By African Unity Life
Sonja Visser is a woman who has made her mark in the local finance industry. Not only is she the CEO of African Unity Life, her years of financial experience have made her a sought-after speaker at microinsurance conferences all over South Africa. Visser believes you should be passionate about everything you do. If you’re not passionate about what you do or committed to your clients, don’t do it.
So, how did this remarkable woman end up in her current position?
Well, she started her journey with an Actuarial Science degree with Honours in Economics, as well as a Higher Diploma in Financial Planning. Following her studies, she spent time as an actuarial assistant and then lectured economics at the University of Pretoria. From 1997 to 2007, she gained 11 years of financial experience while working at Momentum and the FirstRand Group. It was during this time that she became focussed on business development and how insurance companies function in general.
But Visser’s experience isn’t limited to the financial sector, she’s also been involved in sales and marketing. In 2008, she became the Managing Director at Union Life and in 2010, she was appointed CEO of KGA Life. Finally, in 2015, she joined African Unity Life and took up the CEO position the following year.
When it comes to the highlights of her career, Visser says she’s always enjoyed seeing the company’s progress as it goes forward. For her, it’s not only about making money, but also about the impact the company has on its clients and the growth of the staff as they become more empowered.
When it comes to succeeding as a woman in finance, or as a man for that matter, Visser believes you need to know exactly what is happening in the industry at all times.
You need to be constantly learning and advancing your knowledge in the financial industry, as well as the broader South African business environment. Networking is also important in order to create strong relationships in business. Always remember that business is about focussing on people and your clients. And, of course, you should strive for innovation, new ideas and to discover better ways to manage and grow your business.
To conclude, Visser’s best piece of advice for women in finance is to cultivate a space where debate is encouraged and new ideas are shared and developed, as well as to give those around you the freedom to make the right decisions.
*A version of this article was previously published on Sharenet.