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Winning women: Love actuary

Oct 29 2017 06:00
Lesetja Malope

Managing Director of Personal Finance at Old Mutual, Karabo Morule. Picture:Old Mutual

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Considering insurance to be a social good, Karabo Morule is passionate about her field and thriving as MD in personal finance.

Work and play are not the best bedfellows but, where work is play, the marriage might just be one made in heaven.

This is exactly the impression one gets on first encounter with Old Mutual’s managing director of personal finance, Karabo Morule, as she breezes through our interview, narrating her journey with the excitement of a kid in a candy store.

Born and bred in Diepkloof, Soweto, to a doctor father and a nurse mother, in a family of five siblings, Morule had the privilege of going to schools most of her neighbours were not allowed to go to.

She went to Auckland Park Preparatory School, sometimes having her peers coming to sleepovers in Soweto. Then she went to Roedean Senior School where she aced her matric, netting five distinctions in the process, and subsequently headed to Cape Town to pursue actuarial science.

“I went to Roedean School and it’s an opportunity I really appreciated and will forever be thankful for. That’s one thing I greatly appreciate of my parents in terms of the schools I went to,” she said.

“I remember I wanted to be a judge, and then at some point wanted to be an engineer because my cousin was one. And apparently I had wanted to be a firewoman at some point, according to my mum. I don’t remember, but I was never the type to be restricted by gender. For example, I hated the colour pink and the association with being a girl,” she said, adding that things changed when, at a career guidance school event, she heard of actuarial science and that was when she was hooked.

In matric, her biggest ambition was to have her face appear in the newspaper, something that was not the norm for academic achievers at Roedean.

“That was my ambition. It was amazing, and when the school had a ceremony to present me with an award, which was presented by the late Adelaide Tambo, the media was there and I ended up on the front page of the newspaper,” she said.

Tertiary 

Enrolling at the University of Cape Town became an almost natural choice as her brother was already there, so off to the Cape she went with an Old Mutual bursary but, on arrival with her mother, tycoon Ray Cadiz offered her a free scholarship and she did not have to work for him after graduating, unlike with the Old Mutual bursary requirement.

“I dropped the Old Mutual bursary and took the offer and Ray Cadiz even agreed to give me some vacation work experience,” she said.

At varsity, where her brother had already built up a reputation as a socialite, she managed to keep a low profile and focus on her books and, in her final year, with nine of the 15 actuary examinations already passed, a top consulting firm approached her.

“I rejected the offer and instead went to Ray Cadiz to get a loan to finish off the exams and registered for a postgraduate diploma, and was also tutoring while finishing off,” she said.

After finishing her qualification, she entered JP Morgan’s graduate programme and that saw her going to New York for two months.

“For me the JP Morgan programme was great. I was more attracted to the investment banking route so, when I got the opportunity to work in one of the investment capitals of the world, it was fantastic,” she said.

Her face flushes with excitement when she speaks of her experiences at JP Morgan, which opened doors for her to even work in London alongside some of the most reputable actuaries in that country.

Recounting her experience in London while working with the latest insurance innovations of the time, Morule almost zones out into a world filled with her passion for insurance and investment strategies, and her love for African cultures and creative arts.

“I was an analyst there. We were concentrating on longevity risk; the risk of people living longer than expected. That was a big thing in the UK at the time and we played around with the concept of a bond to manage that kind of risk but ended up opting for a swap instead and that was the benefit of having worked in a derivative space, to think of such a mechanism,” Morule said of her three-and-half-year stint in the UK before she returned home shortly before the Fifa World Cup in 2010.

During her time in London, with exposure to the African diaspora community over there, she developed an appreciation for African cultures, particularly those in francophone countries, something still dear to her heart. Though not a staunch soccer fan, she is a Kaizer Chiefs fan, loves Formula One and tennis, and also considers travelling among her favourite things.

It was during that break that Old Mutual snapped her up and 18 months later she was promoted to general manager before ascending to her current position as the managing director of personal finance.

“Insurance is a social good,” she said profoundly, elaborating on how her own family background made her see the importance of insurance.

Morule points out that working in traditional insurance has groomed her passion for personal investments and savings.

On the unavoidable subject of the lack of transformation in the financial sector, she confesses that more companies need to give people a chance to prove themselves.

With Morule’s passion for her work clear in her infectious laugh, it’s not difficult to see why Old Mutual’s personal finance boss plays hard at work.

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