STEPHEN CRANSTON: Dismantling a megalith, possible ways forward for Alexander Forbes
New CEO Dawie de Villiers has the unenviable task of deciding which assets to keep as core and which to dispose of from the former iconic financial institution
Alexander Forbes was a unique South African success story, perhaps even that overused term “national champion”. It was for many years in the top 10 businesses of its kind globally, a peer of insurance and employee benefits brokers such as Marsh & McLennan, Aon and what is now Willis Towers Watson. The likes of Old Mutual and Standard Bank wouldn’t even be in the top 100 businesses of their kind in the world. Alexander Forbes is one of the undoubted successes of Sanlam’s diversification strategy; for years it was controlled by the life office through Federale Volksbeleggings. It was once known as Price Forbes Federale Volkskas or PFV. Forbes acquired a good Lloyds insurance broker, Nelson Hurst, in 1997, and was even tempted to rename itself the Nelson Group at the height of Madiba’s presidency. But when it lost the rights to the Price Forbes name it change the group’s name to Alexander Forbes. This was originally just the name of the pension administration and consulting unit. By 20...