6 Questions to CFO Yulandi van Dyk about people, profit and purpose


Bryte Insurance CFO Yulandi van Dyk says it’s possible to achieve the triple bottom line.

The question of whether an organisation can attain profitability while simultaneously upholding social responsibility is one that persists. However, Bryte Insurance CFO Yulandi Van Dyk believes it can be done. She recently spoke with CFO South Africa about how to achieve both profit and purpose and advocates for their seamless coexistence.

1. How do you balance the need to be profitable with the need to be socially responsible?

We ultimately have a responsibility to follow sound business principles, but at the same time, partnership is the essence of our business. Through our partnerships with customers, we are able to understand their needs and identify opportunities, helping them manage risk and fulfil their goals more effectively.

Part of our responsibility is helping create a more resilient and thriving business environment for all South African businesses, from SMMEs to multinational corporations.

Our culture is rooted in the philosophy of “doing good, by doing well”, and our values translate across our social strategy. We believe one has to take care of all your stakeholders – customers, employees and shareholders. A multiplicity of perspectives helps us more effectively partner with all stakeholders within and outside our business.

Similarly, our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is a business strength. Our industry can only benefit from fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. Lastly, we have a firm commitment to our shareholders to provide an acceptable return, and all that we do balances these objectives in a manner that benefits the collective.

2. What are the specific socio-economic challenges that you are most concerned about?

Inflationary pressure, low economic growth, climate change and energy, and other infrastructure security challenges have heightened the difficulties people and businesses continue to navigate. Smaller businesses, in particular, are facing intensifying cash flow issues and operational challenges, forcing them to reduce costs wherever possible.

But such short-term, focused actions often have more severe longer-term implications. In this context, adequate insurance cover – especially for those who most need it – becomes more challenging and even more important. For instance, high inflation puts policyholders at increased risk of being underinsured (as the value of their assets rise). And with reduced cash reserves and less access to capital, many businesses are more vulnerable to unanticipated setbacks.

3. How do these influence your decisions as a CFO?

As risks increase and businesses feel squeezed, meeting the real needs and managing serious emerging challenges necessitates continual, responsive innovation. As a responsible corporate citizen, a high inflationary environment challenges us to find innovative ways to reduce the cost of our claims services and our internal operating costs to ensure we do not simply pass on the impact to our customers.

As a CFO, having a holistic view of the dynamics impacting not just your business but those within your business’s ecosystem is vital. You need to maintain a longer-term view of investing and be agile in supporting critical shifts that allow for new products, services and solutions that can drive customer resilience. It also means working closely with our partners to help optimise the way in which they manage their own risks and those of our mutual clients.

4. How do you balance profitability with risk management?

In my view, risk management helps to improve a company’s functioning and performance as the risks are identified beforehand. A company will be prepared to handle the threat before it happens. Thus, the efficiency of operation will increase productivity, increasing the business’s profitability.

With risk management at the core of our DNA, we recognise that effectively managing risk (both within the business and across your value chain) lends itself to financial resilience, stability, and growth. Appreciating this, our emphasis on internal expertise and compelling partnerships is crucial.

By considering our customers’ operations holistically, our teams of risk experts are able to effectively advise on integrated, robust risk strategies and solutions that are responsive to individual business needs and may be implemented sustainably. Ultimately, mutually beneficial relationships are the most sustainable path to profitability.

Of course, we should be realistic about the scope of the insurance industry’s challenges. Unprecedented systemic risks – notably, extreme weather events connected to climate change – mean it can’t be business as usual.

5. How do you stay ahead of regulatory changes?

As an insurance industry CFO, I need to stay on top of financial services regulations – broadly – as well as complex sector-specific regulations. I make sure to keep up to date with industry developments, but I am also greatly assisted by the inputs and insights from my talented team.

Beyond this, I also participate in forums that are driving some of this decision-making. Our productive relationships with industry organisations, regulators and other stakeholders also ensure that we can plan in advance of regulatory changes.

6. How have the tools you use as a CFO evolved over the years as the environment in the country has changed?

Evolution across all facets is necessary to ensure relevance in business. Subsequently, the role of the CFO has also evolved, requiring skills, processes and technologies that continue to enhance business performance. Looking at technology specifically, transformation is only one area demanding continued focus.

It is essential to ensure you have the right tools to support appropriate decision-making for the future of your business. Technology has obviously made a significant impact on financial reporting and other administrative functions in recent years. And with the emergence of AI, we can expect a leap forward in terms of more perceptive automation in the coming years, not only in finance but in all business areas.

Technology also unlocks potential and offers richer analytics, enabling more-informed and rich strategic decision-making – often in real-time.

It is important to recognise that technology can augment decision-making, but the fundamental principles of the role have remained the same.

As a CFO, my focus continues to be on strategic planning, ensuring financial integrity, sustainability and transparency, and helping to future-proof the business. Technology continues to be immensely empowering – especially when used responsibly – but it is not a substitute for human insight and instinct.

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