Lesley Ndlovu: An intelligent and down to earth Leader with exceptional knowledge and skills in the financial sector

Africa's 10 Most Empowering Business Leaders to Follow in 2024

Lesley Ndlovu has extensive international experience spanning 14 years across corporate finance, audit, tax advisory, insurance and investment management sectors in several countries including Bermuda, Singapore, France, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Lesley is the Chief Executive Officer of African Risk Capacity Ltd (ARC), a specialized insurance company that provides parametric insurance coverage against weather-related risks such as droughts, floods and tropical cyclones. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the UN Principles of Sustainable Insurance and the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. Under his leadership ARC underwrote the largest insurance pool in the history of the company, providing insurance coverage to 30 million Africans who are vulnerable to the devastating effects of natural disasters.

Lesley is a graduate from the University of Oxford in England and at the Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD) in France. He is a CFA charter holder, a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales and a member of the Institute of Directors.

African Risk Capacity Limited (ARC Ltd.) and its services

African Risk Capacity Limited is a hybrid mutual insurer and financial affiliate of the ARC Group, headquartered in Bermuda. It was launched in 2014 to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of African communities vulnerable to climate change-induced natural disasters through pioneering disaster risk management solutions.

“We use innovative financing mechanisms to pool climate risk and transfer it to international risk markets. By transferring the risk away from the governments of our member states and their nations, we assist these countries to better plan and respond to catastrophes and to become more resilient,” explains Lesley.

Insurance as an industry doesn’t always have the best reputation especially when people believe their claim has been denied unfairly using some obscure clause written in fine print. However, with the work that done at ARC, they are re-writing the script as heroes of the epic because they are using their expertise to protect people from the impact of climate change.

In the next five years, ARC Ltd. want to provide disaster protection across Africa to cover the estimated 200 million vulnerable people, who are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts, and whose economic activities are being severely disrupted. They are working hard on mainstreaming disaster risk financing on the continent and believe that all countries should have a national strategy to finance the devastation that natural disasters cause.

Lesley’s Inspiration to Join African Risk Capacity Limited (ARC Ltd.)

Lesley states that he was at the stage of his career where he was ready to make a difference and was drawn to the idea of using his knowledge, skills, and experience in international finance for the greater good. ARC is a mission driven organization with a mandate to protect Africans from the vagaries of climate change.

Prior to joining ARC, Lesley had spent over a decade working in corporate finance, investment management, and insurance in Bermuda, Singapore, Paris and London. His focus was on generating spectacular returns for shareholders, but ARC is different because the focus is on creating innovative solutions that benefit communities.

A Humble Start in The Financial Sector to Eventually Thriving as a Leader

Lesley claims to have had an eclectic career but always in the financial services sector. His first job out of university was with Deloitte and he became a Chartered Accountant. This grounding gave Lesley a unique insight into financial statements and understanding how businesses make money.

A couple of years later Lesley joined an investment management company in Bermuda where he was responsible for managing global fixed income portfolios. “Fixed income management is very mathematical and requires a very analytical mind plus a dose of humility because you are going to be wrong about things – by a lot and often,” he explains. Lesley further states that he was eventually promoted into management, firstly as a Chief Investment Officer in Singapore and then working his way to becoming a CEO of a specialty insurance company in London.

“I have worked with several like-minded CEOs through the United Nations for Principles of Sustainability to really drive the sustainability agenda. The best recognition always comes from my team that have been with me on this journey from the beginning,” states Lesley.

Purpose is the secret behind success

Lesley’s leadership style is about purpose that drives action. “I strongly believe that every enterprise must be organized around its massive transformative purpose, and this is what should drive all its activities,” he says.

At ARC, Lesley has defined success in terms of the number of people that we are able to offer insurance coverage to in the face of an increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters due to climate change. ARC has managed to achieve a 3x increase in the number of people covered by their programs in the past few years and are planning to further scale up.

“I am immensely proud of the outstanding team of top-notch professionals that we have assembled to achieve our mission, their innovation and commitment inspires me every day,” Lesley exclaims.

Every Challenge Is an Opportunity for Growth

Lesley strongly believes that challenges make you stronger. “Challenges give you an opportunity to pause, reflect and learn,” he states.

“My career has been about change – I have moved around countries, working in different cultures, languages, and values. At each step I have had to spend time to understand the context and reinvent myself to be effective at achieving the results I sought, all without losing my authenticity,” he further adds.

Being An Influential Impact on The Next Generation of Leaders

Lesley believes that the only way to make one’s vision last is to find people who are better than you and infuse them with your thoughts and ideas.

“At ARC, we have managed to put together a group of talented young Africans who are interested in making a lasting impact on the continent. We trust our people with very interesting and challenging assignments which allows them to grow and develop into future leaders,” he proudly states.

Daily Routine & Work-Life Balance as a Chief Executive Officer

Lesley defines himself as a ‘Driven’ person.

Lesley has a fun daily routine. “I wakes up every day with a spring in my step and a song in my head, pre-occupied with how I can do what I do faster and better. My obsession is scaling up insurance coverage to eventually cover 200 million Africans, this is my Big Hairy Audacious Goal and I organize my professional line around this vision,” he states.

Lesley is an avid long-distance runner, so a typical day is a 10km run before his family wakes up, a quick cup of coffee, take the kids to school and then be at his desk by 8:30am to start the day. His workday is dominated by meeting people – investors, partners, colleagues. “In all my interactions, I try to impart my enthusiasm to everyone to meet,” he asserts.

Achieving balance is Lesley’s single biggest challenge because he travels extensively, and this takes his away from his family, his beautiful wife Judy, and their young children Zena (9 years) and Vusi (8 years). “My family keeps me grounded,” he states.

Lesley believes that leadership is fun and creates the perfect platform to drive one’s vision therefore keep striving. His personal goals are intricately linked to his professionals – make insurance more available, accessible, and affordable to cover 200 million people per year across Africa.