Meet Noelene Reddy, BrightRock Processing Manager, whose view of life has changed for the better since a little stranger made her debut
As Processing Manager at BrightRock’s headquarters in Johannesburg, Noelene Reddy takes pride in ensuring that her team delivers quality work, on schedule.
But there was one particular project, late last year, that took a little longer than planned to see the light of day. And that was Noelene’s beautiful baby daughter, Ayva. “She just didn’t want to come out!” laughs Noelene.
But the wait, as it turned out, was worth it, for mom and “over-the-moon” dad, Ajay. Basking in the glow of first-time motherhood, Noelene calls Ayva a blessing and a miracle, and on top of all that, a tiny teacher of some very important lessons.
“I’m learning something new from her every day,” says Noelene. “There’s no manual that comes with a baby, so you have to take every day as it comes. She’s teaching me the value of patience. It’s been an amazing journey so far.”
For Noelene, the journey goes all the way back to the town of Merebank in KwaZulu-Natal, where she grew up with a dream of caring: she wanted to become a nurse.
In the meantime, after matriculating and moving up to Johannesburg, she took a temporary job in the mailroom at a health insurance company. She worked her way up the ladder and found a career for life, leading to a bright new path at BrightRock in 2012.
“Walking out of my comfort zone after 10 years in one company was a scary thought,” recalls Noelene. “But my immediate impression was, wow, so many opportunities in such a small company. I have never felt more welcomed. We have a dedicated bunch of people that day in and day out try to conquer the world.”
For Noelene, the BrightRock philosophy of loving change means hard work and sleepless nights, “but it’s worth it in the end, when the pieces of the puzzle come together.”
She relishes the opportunity to do things differently at BrightRock, by anticipating and staying ahead of the needs of clients and brokers.
“I like the fact that when we say we will make a plan, we do go out of our way to do so. And at the end of the day, we stick to what we promise people.”
So what does it to take to be a successful Processing Manager?
“Patience,” answers Noelene, after a moment’s thought. You have to listen carefully too, and you need to know the difference between being busy and being productive. You need to be able to take time to laugh, and to speak your mind even if you’re worried you might sound silly: “Sometimes your best ideas come out of random thoughts.”
But more than anything, feeling at home at BrightRock means being part of the family, and all the more so since little Avya became its brightest new addition.
Meet Lilly Govender, Processing Manager at BrightRock, whose love of bold, bright colours reflects her outlook on life
Now here’s a bright idea. Paint your walls green, and frame them with a swish of purple curtains. In the kitchen, try a splash of sunshine yellow, with red blinds to let the light in.
For Lilly Govender, Processing Manager at BrightRock, these are the colours of home. “It’s a happy place,” she says. “It makes people feel warm.”
As vibrant and upbeat as her interior decor, Lilly has always warmed to people. She grew up in Chatsworth, near Durban – “Little India, we called it” – and hoped to study nursing after school.
Instead, she took a diploma in marketing management, gaining hands-on experience as a promotions assistant at a hypermarket in the Pavilion shopping centre.
Her first full-time job was in customer service for a medical aid company, not quite nursing, but it certainly called for patience and a good ear.
“It taught me the importance of listening to people,” she says. “Even if they’re wrong. They just need to know that somebody has heard them.”
It was a skill that would prove even more vital when she moved into the field of life insurance, joining BrightRock, where her first role, she says with a chuckle, was “anything”. In practise, that meant a lot of processing and admin, specifically in the demanding arena of escalations.
“It’s a challenge. But when you get it right it’s like wow, we’ve done this, and it works. Every day I know I do help somebody, solving a case, or just getting back with an email.”
That same spirit of open communication is one of the reasons Lilly loves working at BrightRock: “Everyone in the company is listened to. Their ideas are heard. You really feel you’re a part of it.”
Away from the workspace, Lilly enjoys travelling, ideally to places that are the polar opposite of home. “I love seeing snow,” she says. “I like cold places.”
At the same time, she’s happy to admit, there’s no place like home, with its bold, bright mix of colours reflecting her attitude and outlook on life.
Meet Francois Wirth, Enterprise Systems Architect at BrightRock, whose gift for programming and developing helps to build the software that builds the company
For his 15th birthday, from his grandmother, Francois Wirth received a present that would forever change his life. A computer.
It was a Pentium 486, the blazingly-fast super-desktop device of its day, and it wasn’t long before Francois was prising it apart with a screwdriver.
He wanted to get a good look at its inner workings, the chips and circuits and wires that gave it the power to process information and solve complex problems. And then, he wanted to learn its language.
He started programming in Pascal, supplementing knowledge gleaned from books with computer science classes at school. A computer, he soon realised, is something more than a machine.
“It’s a piece of clay in your hands,” he says. “It’s a creative outlet that can accommodate anything your imagination can stretch to.”
By the time he matriculated, in 1995, he was a smart enough coder to land a job at the forefront of one of the most momentous changes in the history of South African business.
The switchover from the raucous manual system of floor-trading in the “bullpen” of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, to the fast and sleek automated electronic system, JET, or Johannesburg Equities Trading.
And today, after a stint in encryption technology and his own software consultancy, he’s found his niche at a high-tech company that loves change as much as he does. BrightRock.
Francois is an Enterprise Systems Architect, in charge of ensuring that the software systems on which BrightRock is built are powerful, flexible, and dynamic enough to meet the ever-changing needs of customers and brokers.
He likens his role to that of a city planner, who must make sure that the right buildings, fulfilling the right functions, are placed along the right streets. “For example, a hospital does one thing, and one thing only,” he says. “You wouldn’t book your car into a hospital, would you?”
Likewise, software systems are designed to perform specific functions, and work in tandem with other systems to form a cohesive, integrated whole – an electronic city that never sleeps. All of which puts great pressure on programmers and developers to come up with creative, hard-working solutions.
To an outsider, computer coding may appear to be a repetitive task, with a series of strict routines dictated by the mind of the machine. But as Francois explains: “If you do the same thing over and over, you look for better ways, until you reach a level of enlightenment. You need to have the inner drive to search for something new and creative. It’s no easy feat.”
That drive is the essence of change, reflecting the energy that drew Francois to BrightRock in the first place, and keeps him on his toes at the helm of an elite team he describes as “the Navy Seals”of BrightRock.
When he has time to unwind, Francois, a father of two, heads for the driving range, inspired by his 7-year-old son’s love of golf.
“I bought him a set of clubs as a present,” says Francois, “and then I thought, I may as well get myself a set as well.” After all, as Francois discovered, the right gift can change the way you see the world, and set you off on a path to a bright tomorrow.
Meet Ajay Dhani, BrightRock Processing Manager, whose formula for keeping cool under pressure is a handy lesson for us all
“Breathe,” says Ajay Dhani, Processing Manager at BrightRock, pausing to take a deep gulp of air before moving on to the next part of the mantra, “and listen.” Breathe, and listen.
It’s a lesson for living an even-tempered life, maintaining your equilibrium even when the tempests of change are swirling around you. Ajay learned the art while working in a call centre, at the foot of the ladder of the life insurance industry.
“When you’re dealing with a difficult customer,” he advises, “look at things from their point of view. Empathy is important. Don’t just listen, but listen completely.”
That ability to tune in to the other person’s wavelength has also helped to sharpen Ajay’s natural skills as a leader, going all the way back to his first job in a warehousing company in Durban, where he was quickly promoted to supervisor.
Growing up with his mom, dad, and three brothers in Newlands West, near Phoenix, Ajay originally planned to study electrical engineering, but family commitments drove him into the workplace when his father, a carpenter and shopfitter, fell seriously ill.
Later, Ajay got a taste for the restaurant trade as a “closing manager” at a steakhouse in Ushaka Marine World. He enjoyed leading a team and looking after customers, but the after-closing hours, extending until the early morning, took their toll, and he snapped up the opportunity to head inland and join his brothers in Johannesburg.
“It was a big change,” he says. “They sold it to me quite nicely, as a chance to try something new.” But the really big change came in 2013, with a move to a “fun, weird, unique and dynamic company”: BrightRock.
Ajay felt at home amongst the BrightRockers straight away, and today, as Processing Manager, he leads a team of 13, taking care of a range of vital functions from client contact to activation to financials. Through it all, shines the one bright ideal that defines his life as a team leader and team player.
“I’m basically all about delivering amazing customer service,” he says. “That means you must have the ability to inspire, you must have patience, you must be respectful, you must realise that each person is unique and different, and you have to be knowledgable on everything around you.”
Reflecting for a moment on life beyond the workplace, Ajay confesses: “I think I’ve turned out to be quite a boring guy”, which means catching up with music and movies, and spending quality time with his wife, Candice, a senior administrator at a cellphone company, and his family. His biggest Change Moment? That’s easy.
“It was when I got married,” he says. “I had to move from being a carefree guy to being a responsible human being. I had to learn to stop being a leader, and become a subordinate.” Remember, Ajay: breathe. And listen!
Meet Jaco Mostert, BrightRock National Sales Head, who sings the praises of opera and change
“Madama Butterfly,” says Jaco Mostert, sharing his enthusaism for the tale of the fragile geisha who falls in love with the hard-hearted American naval Lieutenant. “Or maybe it’s La Bohème,” he adds, after a moment’s thought. That’s the one about the carefree Bohemians in Paris, and their not so carefree love lives. It’s a tough choice.
Opera is a grand canvas of passions and emotions, set to enthralling song that soars across ages and cultures.
But Jaco, National Sales Head for BrightRock, has a vested interest when it comes to choosing his personal favourites from the classic repertoire. He is married to one of the most accomplished opera singers in South Africa, the celebrated soprano, Mauri Mostert.
“She taught me everything I know about classical music,” he says. Jaco himself is more of a baritone, and he uses his voice well to sing the praises of the company “I work for in my work time, and think about in my free time”. BrightRock.
He brings a wealth of experience and insight to his role, which he relishes for the opportunity it gives him not just to talk to people, but to make a meaningful difference to their lives. But he wasn’t always in insurance.
For 14 years, he worked for the Department of Correctional Services, rising to the rank of Colonel, expertly trained in, among other things, the delicate art of hostage negotation. Did he learn anything there that he can apply in the field of insurance sales?
“Plenty,” laughs Jaco. “The key to being a hostage negotiator is being able to listen, not just talk. You can’t just barge in. It comes with experience.”
Jaco switched careers to insurance because he was “intrigued” by the industry and its possibilities, and he still remembers his first sale: to a butcher in Pretoria. “We’re still good friends today,” he says.
The industry has evolved over the years, and the thing he enjoys most about BrightRock is the opportunity to evolve it even further. “We’re changing the life industry, and in our own way, we’re changing the world.”
Inquisitive and free-thinking by nature – “I’m not necessarily a rule follower,” he says, “I question everything” – Jaco has found a niche for himself in a business where change is part of the scenery.
He admits he doesn’t have too much time for outside interests, but when he has a moment to unwind at his home in Pretoria, he can always ask Mauri to put on one of his favourite operas.
Meet Charmaine Neuwenhuys, Senior Processing Manager for BrightRock, who loves the lively air in Port Elizabeth, where gardening and change are her life’s work
Life, when you roll up your sleeves and get right down to it, is a metaphor for gardening.
You lay the groundwork, you plant the seeds, you tend and nurture the crop, you reap the harvest, you take stock of the shifting seasons, you start all over again.
In the cycle of toil and reward, endeavour and accomplishment, one thing becomes clear: change, in life and in gardening, is good. Just ask Charmaine Neuwenhuys.
She’s a Senior Processing Manager for BrightRock in Port Elizabeth, in charge of four teams who help to run the systems and processes that make BrightRock work behind the scenes.
With a background in development and data administration, Charmaine joined BrightRock for the opportunity to “build something new and exciting from the ground up”.
And that’s exactly the spirit and energy she brings to gardening, the other down-to-earth, get-stuck-into-it passion in her life
Far more than a casual raker of seed beds and trimmer of rose bushes, Charmaine is a qualified garden designer, winner of a gold certificate for the model garden that led her five-strong team to victory at a competition in Johannesburg recently.
“You pick a theme out of a hat,” she explains. “Then you have to plan, design, and build your garden from scratch. Ours was amber and velvet. It was a very textured garden.”
In her own space, not far from the beautiful Garden Route that hugs the coastline of the Eastern Cape, Charmaine works hard at cultivating her carefully-tended but free-flowing garden, which thrives in the ocean breeze and beckons birdlife and wildlife to linger.
Wait, this is Port Elizabeth – isn’t that breeze a little too windy for comfort? No, laughs Charmaine, who was born and bred in the city and who has just made her way back there after 15 years in Johannesburg.
“I couldn’t adjust to the lack of air movement in Joburg,” she confesses. “It’s too stuffy for me. I like the air to be alive.”
When she moved down from the big city, with her husband and their seven-year-old son, she also brought, in the mover’s truck, 90 plants in big pots, awaiting transplant in their new home. And she brought her worm farm too.
“They make the most wonderful black soil,” she says. “It’s like black gold. It makes for very good compost.”
While some may find a garden a good place to unwind, reflect, and smell the roses, Charmaine finds it hard to sit still in her natural wonderland of flowers and fruit trees.
“There is always something for a gardener to do,” she says. The same applies to working at BrightRock, where she loves her job as much as she loves change.
“Change is something I live as a job,” says Charmaine. “You always have to remember that what you’re doing today, may turn into something different tomorrow. It’s all about doing something new and fresh, every day.”
It’s called eco-gardening. You find an old tyre – tractor, car, or truck – and you rescue it from retirement by laying it down it in a clearing of soil.
Then you plant flowers or vegetables in the neatly shielded circle, and you tend and nurture them until they bloom. The tyre, its spinning days long done, lives again in the cycle of life.
Her official title at BrightRock is Business Architect, which means she works with the systems, models, and processes that bring a concept or product to life. But more than an architect of information, Lindie van Wyk is a planter of seeds, a pioneer, a “guinea pig”, as she laughingly puts it.
With a background in software development, and a BSc in Computer Science from Tukkies, she was the first person on site at the BrightRock office, using the first laptop, and taking out the first life policy.
For Lindie, eco-gardener, the act of coaxing something from nothing is a joy to behold, a soul-soothing refuge from the bustle of everyday business.
Lindie knows that bustle well, because gardening is only a part-time passion, a break from the challenges and demands of helping to build a company from the roots up. “I just love starting things from scratch,” she says. “You have to have that daring, entrepreneurial spirit to work in an environment like this.”
It’s a paradox, Lindie admits, because as an analyst, she is a meticulous planner, a perennial harvester of the data and research that serve as the foundation of the business.
But at the same time, from day to day, her life at BrightRock is governed by flux and change. Every day is so different,” she says. “That’s been the biggest change for me, and I’m loving it. The realisation that the next day is always going to be a surprise.”
“Be kind to yourself, take stock of the positive things that happen in a day, and admire the good in other people. Every single person, to me, is a miracle.”
At school, she knew exactly what she wanted to be – a developer – and her first job was at the Department of Housing in Pretoria, where she developed a software programme for home loan applications.
Today, she’s in the business of helping to change lives. It’s a high-pressure environment in a high-pressure industry, but in the peace sign she wears on a choker, and in her love of yoga and home crafts, there are signs that she has learned the art of keeping calm and carrying on.
Her mantra for life is simple. “Be kind to yourself,” she says. “Take stock of the positive things that happen in a day, and admire the good in other people. Every single person, to me, is a miracle.”
And when you can, take the time to put down roots, and watch the garden grow.
Gus Liebenberg loves life, and he lives it two wheels at a time. But it’s not just the big-throated roar of his chosen steeds – a BMW and a KTM – that drives his passion for motorcycling. When you get right down to the numbers, says Gus, biking is just a more efficient way of getting around.
“I can’t comprehend the value of sitting in your car for 20 hours a week, getting to and from the office,” says Gus.
For him, the bike stands for freedom, adventure, and time to be alone. But there’s even more to it than that. It’s a machine, crafted from individual parts that make other parts work in turn. He knows this for a fact, because ever since he was a schoolboy, he’s been buying clapped-out, scrapped-out motorcycles, taking them apart, and putting them back together again, roaring with new life and raring to go. Life itself is a bit like that.
You conceptualise, assemble, package and sell a product – in this case a policy from BrightRock – based on the strength of its components, the way they fit together, and the way they fit into other people’s lives. It was the uniqueness of this “fit”, the precise matching of individual needs, that drew Gus to BrightRock after years in the risk and investment industries.
“The one thing I could never really understand about life insurance,” says Gus, “is how a client was supposed to fund their income with so little capital. When I saw the BrightRock solution, it immediately made sense. It matches your needs exactly, so you know what you’re in for.”
The BrightRock approach to needs-matched life insurance appealed to Gus on a logical, intuitive level, but he also liked the idea of “tinkering” with the traditional way of doing things. Growing up in Pretoria, he was a restless, driven entrepreneur even in his teens, running a small catering business, and working as a part-time estate agent: “I couldn’t take clients out to see properties, because I only had a learner’s licence. So I focused on the listings, because there’s always a shortage of stock.”
He learned early on that if you work hard and you work smart at what you do, it’s not that difficult to succeed. After school, he qualified as a dental technician, building crowns and bridgework, a laborious skill that has stayed with him. “I still know how to give a person a nice smile,” he says.
But Gus really got his teeth into life insurance when he moved into financial services, starting as a do-anything clerk, and later helping to set up an investment division for a big company.
In his other life, following the family tradition, he’s a farmer, with 140 head of cattle in Swartruggens. “It’s a very binary business. Nice and simple. But if it doesn’t rain, you’ve got problems.”
But his driving passion, his big privilege, is to get on his bike, head down the highway, and get on with the business of making the most of life.
Life is a numbers game, but it’s not just a game of crunching numbers. Behind the scenes at BrightRock, where people and computers toil to make things work, tough problems call for bright, creative solutions. Meet Karien Greeff, BrightRock Processing Executive.
As a schoolgirl growing up in Johannesburg, Karien Greeff would gaze up in awe whenever an airplane roared overhead. It wasn’t just the dream of jetting to distant, exotic lands that drew her eyes to the sky. She wanted to design and build airplanes herself. She would play with her Meccano set – and her Barbies, because why shouldn’t a Barbie also harbour an ambition to be an aeronautical engineer? – and her imagination would take flight on wings of wonder. Then she discovered a device that took her fancy to even greater heights. A Personal Computer.
She didn’t just play games and surf the Internet. She learned to weave 0s and 1s together in magical ways, to become a wizard in the modern art of software coding. Later, armed with a B. Sc. in Computer Science and Information Systems, she worked for Denel, the national defence contractor, on the data processing side of the G5 howitzer project. Yes, even cannons need input from computers. But these days, Karien is living the dream life, as a key member of: THE BEHIND THE SCENES TEAM THAT IS HELPING PEOPLE TAKE A BRIGHT NEW LOOK @ LIFE
As Processing Executive at BrightRock, Karien brings a wealth of experience in systems architecture to the vital task of ensuring that computers do the job they’re programmed to do.
It takes smart people as well as smart technology to live up to that goal, because BrightRock’s unique needsmatched philosophy is built on a solid foundation of software intelligence, using a purpose-built system called Flint to process quotations and applications.
It may sound like a deeply technical arena of activity, but for Karien, software development calls equally for a creative mindset.
“Creativity is the art of looking at a problem and coming up with the solution that works best,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed working with computers, because you have to apply your analytical and creative instincts to the task at hand.”
So what has Karien really learned, as a solutionsseeker, a problem-solver, and a creative thinker at BrightRock?
“I’ve learned that I love learning,” she laughs. “I work in a field of constant change, where you’re always doing something you’ve never done before. You just learn to put your head down and build things from scratch.”
All that toil and processing, of data as well as brainwaves, leaves little room for a quiet life, which may explain why Karien’s primary extracurricular pursuit is learning to play the violin.
While she only manages to get in an hour or so of practise a week, she’s hoping, soon, to make sweet music, in another area of life where the sky isn’t the limit. It’s just the beginning.
A life of learning is a good foundation for learning about life. Meet Amanda Spohr, BrightRock Reputation Management Executive, who has a novel approach to understanding the dynamics of change.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Jane Austen fan in possession of a good reputation, will be bound to go far in life. Such has been the experience of Amanda Spohr, Reputation Management Executive at BrightRock.
A lover of language, with an Honours degree in English Literature, Amanda has a special fondness for the works of the pre- Victorian novelist, whose tales of romance among the landed gentry are infused with crisp wit and social commentary.
Growing up in a tweetalige household in Johannesburg, with her dad a psychologist and her mom a social worker, Amanda learned early in life that the secret of effective communication lies in cutting the message to the core.
This skill has served her well in a realm where complexity and verbosity are the norm. Life insurance, traditionally, has been clouded in enigma for the average consumer, to the extent that many will abandon their cover without ever fully comprehending what it means.
“A lot of people lapse their life insurance,” says Amanda, “because they are under financial pressure, and they don’t understand the value it has.
As Amanda explains, when you take out a life insurance policy, your life is not in fact the “insurable interest”, as the industry puts it. What you’re really insuring is your ability to pay off your bond, your children’s education… all the elements of value that are integral to maintaining continuity in life.
By crafting cover that matches your needs, and adapting to meet them as they evolve, BrightRock puts you in charge of the changes in your life.
“It’s like creating your own pizza,” says Amanda.
“Other products give you a menu to order from, while we set out all the ingredients, and allow you to build a pizza of your own.”
The notion of life as a design-it-yourself pizza may seem far removed from the genteel world of Jane Austen, but for Amanda, literature itself is a key to understanding life.
The great novels teach us how people behave in society, and how society and circumstance shape people in turn. In the era of Austen, as in our age of smart devices and social media, it all filters down to the dynamic force that moulds, tests, and defines us. Change.
Never in her wildest imaginings as a Literature student at RAU, says Amanda, did she think she would find herself in the life insurance industry.
“But I just had a sense that is for me,” she says, “and I also have a huge sense of the opportunity I’ve been given. Every day when I get here and see that it’s working, I think to myself, this is life, this is change… and I’m loving it.”
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Good at swimming and good at life, Schalk Malan loves helping people to Love Change.
There is something about swimming that is good for the soul. The embrace of the water, our natural state of grace before we awaken to the world, elevates the spirit and makes us feel newly alive.
But to swim for sport, to go for gold in the thrash and splash of an Olympic-size pool…well, that’s something else.
It’s not just skill and strength that counts. It’s often the guy who works the hardest that trumps it. You can’t slow down a swimmer.
That combination of sheer slog and relentless determination has equally driven Schalk in his professional career, where his natural ability to make waves earned him a prestigious Life Risk Excellence Award from Cover Magazine this year.
The accolade was an acknowledgement of Schalk’s pioneering role as the architect of needsmatched life insurance, the pivot of BrightRock’s practical philosophy of Love Change.
With a decade of experience in developing, implementing, marketing and maintaining insurance products, Schalk was acutely aware of a flaw in the system.
“If I buy a product today,” he says, “I know for a fact that it may be able to help me today, but in 10 years’ time, the solution will be null and void. That’s a problem, because you buy life insurance for life.”
The long-term solution: insurance that changes as you change, matching your needs as you evolve from one stage of life to another.
“The one thing we had in common when we started BrightRock,” says Schalk, looking back to the origins of the company in 2011, “is that we wanted change. In our environments, in our lives, in
our careers, in the industry. We wanted to take a bit more control, and do something different.”
With a shift in insurance industry regulations, and a move to online processing, Schalk saw the opportunity in the flaw, and he jumped right in to seize it.
He may be an actuary, schooled in the cold science of human statistics, but he likes to leap off the spreadsheet every now and again.
“I love trying new things,” says Schalk. “I love people, I love my sport, I love calculating and quantifying risk, and I love following through on a course of action that I know can change people’s lives for the better.”
And with the instinct and reflexes of a medal-winning swimmer to drive him, he’s not thinking of slowing down.
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Oh, for the Simple Life Life is easy when you know how, and at BrightRock, IT expert and systems architect Leopold Malan knows how in the way that suits you best.
Down in the Langkloof valley, between the Kammanassie and the Kouga mountains, just off the R62 in the Western Cape, you can drive and drive until your cellphone signal disappears into the sky.
That’s one of Leopold Malan’s favourite places in South Africa, far from the noise and bustle of the Big City where he spends his working days and nights.
“I love the vibe and excitement of Johannesburg,” says Leopold, “but I also love spending time in the countryside whenever I can and not hearing a cellphone ring. It’s a good place to get some thinking done.”
These days, the topic uppermost on Leopold’s mind is nothing less than life itself. How to make it easier to understand, how to deliver it more efficiently, how to make it less cumbersome, complicated, and, quite frankly, old-fashioned.
Because life as we know it is changing, and Leopold is right there in the frontline of the revolution.
As a founding partner and Executive Director of Processing at BrightRock, Leopold’s area of expertise is harnessing technology and people in a way that makes it easy for you to forget about
the technologies, and focus on your needs.
By way of example, Leopold points to the interactive, electronic policy document that BrightRock uses in place of a pen-and-paper fillable form. It’s called the Owner’s Manual.
“Many people don’t see their life policy as a living asset,” says Leopold. “It’s a document that you get in the post, and you put it away in the hope that your family will be able to find it. We want to make it a much more interactive process. An interactive pdf is much easier to go through, and it’s quickly updatable and shareable.”
It all comes down to the quest for a simple life, using the intricate architecture of information systems, built from scratch, to make the process of selling, buying, and claiming on a policy as seamless and as straightforward as possible.
“Simplicity is in our DNA,” says Leopold, who brings a wealth of practical experience in IT and insurance to his role at BrightRock.
“Simplicity, and sophistication.”
Combine that with the occasional expedition to your personal place of quiet contemplation, and you’ve got the ideal recipe for life as it should be lived. Brightly.
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Sean Hanlon Executive Director and co-founder of BrightRock, is making a living from life, and loving it.
Looking back on his early years in life, Sean Hanlon’s Irish eyes smile as he recalls a defining moment in his view of the industry where he now happily earns his living.
It was the sight of his father grabbing hold of the nearest object – a spanner – and chasing a door-to-door salesman out of the driveway and into the street.
The salesman had made the mistake of trying to interest the Hanlon household in a life insurance policy. And dad Hanlon wasn’t in a buying mood. Sean learned a few colourful Irish phrases that day, and he also learned that a career in life insurance was unlikely to be his calling.
But life has a funny way of catching up with you, as Sean would discover.
Sean became a teacher, and he loved the profession, a natural fit for his persuasive abilities and gift of the gab.
Much to his father’s dismay, he left teaching for life, starting as a commission-driven salesman at a big Johannesburg insurer.
It was when his first claim paid out that the bug really bit, and he began to see how here, too, he could help to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
“I think I’ve always been a salesman at heart,” says Sean.
But the sales psychology of life insurance is the most unique psychology. You’re selling something to people who are never going to be around to enjoy it. It’s not like buying an iPad or a car, that you look forward to buying.
Hence the jaundiced view of life insurance in the public eye, and the epiphany, after more than 20 years in sales, management, and distribution, that there was a better way of giving people the cover they needed for life.
That’s how BrightRock was born, as a life insurance company that sets out to match insurance cover to people’s ever-changing needs.
“With us,” says Sean, “we say, what do you want the cover for, and then we split the cover up according to your needs. That makes each person’s product a tailor-made solution. As opposed to saying, how much can you afford to spend, we say, how do you want to spend your premium? What’s important to you?”
These days, as an Executive Director of BrightRock, along with founding partners Suzanne Stevens, Leopold Malan, and Schalk Malan, Sean still proudly says, when asked what he does for a living: “I sell life insurance.” The difference is, he’s selling it differently, in a way that is more customisable, more intuitive, and a lot easier to understand.
Even his own dad would probably have put down that spanner and listened.