The story of Ghana’s Iconic Female Insurance Business Leade, Kakra Duffuor-Nyarko
When news broke about the appointment of Mrs Kakra Duffuor-Nyarko as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of StarLife Assurance Company Limited in January 2019, there were scintillas of joy inside and outside the insurance industry.
This is because she was not new to that role as she had acted in the same role since 2016.
Mrs Kakra Duffuor-Nyarko who also was not new to the insurance sector, after becoming the CEO, set in motion with precision and hard work to consolidate the gains or surpass the achievements of her predecessors.
Leadership and growth
Today, StarLife Assurance Company Limited popularly known as StarLife is the third largest life insurance company in Ghana, with several branches dotted across the length and breadth of the West African country.
Mrs Duffuor-Nyarko, Ghana’s iconic female insurance business leader also continues to grow the clientele base of the company since assuming the mantle of leadership.
In its pursuit to satisfy and meet the financial needs of the various market segments of the insuring public, Mrs Duffuor-Nyarko leads her team to design unique and value-added life security solutions to cater for both the formal and informal sector.
For instance, the company recently entered into a novel partnership with Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club dubbed Phobia Assure, which has the dual benefit of promoting the importance of a life insurance policy while supporting one of the nation’s football clubs.
With the new Phobia Assure, Phobians can sign up to policies such Phobia Ultimate Protection Plan, Phobia WealthMaster Plan, Phobia Child Lifeline Plan and Phobia HomeCall Plan. Phobians and friends of Phobia are assured of the company’s pledge to provide exceptional service.
She is a results-oriented professional who loves leading her team and motivating each individual to be their possible best, with particular focus on strategic leadership and driving innovation to ensure sustainability.
Mrs Duffuor-Nyarko has over a decade’s experience in the insurance industry. She is recognized as a seasoned actuarial professional.
She began her career in the industry and rose through the ranks, transitioning from marketing, customer service, underwriting, accounts to becoming the Chief Actuary of the Actuarial Unit of the business.
Furthermore, Mrs Duffuor-Nyarko engineered the rolling out of innovative life solutions and contributed immensely to new product designs for StarLife’s diversified market and customers.
She pays attention to detail and that gives her an edge in whittling down visions and strategies into achievable targets for her entire team.
Mrs Kakra Duffuor-Nyarko, Chief Executive Officer of StarLife Assurance Company, Ghana
The affable Mrs Duffuor-Nyarko thrives on encouraging others to extend their thinking to drive the competitive advantage of the business.
She is currently spearheading major strategic shifts, which are geared towards transforming IT from a functional focus to an enabler of innovation. The current goal is to fully integrate technology across the organization to fully meet the evolving needs of its clientele and the insuring public.
In a rare interview with African Eye Report, Mrs Duffuor-Nyarko, said: “I am focused and results oriented. I love leading my team and motivating each individual to be his or her possible best, by encouraging efficiency. I stand for innovation in one’s way of thinking and operating yet I pay respect to traditions and existing processes”.
She is a strong believer in an individual being a sum of all his or her experiences and this principle applies to her.
In her own words: “I believe a combination of my upbringing; which I credit to my parents, the values I grew up with and my own personal commitment to excellence in all I do kept and continues to keep me motivated in being at the forefront of my chosen career and industry”.
Passion for insurance industry
“Insurance is literally the backbone of our economy. It may seem dramatic, but without it, everything would come to a standstill.
Basic things like driving would not be possible because drivers would not afford the risk of driving and entrepreneurs would be at risk of losing everything they have worked hard to build”.
The reality is loss and misfortune are inevitable. Insurance offers hope and a means of financial protection against loss. I am happy to be part of an industry that provides a tangible way for individuals, families, and businesses to care for and protect their loved ones, when the unthinkable happens, Mrs. Duffuor-Nyarko, explained.
New role challenge
When asked how challenging her new role as the CEO is, she said: “There is no formal education to prepare anyone to be a CEO; this makes my role of leading the third largest life insurance company in the country with over 200 employees and 1000+ sales executives even more challenging”.
As a CEO, part of her mandate is to deliver on the company’s strategy, navigate and communicate constant change, stay ahead of the competition and more recently, remain relevant and healthy in the midst of a global pandemic.
Each of these presents its own challenges but Mrs. Duffuor-Nyarko’s secret weapon has been her people, from the Board level right down to the sales executives who are passionate about StarLife and work each day to execute the strategies that guarantee their success.
“I wouldn’t really say I had a challenging childhood. I am inherently very grateful for the childhood I had and the parents that made it possible. Like most Ghanaian homes, I grew up under strict and disciplined religious guidelines.
As a young person, it didn’t always seem like the most fun environment to grow up in but my siblings and I have come to appreciate the value of the experiences we had growing up. My upbringing served as an excellent foundation for the career path I chose given the level of commitment and discipline required to succeed in it”
She also grew up as one part of a twin and that came with its own peculiar challenges. “My twin and I are best friends but that didn’t stop society from comparing us at every opportunity even though we are fraternal.”
We both had to work hard at finding our own individuality and own it. This experience gave me an unparalleled level of confidence in myself and my abilities”, the CEO revealed.
“In later years, when I struggled with my Communications paper during the writing of my actuarial exams, I considered it a humbling experience but drew on my inbuilt strength and confidence to persevere in the face of adversity”.
Innovation and execution are at the heart of what Mrs Duffuor-Nyarko strives to embed in the company on a daily basis. This together with a winning mindset of ‘getting things done’ is the legacy she is working on leaving behind.
“We can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results. I would want that indelibly printed on the minds of my team, so they extend their thinking and always remain innovative”, she emphasized.
Her advice to the young ones
It is a good thing to have a dream, but a dream without a concrete action plan remains a wish, so first get experience – especially if you are just starting your journey; second, learn and know your craft – you are only effective if you are an expert and have authority in your field; third, if number two is not for you then hire people smarter than you.
Fourth, learn always – from your mistakes and that of others; and fifth, be consistent – points 1-4 fall flat if you are not consistent in everything you do.
Evolving insurance market
The insurance industry is an evolving one thanks to technology and also now thanks to Covid-19. She and her team are learning and adapting to fully meet the evolving needs of the insuring public, through active and real-life engagement with clients.
One of her key objectives at the onset was to spearhead strategic shifts to transform the company’s management information system (MIS) team from a functional focus to a proactive enabler of innovation. Feedback from the clients is a good indicator that she and the team are on the right path.
They are and will always remain a client-focused business. In that vein, her vision for StarLife is to enhance stakeholder experience through digitization.
“COVID-19 has succinctly underlined the essence of this vision and we are actively working on accelerating our strategy on this.
One thing that gives me a lot of hope is our people and their response to the changes that have been brought on by the pandemic. They have proven resilient in the face of adversity and this convinces me beyond a doubt that our strategic objectives will be met”.
Mrs Kakra Duffuor-Nyarko, Chief Executive Officer of StarLife Assurance Company, Ghana
We have had the honour of impacting and enriching many lives by executing our vision of creating wealth and fulfilling lives through personal relationships with our partners, Mrs. Duffuor-Nyarko noted.
“We look forward to more years of exceptional service and fulfilling relationships as we introduce our mobile insurance app and two more exciting additions to our product portfolio. These new additions mark the beginning of a wonderful chapter in our life as a Company. Watch this space!!”
Before joining StarLife
Prior to joining StarLife full time, she worked with QED Actuaries & Consultants (Aon Hewitt) in South Africa. During her time at QED, she provided actuarial consulting services for not only South African clients but also seven diversified clients spanning from East to West Africa.
Education and fellows
Mrs. Duffuor-Nyarko is a Fellow of both the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries (UK) and the Actuarial Society of Ghana.
She holds a Master of Science (MSc) in Actuarial Management and a Postgraduate Diploma in Actuarial Science from the prestigious Cass Business School, City University (London, UK).
Mrs. Duffuor-Nyarko also holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Economics (Hons) from the University of Warwick (UK).
Respected as a credible voice in decision making, and establishing governance boundaries, Mrs. Duffuor-Nyarko serves on various boards and earns a seat at the table wherever she serves.
Mrs Duffuor-Nyarko loves to express her creativity through fashion and music. She is married and is the proud mother of two lovely children.
By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, African Eye Report