Insurance companies come in many sizes and specialize in different policy lines, from health to life to property & casualty. They are important players in the global financial economy, although they may not be as flashy as investment banks or hedge funds. Reunion Insurance Company Ltd. is one such reputable Malawian Insurance company with a great professional record that efficiently handles claims, underwriting and all other areas of operation in the Insurance Industry. Dorothy Chapeyama is the Co-Founder & CEO of Reunion Insurance Company Ltd. which was founded in 2005.
Dorothy’s career started with Commercial Union Assurance Company plc in 1984 when she picked a job as an Underwriter straight from university until 2005 when the company withdrew from the Malawi market, and she rose to the position of Acting General Manager for the company’s Malawi Branch then. She is a Chartered Insurer by profession and an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute (UK). Dorothy has some outstanding achievements and attributes on record that represent her positive contribution in the insurance industry and the nation at large. She is one such personality who has distinguished herself in society through insurance service, mentorship, selflessness, job creation, corporate social responsibilities, and other outstanding contributions through which the lives of many have been touched positively.
Success and greatness come from inspiring others
Dorothy believes success is about inspiring others to achieve their full potential by giving them a platform to shine. In the insurance industry, there are so many brilliant young men and women who are raring to bring about much-needed transformation. These young men and women are just waiting in the wings for their chance to take the industry by storm. From the word go, Dorothy says it has been her objective to give necessary exposure to these youngsters so that they can realize their full potential for the betterment of their company. At Reunion Insurance Company, they have one of the youngest management teams bubbling with brilliant ideas to move the firm forward.
She also believes in achieving success through the adoption of stakeholder approach. “Success is all about meeting the realistic expectations of all stakeholders like shareholders, employees, customers, regulators, etc. This is what our firm is trying to achieve in order to attain a sustainable competitive advantage in our market. Success becomes automatic once expectations of all stakeholders are met,” says Dorothy.
The growth of Reunion Insurance under Dorothy’s exceptional leadership
Reunion Insurance Company started as a small insurance firm with just a handful of employees and humble offices some seventeen years ago. Their head office was accommodated in a rented building. However, as they have been growing, their head office is now being accommodated in a spacious building they purchased using their own resources. The numbers of employees, branches and satellites have increased exponentially. The market share is on increase. The profitability level is also on the rise.
“We are hoping to keep on flourishing in the market notwithstanding the current economic turbulence. Current staff compliment is at 67 from initially 10 employees, and we are operating from 11 branches spread across the country from initially 2 branches,” Dorothy explains.
Challenges help you grow
“Just like a diamond is created with high temperatures and high amounts of pressure so is business success through challenges. So yes, challenges indeed make one stronger. Challenges have been a source of inspiration in my professional journey,” states Dorothy.
She says she has encountered so many challenges in her professional journey that she claims they could have forced her into premature capitulation but she has persisted over the years. One of the significant roadblocks she says she has encountered was competition from established and reputable competitors. She had to compete with companies that had been in the industry for decades and could influence the direction of the insurance market. They were tough competitors that could not be dismissed with the waving of a hand. However, these challenges were considered as sources of the impetus for the firm to grow from scratch.
“It has never been easy as a new entrant in our market. The most valuable lesson I learned from this competition is that patience always pays if one is strategic. We had to be unique in order to attract customers naturally regardless of the overwhelming competition. It was important for us to identify our target market and satisfy its needs better than the competition,” she states
Dorothy further says that in her professional journey she has learned that it is always important to adapt to business dynamics. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired them in their organization that technology is important for the business to withstand unforeseen shocks. The direction they have now taken is a technologically driven business. Technology is supposed to take a leading role in all technical operations like claims, underwriting, distribution, marketing, risk management, etc.
Dorothy’s professional achievements
Dorothy holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accountancy) degree and a Master of Business Administration (University of Malawi). Over her professional journey, she has been decorated with several awards:
In 2016 she was declared Country, Regional and Continental winner of Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government (Insurance sector) by CEO Global, RSA. She has also been decorated with awards like “Best Women of the year (2018)” and “CEO of the year (2018)” by CEO Today (UK) and the Finance Monthly Magazine (UK) respectively.
Dorothy also holds an Honorary Doctorate Degree awarded by the Commonwealth University in 2018, and in 2019 she was named by Reset Global People as one of the 2019 Top 100 Women CEOs in Africa; a ranking that highlights and recognizes the accomplishments of women CEOs from across the continent. Recently she received a 2022 Woman of Substance Award representing the Insurance Association of Malawi, and the Insurance CEO of the Year 2022 Award, by the Pan African Growth and Learning Centre and Global Banking and Finance, respectively. She also ranked among the top 50 Women Insurance Professionals in Insurance in Africa when she received an award on 27th June 2022 during the annual African Insurers Organisation (AIO) Conference in Kenya.
Work responsibilities after becoming CEO of Reunion Insurance
After working for twenty years in insurance, the company that Dorothy was working for withdrew from the market, rendering her jobless. She then mobilized colleagues and started a new company which she promoted and incorporated in May 2005 as Reunion Insurance Company Limited (REUNION) and licensed by the registrar of financial institutions in June 2005. Since then she has been the major shareholder of the company.
As CEO of Reunion Insurance Company Limited, Dororthy, who defines herself as an ‘industrious’ person states that her role is to oversee the operations of the company at both strategic and functional levels and she acts as a link between the Board of Governors and Management of the Company.
It is naïve for one to think that a dream can be fulfilled overnight. “The most important thing is that we are moving majestically towards the right direction. The best is yet to come from the company with our youthful team and brilliant minds, the sky is no longer the limit, we are looking beyond the sky. There are so many areas in which we can improve. We need to enhance our drive for diversification in order to have a balanced business portfolio,” states Dorothy.
Future plans for Reunion Insurance
“We have so many plans for the company to reach the levels it deserves to be. Our immediate plan is to achieve diversification so that we can no longer rely heavily on a single class of business,” Dorothy says. She further states that they need to have their presence in the areas in which significant business can be generated. The company can complement the Malawian economy which is agro-based if it delves into agri-business.
“This is a dream that we would like to pursue in the near future, God willing,” she exclaims.
Life is meaningful if it is balanced
We assume different roles in society which we are supposed to carry out with amazing virtuosity and ingenuity. Dorothy is a family woman, a devoted church member, and insurance professional. She says that she needs to carry all these responsibilities to the best of her ability and skill.
Leading a balanced life is all about planning and dedication. “I am dedicated to whatever I do to attain positive outcomes and I ensure none of my roles suffers because of the other,” she states.
Great leaders achieve through others
The success behind every enterprise is by motivating the support system. The employees are integral support systems who should be motivated consistently. These employees need to be motivated by involving them in critical decisions that concern them. “At Reunion Insurance, we take a participatory approach in both management and operations. The company tries to meet the expectations of the employees as much as possible as they are the hub of our business performance,” says Dorothy.
“Aspiring entrepreneurs should understand that a start-up business is quite challenging, particularly in this country whereby capital is very scarce and no one is ready to finance business ideas. It can make one give up,” Dorothy explains. When the business has taken off, there are so many bottlenecks that creep around from everywhere. The market turns into a battlefield for competitors.
She advises that it is important for aspiring entrepreneurs to have a vision and stick to it regardless of the challenges they may encounter on the way. It is important for young entrepreneurs to strike the right network cord for them to achieve their goals. Confidence, hardworking and perseverance with planning play an important role in entrepreneurship.