Mologadi Kekana has recently taken on a new position as Head of Alternative Distribution at insurer MiWay. Kekana was formerly a Key Accounts Manager with the company and has also held various strategic positions in the motor industry. We spoke to her about her career and how she intends to make a success of her new role.
Tell us about your role, objectives and typical working day?
My new role is all about sourcing new business from outside of MiWay’s primary sales channels. Initially, Alternative Distribution focused on sourcing leads from car dealerships, but we’ve expanded into other areas and have formed strategic partnerships with a variety of other companies.
Because I’m still new in this role, a typical day has meant spending a lot of time connecting with my team members – getting to know them personally and learning what it is they do. I’m also getting to know my MANCO colleagues and building up my understanding of what each division does and how we as Alternative Distribution can best collaborate with each business unit.
What does your new job entail? How will you measure success in this new job?
I see my job function consisting of two parts; sales management and leadership. The sales part will involve growing our client base through creating and developing strategic partnerships, and a big part of that will be organising and supporting the team to achieve our targets. On the leadership front, I see my role as providing direction and encouragement to the team in line with our company values; so that collectively we can improve our value proposition to our business partners. The ultimate measure of my success will be the financial results, but over the long term the sustainability of the business unit will be critical. This in turn will depend on high levels of engagement within the team and high trust levels with our business partners.
How will you manage your team – what’s your philosophy?
I believe there is power in the collective interrogation of ideas and thoughts, so I would like to foster an environment where a diversity of thought is encouraged. I would like to hear the various voices that make up the team. I see myself as a humanist because I value progress that prioritises people. I’m inspired by leaders who act in the best interests of both the organisation and its employees.
What are the current trends you see in the industry?
COVID-19 has challenged the way we do things. It has highlighted the importance of technology as an enabler in business and our personal lives. Technology will not replace the need for human interaction; but, there is a growing reliance on technology to facilitate the sales process.
What are challenges the insurance industry faces?
Disruption is our biggest challenge. One source of disruption is regulation, which is constantly evolving and improving. The way we do things has to change frequently in order to stay within the law, both its letter and its spirit. Another huge source of disruption is the new fintech companies that come into the market with highly sophisticated technology and streamlined business models. Because they don’t have legacy systems and processes like the established companies do, they can move fast, and it’s up to us to find ways to respond.
You have a long and successful career journey. Discuss some of your biggest highlights and learnings on your journey? What are some of the achievements that you are most proud of? Describe some of the biggest struggles on your journey and the learnings?
My working career has taught me the importance of building solid relationships based on trust. All the doors that opened for me, all my achievements and progress, are a result of someone else vouching for me. I’ve been blessed to have met people throughout my career who were willing to take a chance on me. In return, I put in the hard work and hours to prove myself.
One of the biggest highlights happened early in my career, when I was selected to take part in an international exchange program. This program allowed me to spend a year with the marketing team at DaimlerChrysler Italy, in Rome. A year in this historical and beautiful city was culturally and professionally enriching.
I found my years in the automotive industry very valuable in all sorts of ways but I also recognise that it did come at a certain cost. The industry tends to be male-dominated and not that racially diverse, so I often found it mentally and emotionally exhausting to assert myself. In response, I adopted a “no pain, no gain” mindset which has helped make me more resilient.
Looking back, this was where I struggled the most because I have often lost my cool when standing up for myself. I came to realise the power of self-mastery and emotional intelligence. I’m continually learning and improving in both these areas. Most importantly, encountering prejudice has taught me to believe in myself. As Serena Williams says: “You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.”
Can you list some of the challenges that young people entering the industry experience and how they can overcome them?
The lack of economic growth in South Africa is probably the most significant barrier that young people face in realising their potential. Recent figures from StatsSA indicate that 59% of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed – something that is of huge concern, especially as experience is one of the key entry requirements for getting work (along with education).
What advice would you give a young person trying to enter the industry / looking to source opportunities / starting out?
My advice is that young people should be proactive when searching for opportunities. The old school way of a job search was to respond to a job post/advert. I believe that showing initiative by approaching potential employers and selling yourself can sometimes leave a lasting impression. Digital platforms like LinkedIn make this possible. However, if you are going to choose the traditional route of looking for a job, take note that the search requires planning (treat your job search like a project); professionalism (work on how you present yourself) and resilience (don’t give up) as you may hear a lot of noes before you get a yes.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I honestly don’t know how to answer this question – sometimes I feel like my younger self could teach my older self a thing or two. My younger self was willing to take anything on, betting against the odds. In my 20s, I was fierce and fearless; everything and anything was possible. Now, as a 40-year-old mother of a four-year-old, I’m still driven but perhaps rather more prone to consider the pros and cons before acting! I think that we adapt ourselves to where we are in our lives, and do what we need to do to get to the next stage.
MiWay is a licensed non-life insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP 33970).