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Leadership Spotlight | Ray-Ann Sedres, Sanlam Group Chief Transformation Officer

Tell us about your company & your role?

Sanlam is a pan-African financial services group listed on the Johannesburg, Namibian and A2X stock exchanges. Through its clusters – Retail Mass, Retail Affluent, Sanlam Corporate, Sanlam Emerging Markets, Sanlam Investment Group and Santam, the Group provides comprehensive and bespoke financial solutions to institutional clients and consumers across all market segments. Sanlam’s areas of expertise include life and general insurance, financial planning, retirement, investments, and wealth management.

Established in 1918 as a life insurance company, Sanlam has evolved into the largest non-banking financial services group in Africa through its diversification strategy.

Headquartered in South Africa, Sanlam has a direct stake in financial services entities in Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Mauritius, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria. The Group has a footprint of insurance operations in Morocco, Angola, Ghana, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Madagascar and Lesotho.

Sanlam also has business interests in India, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

What are your main priorities & goals in your role?

To ensure that the business has and implements its Socio-economic Transformation Strategy across all territories it does business in. At the same time the role is responsible to ensure that the business drives group wide key socio-economic initiatives to affect the strategy. The role has a compliance component which directly speaks to the ensuring the Socio-economic transformation legislation is applied across the group and reported to all relevant external business licencing structures.

How do you define success & what drives you to succeed?

Success in my opinion is defined in the impact made by myself in the role I play in the business but also the collective impact we as a Sanlam Group make to the economies we do business in.  The factors that drive success is directly related to the direct connection of my belief and internal motivator as well as at a business level how closely the connection of the issue can be linked to the business strategic objectives.

How do you keep your team motivated?

I have a fairly small team so hence all hands on deck is critical.  I think to get the best out of people you need to genuinely be  interested in them not only employees but as people. Make time to engage with them on a one on one basis, acknowledge and celebrate success (regardless how small they are).  Being present is key!

What new trends/disruptors are emerging in your industry?

Maybe not new trends but digitisation is becoming a key focus area for the financial sector.  Use of AI has direct impact on how the sector will work into the future and the role human’s is being questioned.. On a socio-economic note – a game changer which is not necessarily a new concept is that of crowding in. More and more peers and competitors are starting to set aside rivalry for the greater good of a collective impact.

What areas do you think need to be improved to enhance the business environment in Cape Town, especially in the context of the current energy crisis we are facing?

I think we need to be strategic in management of the issue of loadshedding in the production of goods and services by SMMES – being able to plan how we do loadshedding and the impact on SMMEs.  So many jobs are being impacted.  So we need to think outside the box.  How do we create more accessibility to un-interrupted electrical spaces to trade from – e.g. mobile restaurants, mobile energy units to be provided for these businesses where they can come and plug themselves in to do business. Pushing feet to these central places to come and trade etc.

What major changes would you like to see in the local business environment?

I would like to see more SMMES being created – it talks to the ability to creating more microentrepreneurs and speaks to the point made in the next question below.

Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

I think the skills we need to generate a thriving economy is not going to be skills that is service orientated.  I believe we need to skill up on skills like artisans, farming, manufacturing, GIG economy skills etc. this allows individuals with this skills to be employed but also able to generate their own  income by utilising their skills on an individual capacity level.  i.e. able to create their own small businesses.

If you could choose to have dinner with four influential South African business or government leaders, who would you choose?

I’m more concerned on our next generation as opposed to  current influential leaders –  I would choose youth – 4 – 1 african, 1 coloured, 1 Indian and 1 white youth (generation Z) – I would ask them to tell us how they think we can run this country more effectively and the role of business to do this.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given or would give, in business?

Any feedback good or bad is good – at least people are listening or discussing what you doing as opposed to you not being relevant at all.

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