About a year after David Munro was parachuted into the CEO position at Liberty, he is starting to resolve the numerous issues at the life insurance and asset management group. The biggest problem was that Liberty was virtually giving away its insurance business on a margin of 0.4%. With repricing of products and tighter expense management, this has increased to 0.7% in the six months to June, still below both the internal target of 1%-1.5% and the 2.5% levels enjoyed by Old Mutual and Sanlam. But the margin improvement was enough to increase SA Retail’s earnings 18% to R704m. Higher prices contributed to the decline in sales, with new recurring premiums down 2% to R3.3bn and new single premiums down 6% to R10.6bn. Almost as important as margin is the ability to retain business, and there was a change here as net client cash flows turned from a negative R665m to a positive R262m. A real growth in sales was never on the cards. But Munro’s boss, Standard Bank CEO Sim Tshabalala, is not...

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