Karabo Morule. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Karabo Morule. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

A new generation of management is taking over at Old Mutual. Leading the charge is Karabo Morule, who at just 34 is responsible for its huge personal finance segment. Morule was appointed MD of the division a year ago.

Morule is the first black female actuary to sit on the Old Mutual SA executive committee. When she matriculated from Roedean in 1999, with five distinctions, she was offered a bursary from Old Mutual and Eskom. But in the end it was financial services tycoon Ray Cadiz who funded her studies.

Her actuarial qualifications would push her towards life insurance. Old Mutual demutualised in 1999 — which is also the year in which she matriculated. The group was on the brink of what looked like an exciting international expansion.

But Morule resisted the traditional route of insurance valuations and joined JPMorgan, first in Johannesburg and later in London. When the market for securitised products fell after the global financial crisis, Morule felt it was time to come home.

Ralph Mupita, who later rose to head the Old Mutual Emerging Markets business, snapped her up in 2010 and she was appointed strategy & marketing executive of the retail affluent segment. Strategy & marketing for the segment was a self-standing function reporting to Mupita; however, many of the marketing resources were buried in distribution.

Morule then moved to the somewhat less funky world of member solutions in the corporate (employee benefits) segment. She was responsible for introducing customer-centricity into the business.

She says one of the most rewarding experiences she had was serving as a trustee of the Old Mutual SuperFund, the giant 600,000-strong umbrella fund, a merger of the old Orion, Evergreen and Protektor funds.

"One of my tasks was to improve customer data and start to use it more effectively, not least to identify holistic needs ... It also meant giving members easier access to advice, or at least telephonic assistance."

Old Mutual runs separate businesses for the top, middle and bottom of the market but Morule says there are product overlaps. She says her unit needs to develop a more comprehensive funeral product, borrowing from the mass market, and recognising the changing demographics of the middle tier.

Morule says she has joined a strong team, and believes that Old Mutual has a unique, trusted position. There is some uncertainty in the market as new regulations such as the retail distribution review are introduced. "But these changes should improve the level of service to customers and the professionalism in the industry," Morule says.

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