Staff writer KABELO ADAMSON insists that Botswana Life CEO Catherine Lesetedi-Letegele towered over peers this year with her astute leadership and a knack to deliver value for investors and hence deserves the crown of Business Leader of the Year.
Catherine Lesetedi-Letegele is an embodiment of commitment, hard work and a perfect case study of being rewarded for such. She is seen as a quintessence of a celebrated company executive. Not only has she taken Botswana Life to a new high level, she has equally won over the confidence of her Board to promote her to become the group CEO of Botswana Insurance Holding Limited (BIHL) becoming the second woman and local to hold the position. She assumes this position on March 1, 2016.
Letegele was appointed Botswana Life CEO in 2010, taking over from Reginah Sikalesele-Vaka and pursued a path of growth anchored on product innovation, enhanced customer service and a never-say-die spirit of harnessing excellence in everything. She has risen through the ranks at Botswana Life having joined the company as Head, Corporate and High Value Broker Business responsible for new business sales and client relations. Her results talk volumes. In 2011, the company wrote 50 percent of the insurance industry’s Gross Written Premium, both general and life underwriters.
Business depreciated in 2012 as challenges of slow economic recovery were felt hence the operating profit suffering a decrease of 3 percent to P239.5 million. But Botswana Life stabilised its life insurance system which kept clients regularly updated. In the year ended December 2013, the life insurance business operating profit increased by 15 percent from P239.5 million to P275.7 million while costs per policy were reduced by 15 percent. This year the life insurance grew 17 percent year-on-year, with profit growing from P162 million to P188 million. The company assets have also more than doubled during her tenure from around P3 billion to over P8 billion in four years.
Board chairperson’s praises
BIHL Group chairperson, Batsho Dambe said when announcing the appointment of Letegele to the position of the group CEO that she has grown with the organisation and has the right expertise to take the group to the new level. “We have no doubt that Catherine has the experience, expertise and shear work ethic to lead BIHL into the future. Her performance at Botswana Life is testament to her abilities,” said Groth on the announcement of Letegele as BIHL CEO. Groth praised Letegele for her transformative leadership and having set the bar high. The BIHL’s long term approach is based on developing its people for the development of the organisation.
“The core of BIHL’s long-term approach to a sustainable organisation is to always draw on its “Strength in Numbers” principle. Here BIHL is describing more than just its financial strength, but something equally important – Its people. The constant development and investment into BIHL people will remain a core focus us. It is this depth of skill that we have been able to draw from in our appointments,” said Groth. The outgoing BIHL CEO, Hassam has used every opportunity available to praise Letegele for hard work and dedication towards her responsibilities.
She is the winner of the 2014 Most Influential Women in Business and Government Africa Award. “It is an award that makes me to wake up every morning to do more and the thing about the award is about influencing certain developments in the community, to uplift the lives of the marginalised populace,” she said of the award. She has also received the Sanlam Chief Executive Officer’s Eagle award in recognition of her achievement in growing the company’s corporate business market share. Letegele currently sits on the boards of ACHAP, FMRE and Funeral Service Group (FSG). She is also the sitting president of the Insurance Council of Botswana.
Her notable achievements
Letegele has overseen the introduction of the multiple distribution channels at Botswana Life and a fully-fledged call centre with the biggest and probably her flagship invention being the LifeRewards card which is popular among Botswana Life policy holders. Since inception, over 17 000 LifeRewards cards have been issued to the policy holders. The card allows Botswana Life clients to be paid claims and benefits directly into the card and uses it the same way as a debit card. The card has other benefits such as loyalty programme which comes with discounts from various merchants, health and travel benefits.
Botswana Life has also introduced policies such as Mosako Funeral Plan and a Premier life cover named Pinagare. Botswana Life’s market share is close to 80 percent. This alone comes with challenges as the pressure mounts to maintain the status quo and possibly build on those gains. Holding the largest portion of the market share does not literally translate into profits and Letegele said as a company they would continue launching products that are relevant in the market. She emphasized the need to meet the client demands first while the rest will take care of itself.
Who is Letegele?
She describes herself as a strategic thinker with entrepreneurial flair. When she is not consumed by work, she is involved in mentoring and coaching young ladies with the aim of producing good quality leaders. She is a busy woman with little limited social life. A selfless person that she is, her ambition is to share her skills, experience and knowledge with others. “I never imagine myself sitting at home doing nothing,” she said. Her passion on coaching has made her to take courses on the subject to advance her credentials and it appears this is something she will be doing even if after the corporate journey.
She always had the ambition to be a boardroom woman –a dream that grew during her university days when she used to read magazines such as the Cosmopolitan. “I came across a lot of women in the boardroom and I knew that it was my dream job, this made me to work hard towards that and I am very fortunate that people who gave me a break through showed faith in me,” she once said. She always believed she was destined for greater purpose, both in the board room and outside. She is a firm believer in teamwork and nurturing talent. Letegele also has a passion of giving back as she constantly donates to churches. Apart from reading all kinds of books, Letegele said away from her demanding schedule, she enjoys gardening and cooking. She is married with two kids.