Who would you say is your biggest competitor and why?
I believe that it is not always the biggest competitor that you need to be mindful of, but those new entrants that have found a better solution for your current clients. These are known as market disruptors, and to me, I am mindful of new or emerging industry players and what they potentially bring to the industry.
What challenges do you face in your line of work?
The biggest challenge in the insurance industry is predicting the probability of a risk event occurring and how to price this effectively.
How do you overcome these challenges?
We use well developed underwriting and risk assessment models to help us understand and price the risks we insure. We also ensure that we continuously train and develop our staff, so that we can provide our clients with a policy that will pay their claim in the event of an unforeseen event occurring.
What has been your biggest achievement in your profession?
I have received the following awards: Contact in Gauteng – Contact Centre Manager of the year 2005, SACCCOM (BPeSA) National Contact Centre Manager of the Year 2005 (Top Contact Centre Manager in SA) Absa Group Prestige Awards: 2010 Leadership, 2008 Innovation and 2003 Financial. In 2005, I was nominated for Standard Bank Stars awards. In 2010, I was promoted to an E Level Executive position in Absa Bank as General Manager, which is ranked in the Top 1% of positions within the Banking Group. In Standard Bank, I managed to grow the Topline contribution of the Sales and Retention call centre by 204% between 2004 and 2005. As Chief Commercial Officer at Coface, we delivered a 30% Year on Year growth in Trade Credit Premium and 34% YoY growth in Fee Income. Improved operational efficiencies and cost containment within the Commercial Structure resulted in the Highest Topline and Net Growth performance recorded in the Company to date.
Any notable setbacks?
Yes, during my career, I stepped outside the Financial Services Industry into the Timeshare Hospitality industry. I did not enjoy the experience and rejoined the Financial Services Industry soon after.
What advice would you give anyone interested in working in your field?
I would recommend the financial insurance industry to any person who would like to experience a truly global career. During my tenure in the Financial Services Industry, I have been exposed to a number of global markets including: Absa/ Barclays in United Kingdom, Canada, Spain and Italy. Standard Bank in United Kingdom. Zurich Insurance Company in Switzerland, Dubai and Botswana. In Coface, we had global interactions with France and Italy.
How can this extensive exposure such as the one you have propel or broaden one’s career opportunities?
With this exposure into global markets, you get a really good sense of different operating models, commercial models, marketing strategies, sales and distribution techniques.
Out of curiosity, how does one obtain or amass this exposure?
This experience can only be obtained by being part of significant industry players with strong regional and global networks and partnerships.