New Afre boss speaks out

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NewsDay Business Reporter, Victoria Mtomba (ND) caught up with new Africa ReNaissance (Afre) chief executive officer Douglas Hoto (DH) to discuss his recent appointment and challenges that lie ahead.

Hoto joined First Mutual Life in 1999 as a process owner and left in 2006 due to pressure from shareholders.

He rejoins the company this month after the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) became a majority shareholder.

Hoto takes over from Sibusisiwe Ndlovu. Below are excerpts of the interview.

ND: What prompted your return to Afre six years after you left?
DH: Yes, I joined the organisation in 1999 when it was FML Society back then and I left in 2006 to get into practice for my profession (as an actuarian).
I returned because I believe in the business at Afre. I was part of the team that built the current business model.

I also believe the size of the business in relation to the Zimbabwe’s economy is bigger than where I was, hence I have a more national contribution to make while working at this place. There are more policyholders than where I was and I believe the job of protecting public investors is very important. I think I will be poised to do that. Altogether Afre has over 200 000 policyholders.

ND: I understand you have been at FML and Altfin and now Afre. Can you have any attachment to Afre?
DH: I think the formative years of my career, when I entered executive employment were here, and I was part of the building of the current system.
So yes, I had some attachment to it and l also left with a lot of unfinished business in terms of strategy, which I think can still be finished now in terms of taking the group to the heights we envisaged when we listed it initially in 2003.

ND: Why did you leave Altfin?
DH: I had no problem at all at Altfin.
I just left because I felt I would get better self-actualisation at Afre. As I said in my first answer, at national level the business is bigger. I will have a better national contribution at a bigger business.

ND: How do you think you will turn around the fortunes of Afre after the company has gone through corporate governance issues with ReNaissance Financial Holdings Limited?
DH: I think the first thing that we need to do is to create the confidence with our stakeholders. The first stakeholders are the internal stakeholders, the employees.

My plan is to restore confidence for the employees in terms of being a good employer, an employer of choice so we get the commitment of the team to get results.

The next level is our clients in assuring them their investments are safe and we adhere to good governance procedures.

As you are aware, there were some controversies around governance issues at this place. We need to get rid of that and create a good relationship with regulators of our business.

ND: Do you think you are ready to take the challenge because when you left there were shareholder issues that pushed you out?
DH: Yes, I think so. The difference between the time I left and now is that the company is now largely owned by an institutional investor in the form of NSSA.

As you know, that is the biggest shareholder.
I think there is more room for management decision-making compared to a company where the shareholders are managers.

I think there will be pressure for us to perform. I think we will rise to the occasion.
I believe we will be given room to apply our minds in the best interest of the company.

I also think the benefit of a shareholder with a big capital base like NSSA is, they can take a long-term view of the performance of the company, which will give me the chance to implement the strategy from a long-term perspective which is what you need if you are to build a sustainable business.

ND: What are your plans for Afre?
DH: We are basically an insurance group. We would like to be the insurance group of choice in Zimbabwe. We would also want to be a hub for training actuaries on the market.
We intend to go into the region with our motto “Selling Insurance in an African Way”.

ND: How did you become Afre chief executive officer this time around?
DH: I applied for the job when I heard there were new shareholders and then I was appointed.

ND: What is your academic and professional background?
DH: I went to Goromonzi High School and read for a degree in Mathematics at the University of Zimbabwe. I then joined the Faculty of Actuaries in Scotland and London Business School for the Senior Executive Programme.

ND: Are you married?
DH: I am married and have three children.