Coming back to life: Momentum on drive to revive its brand

Business

Coming back to life: Momentum on drive to revive its brand

Following dip in broker support, as well as a reputation knock, company is looking to boost its sales agents force

Londiwe Buthelezi


Momentum is banking on more sales agents and improved visibility to revitalise its brand which had lost a lot of broker support and clients over the past seven years.
When MMI was formed through the merger of Metropolitan and Momentum, the two individual brands collectively held 24% of SA’s life insurance market share. The latest UBS market share report shows that MMI’s market share shrank to 17% in 2017.
Jeanette Marais, deputy CEO of MMI who is responsible for Momentum – the brand that serves middle-income and affluent customers – said the company lost focus and ground because the quality of people supporting its brokers dropped and Momentum became a distant memory to clients.
Unlike companies such as Allan Gray and Old Mutual, where a big share of  new business volumes come directly from call centres and digital channels, Momentum cannot afford the declines in broker support since all its sales come from in-house agents (40%) and independent brokers (60%), she said.
“There is nothing wrong with our products. On price, we know we are not competitive on smoker rates. But generally, product innovation and price, we had it. But we lost our market share because we didn’t look after our advisers,” Marais said.
Momentum wants to increase its in-house sales agent force to about 1,300 by 2021 from the current 800 while probing existing advisers to get more new clients to increase its market share.
The company has also invested in robots to perform simple customer service functions that people want to access immediately through digital platforms. Momentum is hoping to use these in future to service clients wanting to invest small amounts directly, opening up access to the market that is currently not served by human advisers.
“We are not going to use bots for acquisition because our business is unashamedly about advisers. But we also need to get the balance right. If someone wants to save few hundreds of rand a month, they should be able to tick a few boxes and go. But even then, people will always crave human interaction because there is an emotional connection to money,” said Marais.
Brand reputation is another thing  the company will have to work on, she conceded. Momentum took a big reputational knock in 2018 when it refused to pay a claim to a client because he had not disclosed his high glucose levels to the insurer, even though he had died in a hail of bullets. Although Momentum maintained that it was on the right side of the law, it reversed its decision after a social media storm and compensated the Ganas family.
“The more we tried to explain how right we were, the more people told us how wrong it felt. We learnt a lot,” Marais said.
She realised there was still a lot of work to be done to get the MMI brands to the same level of recognition and customer affinity enjoyed by some of its peers.

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