Old Mutual Plc chief executive Julian Roberts has said its Zimbabwe operations remain key to the group’s growth strategy as it possesses a rich human resource base.
Mr Roberts, who was in his first ever visit to the capital, yesterday told a cocktail for customers held after an Old Mutual Emerging Markets board meeting attended by Plc senior personnel, that the skills base was testament to what the business means in the past and what it means in the future “that people are essential to its expansion”.
He said the objective of the group was to be known as the financial services champion. And this would be pushed through growth of an African-based emerging markets business.
“Every time we look to find out where we get the skill we will use to grow the business; we look towards the great resource that this country holds.”
Mr Roberts said the group wants to build an African-based emerging markets business. “We will anchor the growth in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya with an ambition to move out more into East Africa and then grow the rest of the countries from there.”
The growth will be anchored on five pillars; being responsible to customers, the community, the environment, to employees and lastly being a responsible the investor.
“Our vision is to enable our customers to meet their long term financial goals”
Old Mutual Plc chief operating officer Paul Hanratty said the role of the group would remain on the mobilisation of capital and savings.
“We will continue in the mobilisation of capital and savings and deploying it as best as we can.”
Mr Hanratty said the group was committed to its investments in the country and in Africa as a whole after having sold off the “sold the frozen north” (the American business).
“We are very committed to building an African financial services champion. I think that is our heritage. A 170 years in South Africa, a 112 years in Zimbabwe; why would we want to go to America?”
When the business was under strain during hyperinflation, Mr Hanratty was influential in wadding off pressure from other stakeholders for Old Mutual to divest out of Zimbabwe.
To meet these goals, Old Mutual Zimbabwe intends to build at least 15 000 low cost housing units in the next five years under its housing fund, chief executive Mr Jonas Mushosho has said.
“We would want to do even more but that will depend on availability of land from municipalities,” he told The Herald Business at a function the group hosted for its customers.
Old Mutual’s housing fund is run by CABS. It recently handed over some houses to the first batch of beneficiaries of its Budiriro Housing project in Harare. The project will see just over 3 000 housing units added on completion. Another housing project in Hatcliffe will see the number rise to 4 000 units, Mr Mushosho said.
“We are at various stages of negotiations for similar projects with other municipalities across the country and we are targeting Bulawayo for our next project,” he said.
“It depends on when the municipality is able to give us land. We are engaging authorities in Bulawayo because that is where we want to do the next project,” he added.
Mr Mushosho would not provide cost estimates of housing projects, saying this depended on the land they would have secured from the different local authorities.
“The problem with most municipalities is that they do not have large tracts of land, they have in-fills and because of that it becomes difficult to service,” Mr Mushosho said.
The Old Mutual boss said the group has demonstrated commitment to rekindle growth of the domestic economy through various interventions such as the Distressed and Marginalised Areas Fund, the housing fund and the Kurera/Ukondla Youth Fund.
Over $28 million has been disbursed through DIMAF, a facility designed to help recapitalisation of companies. The revolving Youth Fund was designed to help youths with bankable projects and to date, 0ver 4 000 projects have benefited from the scheme.
In the medium term, Mr Mushosho said Old Mutual was also looking at investing in power projects.
“We are looking to do power infrastructure, but given the constraints with resources we may decide to start with small to medium hydros,” said Mr Mushosho.
“There is a couple for things we are looking at first. Infrastructure is key for economic development. A lot of the infrastructure projects require large capital; we cannot wait until we have huge amounts of money. We are also involved in a number of private equity projects that we are participating in,” Mr Mushosho said.