Doyle is bringing his own shoes to fill
Any successor to Marius Smith, who will retire as MD of life assurance group Metropolitan Life at the end of April, would find it difficult to fill his shoes.
Since his 1990 appointment, Smith has driven Metlife's pioneering empowerment programme - it was one of the first to become part of a black group under New Africa Investments Limited - restructured the group and consistently produced excellent results.
Peter Doyle, senior general manager, corporate business, has been given the challenge but is philosophical, saying he intends bringing his own shoes.
On meeting Doyle, who is self-effacing and appears much younger than he is, it comes as a surprise that he is the same person whose actuarial model to predict the growth of AIDS is acknowledged and used internationally.
Doyle was born in Vereeniging and educated at Grey College in the Free State. His association with Metlife goes back to 1975, when he was awarded a bursary to study business science, majoring in actuarial science and economics, at UCT. His first lecture, given by Sandra van der Merwe, opened his eyes to the possibilities of combining his actuarial knowledge with business management.
After UCT, Doyle worked in London for a year, and then started at Metlife. "I assumed I would leave as soon as I repaid my bursary, but there was such interesting work to do."
At Metlife, Doyle has, at various stages, been responsible for many areas, giving him the basis he needs to be MD.
After extensive actuarial experience, he became general manager, finance in 1988, and in 1990 he was put in charge of information technology and strategic planning. In 1995, he became responsible for some new divisions, including employee benefits, Metlife Health Services, credit life and consumer marketing.
Doyle says although he only takes over in April, the announcement has been made now "in order to implement wider changes to Metlife's organisational structure" and to allow him a transition period.
Asked if he has been groomed for the post, Doyle says: "I have not aspired to this position per se, but have always pushed at the edges of what I do. I have always been very comfortable with Marius's leadership style."
Doyle will not merely fulfil a caretaker role. "It definitely won't be business as usual, particularly as the financial services sector itself is undergoing huge change."
Doyle says Willem Pretorius, the MD for eight years to 1990, consolidated the merger of Homes Trust and Metropolitan to form the basis of today's group and put in core financial and admin controls.
Smith gave it a more market-orientated focus and moved it away from Sanlam's control to a black empowerment partner.
Doyle says Metlife is coming off a sound base, has a huge actuarial surplus, is well established in its markets and is part of a well positioned group. "Now the market is changing and mega groups are developing world-wide. That immediately creates in its wake the opportunity to focus in niche market segments.
"We are already a large financial services group but we have and will create businesses which compete in different markets. Our unit trust company is one of the top performers, we have started health and employee benefits divisions and an asset management company."
Doyle says his wife Ellen and four children "are what keep me sane and provide balance". They climb together in the Cape mountains and have travelled extensively in southern Africa.
Since 1989 Doyle has been actively involved in AIDS research and education, has been on various committees, come up with the AIDS statistical model and been part of Metlife's launch of the first life product for HIV-infected people. He has also been on the council of the Actuarial Society of SA and is involved in the private Christian school his children attend.