South African's future is in the hands of Tomorrow's Leaders

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Old Mutual taking the lead

Launching young leaders

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As we approach the 10th annual Old Mutual Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention, on 11 March 2016 at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, we sat down with Marwan Abrahams, an executive general manager at Old Mutual, to discuss why this legendary South African brand decided to associate itself with the number one event on the country’s leadership calendar.

The partnership is now in its second year, and the 2016 instalment promises to be the best ever.

Explaining his two core responsibilities, Abrahams says: “I’m responsible for the Customer & Intermediary experience for our retail customers, this includes ensuring that we market effectively, that our retail business is successful and I’m also accountable for the customer management component of the retail business.”

Now into his 21st year at Old Mutual, Abrahams is very well acquainted with the ins and outs. However, he is quick to note – with a smile – that he does not see himself as an “old” leader. At 40 years-old it is hard to argue.

The Old Mutual Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention aims to promote discussion and debate amongst some of South Africa’s finest young talent – men and women who have already made their mark and who are destined for even greater things in future. The event has achieved this goal, and a great deal more.

Leadership

The key word in South Africa at the moment and a topic that will be tackled at the 2016 convention is leadership. A term often used in recent months, mostly negatively, but we will be trying to change that mindset at the Old Mutual Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention 2016.

Leadership is, of course, an ever changing thing. It evolves with changing circumstances, and everyone has a different way of doing things – some more effective than others.

According to Abrahams, “certain core parts of leadership will always be the same, but I do believe that the environment that we operate in now versus what we operated in in the past is fundamentally different. “

He continues: “The biggest change is for leaders from the past and the millennial leader is that today the environment is much more dynamic and far more fluent; it’s so much more transparent right now than what it was in the past.”

The millennial leaders coming through the ranks at the moment are very energetic and vibrant – and they have opinions, “which I think is great as we can now open debate, whether it is social, political or anything else that is a matter of interest.”

Experience

With good leadership more critical today than ever before, it is crucial that South Africa finds the right balance between experience and youth. It’s a tough balance to achieve, but what is clear is that “older” leaders cannot be discarded. Indeed, it is their experience that is required to harness the youthful energy of the millennials.

“It is a great challenge, but it is also very exciting. The millennial leader brings the energy and opinions, and they are not scared of any challenge – they are very confident. But we should never underestimate the important part of leadership which is the power of knowledge – and knowledge comes from experience.”

Millennial Leader

 “At Old Mutual we believe that empowering knowledge is two-fold,” Abrahams says.

It is vital, he adds, for the millennial leader to understand that it is “important to have goals and dreams”, but they must also receive the correct level of advice on how to reach these goals.

Abrahams says young millennial leaders coming through the ranks want to be empowered with knowledge, “but on their own terms, not on mine or anyone else’s.”

For this reason late last year Old Mutual launched an online presence in the form of what they call “Moneyversity”. This is where young leaders who are interested in financial services can go and learn the basics about, for example, exactly what a pension fund is.

This is one way Old Mutual empowers young millennials with knowledge, but on their own terms.

Old Mutual Programs

There are also other ways in which Old Mutual empowers the leaders of tomorrow. One of these involves its “GAP” programme in which Old Mutual takes graduates from university and gives them an 18-month contract with Old Mutual. This gives them the opportunity to see and understand what Old Mutual is all about – first hand. After this 18-month period they are empowered to make a career decision, and according to Abrahams many have come through the programme and gone on to become an integral part of the company.

Then there is also the Old Mutual Foundation Education Project where, from 2013 to 2019 Old Mutual will be pumping in R350 million in order to improve secondary schools, specifically focussing on Maths, Science and English.

The company also has a bursary trust fund, amongst other projects, to the value of R8-million, for actuarial and accounting students.

Asked why Old Mutual gets involved in projects of this nature, Abrahams’ reply is short and simple: “We have a responsibility to South Africa to ensure that we can become part of the fabric of the country – South Africa’s success is our success. We are dependent on the country being successful.”

Why the Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention

According to Abrahams, three years ago Old Mutual attended the Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention as delegates, and that is when it first appealed.

“What appealed to me the most was the audience. It became quite real how a group of young dynamic leaders came together and were extremely hungry for knowledge, but at the same time open to debate in an open forum, but yet they were keen to take knowledge back to bolster themselves and ultimately make – or want to make – a difference,” Abrahams says.

He continues: “It was very empowering for myself personally, but also to see such high calibre leaders come in and want to make a difference is what pushed us to take up the full sponsorship.”

From more of a business perspective, Abrahams feels Old Mutual can assist greatly in terms of supporting future leaders by promoting things such as responsible business. Part of being a good leader is being able to plan, and planning your future is what Old Mutual is about.

“We feel we can add value to the future leaders, by adding value on how to plan for the future or when they start their new business. We want to empower them and give them the correct level of advice in order for their dreams to become reality.”

Message to the delegates

To those attending or planning to attend the convention, Abrahams says: “We find ourselves in a difficult position in South Africa where there has been a lot of negativity around leadership, our economy and our political landscape – what we want is for our future leaders to come to the Old Mutual Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention with their energy and breath some positivity back into the country.”

He continues: “There will be plenty of open debate so that we can all learn from each other.  Attendees will leave with knowledge, but they will also have opportunities to share their thoughts and opinions, and this excites me.”

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