New: Riskonet is coming to Africa
Riskonet is entering a new market: Africa! From their offices in Johannesburg and Mauritius, Chris Brits and his team will be providing risk management advisory services to Riskonet clients throughout Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. “Awareness of risk management is increasing on the continent, and the Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME) sector is a rapidly growing market in Southern Africa,” says Chris.
While Riskonet itself has only recently opened a full-fledged office in Africa, Chris Brits has been providing advisory services in various executive roles for 28 years to clients across the continent. These include heading up large risk management consulting divisions for publicly listed financial services companies. Chris represents Riskonet as the Managing Partner for Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. Riskonet has a network of specialised professionals throughout all the African geographic regions, as well as Europe, India, the Middle East, China, the United Kingdom, South America, and the USA.
New market for Riskonet
“Things are going exceptionally well in this new market for Riskonet”, says Chris. “The growth potential is enormous, not only among corporates who seek fresh alternatives, from independent specialists to the historic traditional risk advisory offerings in the market, but also for intermediaries who look to provide unique Riskonet value-added services to their clients as a competitive advantage. Insurance carriers have a growing need for high quality risk information in the current hard market, to establish risk maturity and risk excellence when allocating capacity and providing terms. In the emerging SMME market, risk management has become a fundamental requirement to develop business resilience capabilities.”
With its significant network and knowledge of the local markets in Southern Africa, Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, Riskonet is well positioned to provide solutions to all four sectors of the industry – Corporate, SMME, Intermediaries and Insurers. Chris: “In the SMME space, integrated risk management is a relatively foreign concept. In this sector insurance is widely considered to be the primary solution to manage the financial impact of a loss. Here we assist the client to develop a framework to identify risk opportunities and threats so that all processes in the organisation embed risk awareness in the operating philosophy. We assist the client to identify and manage risks based on the needs of the organisation as a whole. Our solutions are targeted at the strategic, financial and operational aspects of the business, or for a very specific challenge or opportunity the client is faced with depending on the need at the time.”
High level of risk maturity
In the corporate space, the client’s risk maturity often dictates where the focus will be. More ‘mature’ clients have more specific needs. Generally, clients in this sector who have a high level of risk maturity require our inputs as independent third-party providers from a governance perspective on risk assessments or risk reviews. In other instances, we provide specific advice on a targeted project basis. With less mature clients, the focus tends to be on risk framework design, development of risk standards, risk training and risk finance solutions.
In the current hard insurance market cycle, the demand for independent third party reviews of risk finance optimisation has grown significantly. Whilst on the operational risk side, the need to trainrisk employees, to develop customised risk assessment programmes, and to design and install fire protection systems is driving market demand.
The practice in South Africa and Mauritius will be similar to that of other international Riskonet offices. It consists of a number of local resources with diverse skills, and where needed, will draw on specialised skills from across the Riskonet global network.
The African context
Riskonet’s local resources are particularly valuable on projects in Africa as they require an understanding of the unique territorial customs and cultures, travel conditions, language barriers, security aspects and legislative requirements. The ability to navigate these challenges and respond to clients throughout Africa is a strong advantage for local Riskonet colleagues compared to international competitors from Europe or the USA.
Chris: “Our great advantage is that we are local. We serve African clients from Africa. We know how legislation can vary radically between countries here. We understand the challenges, and know how things could turn out. There is a huge shortage of risk professionals in Africa, so our experience is a real advantage. This also puts us in a strong position to advise a South African insurer, for example, who has multiple branches on the continent and asks us to improve the skills of their local managers. We also do this for an international broker who has a huge network in Africa, but not enough consultants. We act as an ambassador for the broker or insurer as needed. We provide a seamless service to their clients’ needs on their behalf.”
“In terms of costs we are very competitive, especially for international companies that contract with us and benefit from the exchange rate of the South African Rand. We will however provide a service to our Indian Ocean Island clients, some African and other international clients from our Mauritius office if this is their preferred option.”
So what does the future hold? Chris and his team, who are currently working on developing a training programme for risk managers in various countries in Africa, estimate that the need for risk management services to companies and the insurance fraternity will grow for the foreseeable future. Chris: “The government has a very active incentive policy with subsidies to stimulate risk preparedness in SMMEs. Risk skills have also been identified by the government as being scarce and critical in the region. To serve this market and to help develop risk management skills in the SMME sector, we are developing a self-assessment tool that will help companies get started on risk management. We are looking forward to launching this product towards the end of this year. Apart from that, there is a flood of requests coming from this sector. We have also developed an e-learning tool, which is currently servicing a number of companies with accredited training and learnerships in specific sectors. The business is developing in a very promising way.”
Chris believes that the need for risk management tools and techniques to support SMMEs and smaller corporate companies on the continent will grow. “Thinking about risks in a way that purposefully builds a sustainable platform for economic progress and that can positively influence some of the challenges we have on the continent such as poverty, the lack of basic services, unemployment and inequality, is a sign of good leadership.”
Good leadership for Riskonet in Africa and Mauritius also means leading by example in the risk professional community. Chris Brits served on the board of IRMSA, the Institute of Risk Managers of South Africa, and many of its committees from 2009 to 2018. IRMSA is the professional body of risk management in South Africa and promotes the development of the profession. With this experience, Chris will continue to play an active role in supporting the Institute and building risk management skills and capacity throughout Africa. He says, “We continue to support professionalisation in the interests of risk management in Africa. We have done this recently by sponsoring the IRMSA Risk Conference App (available for free on the Apple and Android stores) which will be in use between the 3rd and 8th of October in South Africa.”