Alexander Forbes to take on pan-African character over the next five years

21 March 2018 3 min. read
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South African consulting and financial services firm Alexander Forbes has contracted its operations, declaring plans to develop as a Pan-African firm over the next years. The firm plans to expand into Western and Northern Africa, having offloaded its only non-African operations in 2016.

Alexander Forbes is among the most prominent financial services firms in the South African consulting industry, having been around for decades. The firm was founded in 1935, and has since grown into a lucrative operation, with annual revenues of more than R4 billion and a listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange since 2014. Today, the firm is regarded as the biggest consulting firm for employee benefits across Africa.

The firm’s ethos revolves around supporting employees with the management of their finances at various stages of their career, wherein priorities might range from security to expansion to luxury. To this end, the firm interacts with companies and individuals alike to offer services in the insurance, investment and actuarial domains, alongside retirement and healthcare services.

Encouraged by its success and expansion in Africa, the firm began to explore the international market in the early 2000s. The first of these ventures was an acquisition of a major stake in a British actuarial consulting firm by the name of Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP) in 2002.

Alexander Forbes to take on pan-African character over the next five years

One thing led to another, and the firm soon had an Alexander Forbes Consultants and Actuaries UK (AFCA UK) segment, which was then followed by expansion into the Belgian, Irish, Dutch, and Swiss markets. For the next decade, the firm took on a decidedly international character.

Over the last two years, however, the firm has begun an inward drive, looking to consolidate its regional operations with the objective of becoming a purely pan-African firm. This began with the sale of its 60% stake in LCP two years ago, raising a considerable R1.3 billion. The firm’s intention was the safe exit from the European market before it was rocked by Brexit-related uncertainty.

Last year, the firm entered the newly active market in Zimbabwe through the acquisition of African Actuarial Consultants. Now, the CEO of Alexander Forbes, Andrew Darfoor has declared the firm’s intentions to further  its presence across Africa. Currently, the firm’s business on the continent outside of South Africa stands at just 5%; a figure that it hopes to covert to 10% within the next five years at the latest, according to Darfoor.

The expansion into the diverse markets across Africa is based on two strategic pillars. The first is a focus on Western and Northern Africa, which are home to some of the richest countries on the continent, and where consulting services are increasingly in demand, particularly in the public sector.

The second pillar is automation and technological advancement. In essence, the firm’s customer-base across the continent is set to expand considerably, and the increasing digitisation of the population will allow the firm to ease its operational reach through the automation of key processes. The firm has earmarked R1 billion for the next three years purely for technological development.