Old Mutual to reduce unemployment through empowerment

Tassius Chigariro was named as Old Mutual Namibia CEO 1 January 2021 replacing Kosmas Egumbo who took up a new position as executive responsible for the Life Insurance and Asset Management companies across the rest of Africa. Chigariro talks to Observer Money about his journey and experiences in Namibia so far.

Observer Money (OM): What led you to become the CEO of Old Mutual Namibia, and what motivates you to succeed in this role?
Tassius Chigariro (TC): Why did I come to Namibia? The short answer is that my bosses asked me, and I said yes without hesitation. It was an absolute honour to be considered for the role. I saw the bigger vision and the impact my experience and leadership style could have on this growing country with massive potential.

(OM): How has your experience and leadership style evolved over the course of your career, and what lessons have you learned along the way?
(TC): I had my first opportunity to lead a large team when I was only 29 years old, and it did not take very long for me to realise I was very bad at it. Being smart and intelligent does not guarantee that one will become a successful leader. I have grown immensely as a leader over the last two decades. My greatest lesson in leadership is that “the one with the most answers is not necessarily the best leader, a leader needs others to succeed”.

(OM): How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends and changes, and what strategies do you use to keep Old Mutual Namibia ahead of the curve?
(TC): Nobody can really say they keep up with this fast-moving world, where yesterday’s pace is the fastest we have ever seen, and yet, it is the slowest we shall ever see. Leaders of today need to keep learning by reading, watching and observing daily developments in the economy. There are everyday successes and failures providing “on the moment MBAs” which provide immense learning and growth. I thrive to frequently learn something new. At Old Mutual, we have a long history of success and conquering different challenges along our journey. Our strategy is therefore very simple: to keep evolving as yesterday’s success is not a guarantee of tomorrow’s success.

(OM): How does Old Mutual Namibia contribute to the economic development and growth of Namibia, and what initiatives do you have in place to support the local community?
(TC): Old Mutual is a business whose strength lies within its communities, we therefore constantly strive to have our voice and presence on most matters that concern our communities such as poverty, inequalities, climate change, financial inclusion and education. We support the economic development and growth of Namibia through the Old Mutual Foundation, which is our corporate social responsibility investment vehicle. Our foundation has three focus pillars namely, Education and Skills Development (such as the Old Mutual Women’s Summit), Financial Well-being (such as the Namibian Scholars’ Investment Challenge) and Community Development (such as the Disaster Relief fund), just to mention a few examples.

(OM): What are some of the biggest challenges facing the financial services industry in Namibia, and how is Old Mutual Namibia addressing these challenges?
(TC): COVID-19 was a big challenge to our industry, a lot of our customers could not make it, but we were still there to deliver the promise we made to them years and decades before: to be a certain friend in the most uncertain times. A persistent universal challenge is the squeeze of disposable income for our customers due to high inflation and significant unemployment putting massive burden on the few privileged to have a job. Old Mutual aims to reduce unemployment by empowering more entrepreneurs and empowering the youth through our Old Mutual Sustainable, Economic and Empowerment Drive (OM SEED). The OM SEED empowered 180 youth and women entrepreneurs across all regions of Namibia with skills in sustainable business practices resulting in the three winners per region being awarded additional capital for their business.

(OM): How do you prioritize and balance the needs of your customers, shareholders, and employees at Old Mutual Namibia?
(TC): That’s an easy priority, where there are no customers, you will not find any shareholders or employees. Customers are the reason why we start businesses and if they are not prioritised, you will soon have an empty shop. All great businesses are standing on the shoulders of their customers. However, our customers are not serviced by robots, it is our employees, and they need to be valued and looked after so that they can look after the customers. We appreciate our shareholders, although they are in pursuit of profits, they understand that you can only make profits when you have motivated employees that look after the most valuable asset, the customer.

(OM): What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the financial services industry, and what skills do you believe are essential for success in this field?
(TC): My advice is that financial well-being is the biggest catalyst to a successful life for any human being. Therefore, this is as important career as those good doctors saving our lives every day.

(OM): Outside of work, what are some of your hobbies and interests, and how do you find time to pursue them while also leading a busy organisation?
(TC): We all have 24 hours and within it, we have to manage that scarce resource in order to be successful. There are a few things I enjoy, family, reading, traveling and golf, almost in that order and I force myself to fit these into my busy work schedule whilst trying to do the job that I love so much. Waking up early to read, dedicating weekends to family and taking family holidays at every opportunity keeps me balanced.

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