Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Sikalesele-Vaka bullish despite Bramer scandal

Bramer Life Insurance Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Regina Sikalesele-Vaka has expressed confidence that her business, Bramer Life Insurance, will remain profitable in the long run despite a crippling scandal involving her parent company in Mauritius. In an interview with Sunday Standard last week, Sikalesele-Vaka said the goings-on in Mauritius will not have any impact on the local business because Bramer Life Insurance is an independent company registered under the laws of Botswana and regulated by NBFIRA. 

“We were issued with a license after due diligence and a thorough vetting process that took close to a year. Our business operates independently from any of the sister companies in Mauritius. We have a separate Board of Directors and management team that runs the Botswana operation,” she said.

Her statement comes in the wake of a confirmation by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) that it has instituted cautionary measures against Bramer Life Insurance Limited, following recent developments in Mauritius in which the Reserve Bank of Mauritius revoked the banking licence of Bramer Banking Corporation.

This past week, the regulator appointed Nigel Warren-Dixon of KPMG as Statutory Manager of Bramer Life Insurance (Pty) Ltd in line with the NBFIRA Act. Last week the Central Bank of Mauritius suspended the trading in shares of Bramer Banking Corp. and revoked the lender’s license after it found ‘evidence’ of a Ponzi scheme.

Reports indicate that the Central Bank pulled Bramer’s license after it found strong evidence that the company was engaged in a Ponzi scheme that exceeded $690 million. Mauritian Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth was quoted in the media saying investigations were underway to determine the depth of the ‘unprecedented financial scandal.’

The lender came under scrutiny after an on-site examination conducted between Jan. 22 and Feb. 20 uncovered a ‘number of significant deficiencies,’ among them ‘large withdrawals of deposits’ that affected its liquidity and capital. Bramer Life Insurance is a subsidiary of Bramer Group of Companies, which is wholly owned by BAI Co, a licensed insurer in Mauritius.

Sikalesele-Vaka said Bramer Life was never involved in the operations or decisions of the Mauritius-based bank and is not accountable for the events unfolding there.

“Yes, we enjoyed the advantage of being part of a parent company because we leveraged on the strength of the brand to penetrate the market. Unfortunately, in this case the brand will affect Bramer Life negatively,” said Sikalesele-Vaka.

She further explained that Bramer Life Insurance is in charge of its operations and has never relied on Bramer Banking Corporation to generate profitability. While she admitted that the liquidation of Bramer Banking Corporation will have a negative impact on the Bramer brand, Sikalesele-Vaka said it will not affect the profitability of Bramer Life.

“The most significant risk in this case is brand association because we carry the same name. Other than that, Bramer Life is autonomous; it runs its operations from Botswana and will be able to move forward even if Bramer Banking Corp is liquidated,” she said.

“We were fortunate because this incident was discovered earlier; a later discovery might have had more serious implications. We are working closely with NBFIRA to take appropriate action to ensure that the public interest is protected.”

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