Empowerment drive in top gear
AS THE largest black-controlled short-term insurance broking company in Africa, Thebe Hosken has been making big strides in the empowerment arena.
Managing director Chris Sounes says: "Having shareholders like Thebe Investment Corporation has allowed us to become the most credible black-owned insurance brokers in all sectors of the insurance market. It has also enabled us to closely examine our employment equity and ensure that our ratios are among the highest in the financial services industry."
At present, 42% of Thebe Hosken's employees are black - a jump from 24% in 1995.
The group's target is to lift the number of black employees to 70% by the year 2000.
Says Sounes: "If you look at the traditional insurance market, black people have battled to come through the ranks and to be accepted by the insurance-buying community.
"Our difficulty is to get customers to accept change and to make sure our staff get the support and training needed to do well in their jobs.
"Insurance broking is a relationship business. We have been promoting our black staff, but it takes time for them to develop relationships with both customers and insurers.
"If this was just a technical business, everything would be done on a screen and there would be no problems."
Thebe Hosken already spends 1% of its annual revenues, as well as much time and effort, on staff training and developing young black graduates.
"Although our empowerment drive is costly, we are fortunate that our shareholders are committed to helping us achieve our targets," says Sounes.
Thebe Hosken's empowerment drive is not limited to racial lines. Thebe Benefits Consultants, for example, prides itself on the fact that 50% of its directors and senior management are women.