Tell us about your company and your role?
Santam is the country’s largest general insurer with its headquarters based in the Western Cape. The company employs over 5 000 staff across the country and works through intermediaries to sell insurance. I am the Chief Executive Officer and I see my role as creating real value for Santam, building upon what has already been achieved.
What is the best thing about running a business in Cape Town?
There is no doubt that Cape Town has a unique character with a diverse population drawn from many parts of the country. At its core lies an important historical and commercial heritage that contributes to the city being at the heart of the financial system in the country. Traditionally, Cape Town has played an important role as the head offices of insurers, and financial services are part of its business DNA. Historically, Santam has been here since its formation 97 years ago. We have built a skills and knowledge base and we are proud to contribute to the economic strength of the region. Its outstanding natural beauty and architectural heritage makes Cape Town an important and vibrant tourism destination and this drives a significant segment of the national and regional economy. It’s a good place to do business.
What areas do you think need to be improved to enhance the business environment in Cape Town?
We have important IT, media, and online service businesses and educational institutions. We need to build on the skills of the young workforce and take advantage of the opportunities to develop local employment and growth. An enhanced business environment needs social development and good and accessible infrastructure to thrive and I think that we do this well and can do better. There are some areas such as the downtown CBD that are world class and other areas that local businesses and the authorities recognise need development and upliftment. Santam works, for example, with local municipalities to build capacity and engineer some of the risk out of society so that things can function better. Skills transfer and knowledge sharing is key to improving delivery.
How would you describe Cape Town’s business community?
People in Cape Town work incredibly hard and are immensely committed to their businesses and to the communities within which they operate. I mentioned tourism – we really excel in the area of service in the hospitality trade. People are friendly and welcoming and this is the lasting feeling people have when then visit the city and do business here. We also have some of the world’s top business leaders running companies with continental and global reach. Cape Town has excellent staff and at Santam we are known to have a workforce with the best technical skills on the continent.
What do you think is currently required to develop a long-term vision and future strategy for the Cape Town city region based on ‘Vision 2030’ aims?
I am drawn to the idea of Cape Town as “Africa’s Global City”, which speaks to the innovation and imagination that we do so well. Ultimately, I think that we need to influence business and policy in the direction of infrastructural development and the development of an environment for human capital to prosper. Going forward, policy needs to be focused on the direction of stronger economic growth, making it easier to do business so that we attract FDI.
For how long have you lived in Cape Town?
Close to 30 years
What is your favourite place to visit in Cape Town?
How would you describe your ideal Saturday afternoon in the city?
With friends, visiting one of the excellent restaurants in Camps Bay
What would you choose as a tag line for Cape Town (as a business city)?
“Africa’s global city” as it captures everything that the city is – a place of economic opportunity, situated in a world class African city
Whom do you most admire in the business world?
Not one person specifically. I have admiration for anyone who can be successful while running a business in an ethical manner