DaVinci’s 2021 Master’s alumnus Chantal Balla’s remarkability is magnetic. She is a natural problem solver, with a keen interest for making substantial improvements where she co-creates.
“My late parents whom I have dedicated my study to, your blood runs through my veins and your memory will always be alive in my heart forever.”
| This is our recent Q&A engagement with Chantal, to find out more about her journey at DaVinci |
Please give us a brief overview of your career to date.
My short-term insurance career spans over 19 years and encompasses experience in personal, commercial, corporate and the public sector spheres. Being promoted to a management position in 2005 has exposed me to all facets of business operations. Furthermore, I am a qualified Accounting and Business Management teacher by profession, coupled with an associate degree qualification in the short-term insurance industry. I have a deep passion for coaching and mentoring future leaders within the industry.
I currently hold the designation of Senior Manager: Quality Assurance and Due Diligence in my current employment wherein my team test, verify and obtain evidence that indicate operational departments are adhering to companies’ policies and procedures. Where breaches or gaps are identified, my team recommend training interventions to address the gaps for improved efficiency, effectiveness, and continuous improvement. Moreover, as the Head of the Due Diligence office, I have group responsibility for vetting all new business deals and servicing both the short term, health and life licenses.
Your dissertation is titled: “A descriptive study into factors that lead to successful strategy execution in the short-term insurance industry in Gauteng.” Please provide us with a blurb of the purpose of your research and its contribution?
The insurance industry is currently experiencing fast growth with many new entrants, and this has ultimately resulted in an unprecedented competition. The rapid increase in competition calls for not just an excellent strategy plan but for effective strategy execution. Insurance companies, like any other companies have a planned strategy, however the execution of strategy is where the failure of the business lies. Effective strategy execution is, therefore, critical in the insurance sector if the business wishes to remain competitive and sustainable.
Thus, the study examined the factors that lead to the successful execution of strategy in the short-term insurance industry in Gauteng and to provide recommendations on how to effectively execute strategy. Many organisations have an excellent strategic plan; however, the success of the plan is dependent on strategy execution. In the short-term insurance industry, the execution of strategy involves the collaboration and cooperation of all staff within the value chain, as each member and department play a part in executing the strategy of the organisation. However, leaders at every level of the organisational hierarchy are responsible for ensuring that they successfully execute the strategic plan.
A sample size of 100 respondents from the 91 companies was anticipated to conduct valid and reliable statistical analysis. However, only 96 respondents completed and returned the self-administered questionnaire within the given timeframe (a 96% realised response rate). The Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS) was used to analyse the data collected after it was captured on Excel. Parametric statistics tests were used, namely ANOVA (to test the demographic variables on the key dimensions of this study) and the T-test to investigate if there was a difference in the perceptions of male and female respondents to the questions related to the key dimensions and constructs of the study. The reliability of the questionnaire was statistically confirmed using Cronbach’s Coefficient Alpha, with yielded value of 0.974 which is indicative that the self-administered questionnaire employed in this study could be regarded as reliable.
The overall findings indicates that there is a mixed response to the current practices of strategy execution in the short-term insurance industry. Firstly, the strategic plan is not clear on the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of individuals/departments which can cause chaos and passing of blame when things go wrong. Another prevailing challenge is that the company has no detailed project plan with identified strategic initiatives, and project plans are not updated at least every quarter. The study realised that this researched company does not have sufficient project management skills and the overall strategy is not clearly linked with the company’s objectives. There is no culture of collaboration and working together to ensure successful strategy execution and company efforts are not aligned to strategy execution.
Though, it is revealed that employees are motivated to ensure that the company’s strategy is successfully executed; however, they are I) not empowered and II) do not have sufficient freedom in executing the company’s strategy.
This study has contributed to the short-term insurance industry, my employer and myself in the following manner:
- The management team can use the findings of this study to address gaps in the execution of their strategy to ensure a business that is dynamic and competitive.
- The results of this study will also guide management into realising how employees currently feel or see the execution of strategy and to hence address it accordingly.
- It is also envisaged that insurance companies and other businesses will apply the suggested recommendations to ensure the effective execution of strategy.
- The primary findings of this study will add to the body of knowledge in the short-term insurance industry as well as other companies that are challenged with executing an effective strategy.
- The study will encourage colleagues to engage in ongoing work-related studies, creating a culture of collaboration and working together.
- Being a role model to other employees and future leaders.
- Provide guidance and mentorship to staff within my organisation.
- High level of improved self-confidence.
- Becoming subject matter expert on strategy execution for our company and beyond.
In a few words, please describe your journey to completing your studies.
Being a wife, mother, friend, Master’s student, full time employee, senior manager, mentor, chef, homework checker and corporate traveller has been challenging to juggle. However, the human spirit has proven it is unbreakable, and we can conquer all our obstacles if we have a healthy and positive mind. Not forgetting the support of my husband, Leon, who has been invaluable as he encouraged me and held my hand through the entire journey. It was of paramount importance for me to demonstrate to my son, Vaughn, that despite circumstances and challenges, if one wants to achieve their dreams and goals, one needs to work hard and persevere. There is no magic involved for success – it remains just the pure, old fashioned hard work principle.
What would you say are your three characteristics that aided you in this journey?
I am extremely resilient no matter what the challenge, and I can persevere until the journey or task is completed. Another thing is that I am focused person, and I device my personal plan and set goals to reach my milestones. Every day we wake up with a certain amount of energy, and I can align energy utilisation proportionately to what I want to achieve for the day. Moreover, my late parents have indoctrinated core values that have aided in my unrelenting pursuit for self enhancement and self-growth to be a valuable, wholesome member of society.
My father’s colourful, fearless, and confident persona, which is now inculcated in me, always propels for me to seek truth in all facets of life and I also have the courage of my convictions to stand up for what is fair and righteous. My mother’s incredible God-fearing nature underpinned by her resilience, strength, endless love, and quiet confidence taught me that all things are possible with God, sheer hard work and a positive attitude. She instilled the belief in me that the goodness, kindness and positive impact that I impart into the world is a boomerang that will find its way back to me and manifest in abundance in all shapes and forms. I thank both my parents for creating an awareness of the power of good education from a young age and providing me with a loving environment which enabled me to thrive, think independently and never compromise my values.
How did your journey impact your way of thinking in life?
I believe there are many perceptions and opinions out there in the world and I personally don’t take any information as the truth until I conduct my own assessment and research on the matter.
What is next for you on your path of remarkability?
I have not decided yet but once I catch my breath and heal from the aftermath of the Master’s degree journey, I would be interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Business Leadership.
If you could give advice to a student embarking on this journey, what would it be?
You need to be dedicated, focused and resilient. There will be many speed bumps on the way to success, but you just have to persevere. Implement a study plan and be committed to it. That helps!
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