Written by Staff Writer
“It was the most stressful period we have ever had to experience, not just myself as a CFO but the team in finance and the company,” Bajabulile Mthiyane, CFO at Sasria, told the CFOClub podcast.
Sasria, the state-owned short-term insurer specialising in civil commotion, public disorder, riots, strikes and terrorism risk, faced insolvency after the 2021 riots.
“We could see that if we were to go out and start paying these claims, in a couple of months, even weeks, we are going to be bankrupt. We won’t be able to meet our liabilities.”
In this week’s CFOClub podcast, Bajabulile reflects on leading a team through a crisis.
An insurer’s worst nightmare
“The looting was such an unfortunate and sad turn of events,” said Bajabulile. “South Africa was set back by about R50 billion because of the damages to property and looting.”
Bajabulile Mthiyane CFO at Sasria, is referring to the unrest in July 2021, which occurred across multiple provinces and saw malls and other infrastructure, particularly in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal destroyed. It was not only a national crisis, it deeply impacted Sasria’s balance sheet and moralemoralle.
“National Treasury did not commit to a bailout there and then,” says Bajabulile. During this time Bajubule recalls how stressful it was for staff because they realised the claims would make them insolvent, and people feared for their jobs.
“We had just over R10 billion, which is what we had invested in the market, but there was R32 billion worth of damage (claimed). What were we going to do?
National Treasury later invested R22 billion into the Sasria to meet solvency requirements and address the claims.
Past experience shaped Bajabulile’s leadership
Before the injection from Treasury, the staff were deeply affected. “I must say that the morale went down. However, the commitment of the people and the love they have for this country, they got their hands dirty and here we are, we are still standing.”
Situations of crisis require leadership, earlylier in the podcast Bajabulile reflected on how her diverse career path shaped her leadership style.
“It has been a very exciting career path I’ve had to follow in the last 26 years. I cannot lie to you and say that it was preplanned, not at all, but when I look at my career, it’s so fulfilling and with great experiences, both in the public sector, private sector and parts of it as an entrepreneur.”
It’s shaped me into the leader I am today, leading people in the insurance industry.
Rebuilding after the crisis
“Today Sasria is solvent, we are meeting our solvency capital requirements, we are liquid, we are stronger and the people of South Africa…the malls that were damaged, they have been restored, people have their jobs back. It’s a good story to tell.”
You can listen to the full interview with Bajabulile Mthiyane here