In 2003, Gaffar Hassam joined Botswana Life Insurance Limited (BLIL), a subsidiary of Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited (BIHL), as Finance Manager and BIHL Company Secretary. He rose through the ranks at BLIL over the years, serving as Head of Finance and Actuarial Services, Chief Operating Officer and Group Finance and Operations Officer. Fast forward to December 2011, Hassam was appointed Group CEO of BIHL and became a member of the Board of Directors.
His emphasis was on stabilizing and streamlining the businesses of BIHL from a leadership point of view. Four years later, Hassam has once again been elevated in the BIHL Group hierarchy, this time being deployed to a challenging role at Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) as Group Executive for business in Southern African countries such as Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
In an interview with Sunday Standard to get his views on the local financial services sector, Hassam said he believes the sector needs to work with government and champion sustainable educational initiatives to strengthen financial literacy in the country. He added that it is important for players in the financial services space to work together, especially regulatory bodies and public and private enterprises.
“This is for further growth and support of a fair and competitive industry and a robust economic environment that will benefit Botswana and the region,” said Hassam.
He added that as a listed entity in the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), BIHL Group was incredibly fortunate to have enjoyed a positive relationship with the stock exchange and other stakeholders.
“This robust and healthy relationship continues to date. As much time is invested in ensuring that strong stakeholder relations are in place with all our regulators,” he said.
Highlighting the Group’s current challenges, Hassam said the economic climate and trading environment are not very favorable for business, together with fragile global growth and an increasingly competitive market. However, he expressed confidence in the Group’s strategy, saying it will enable them to overcome the challenges.
“We are confident in our twin strategies of profit and growth and the strength in numbers driving the wider BIHL Group – our human capital, our experience, our passion and our heritage,” he said.
While an increasingly competitive market is always challenging, said Hassam, it helps to ensure that all players fight to be the best and offer the best.
“This helps strengthen the industry as a whole and benefits the economy, the consumer and the investor,” he said.
Hassam further pointed out that he was fortunate to join the BIHL family, where he was welcomed by an incredibly supportive board and board chair, which adhere to the highest corporate governance principles.
“The BIHL board is largely made up of independent directors. BIHL is a business that, at is very heart, is about people. Our staff, our customers and clients as well as our wider stakeholders across the board,” he stated.
He added that the company started forty years ago with a focus on people, and people remain at the heart of who BIHL is and what BIHL does. Meanwhile, the Group is yet to appoint a substantive CEO for its subsidiary Botswana Life Insurance Limited (BLIL), a position that was left vacant after Catherine Lesetedi-Letegele was elevated to the BIHL Group’s top post. Also, a substantive CEO is yet to be appointed at Botswana Insurance Fund Management (Bifm), where Neo Bogatsu has been holding the fort in an acting capacity after the departure of Tiny Kgatlwane.