Career women – success stories… Yolande van Niekerk

Celebrating successful women for all their hard work and effort creates a pathway and steppingstone for aspiring women who seek guidance, motivation, and inspiration.

Gauteng Women in Insurance (GWII) recently chatted to Yolande van Niekerk, CEO of Ibiliti, about her journey and career in the financial services industry and her advice for other women in the industry.

A Q&A session  

Tell us a little about yourself and your insurance career. Maybe a bit of a background on where you were born, where you grew up, your academic experience… leading to your entry into the industry. 

I was born and raised on the East Rand raised by my loving parents. I went to Dr EG Jansen High School. I did not have the opportunity or privilege to attend university as I was involved in a bus accident at the age of 16. So, my road to recovery and rehabilitation was a long journey, but my parents did everything they could to get me mobile again.

After school, I studied journalism through the London College of Management. I started working at a young age doing all types of jobs and studying part-time; anything I could do as a young person to earn an income and grow. Eventually, I landed in the marine insurance industry as a receptionist at an insurance brokerage in Bedfordview. And that was my entrance into the industry!

Tell us something about yourself which not a lot of people know…

I was born with two skew pinkie fingers… I can’t hold them together with the rest of my fingers, but this is unique to me. I also love a hot curry and my favourite song to wake up to is Good Morning by Max Frost!

What motto do you live by?

Live in the moment. It is the only present that matters. To live in the past or the future is futile.

Name one defining moment in your career or personal life which changed the world for you and why? Perhaps a brief success story.

When I started my current business, I decided to self-fund it. Through my struggles initially, I quickly realised how privileged I was in the past (through previous companies, employers, and business partners). Whatever those owners or companies went through was pretty admirable. I was very quickly humbled, and developed some radical appreciation for every opportunity I received, whether in the form of a blessing or a lesson.

And when everything hinges on you, then you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.

It pivoted me on a continuous journey of learning, and I am grateful that I have been allowed to develop my higher faculties. It also helped me navigate my business journey.

Briefly tell us about your business and what it offers. 

We (Ibiliti) are underwriting managers, and we primarily serve commercial brokers in the short-term insurance space, and we offer a couple of solutions. We are on a mission to deliver practical insurance and risk solutions to a vast number of South African businesses to cover and manage their respective specialist industry exposures through human understanding, creativity, insight into the future, efficient service, tailored quality products, advanced technology, and sustainable results.

One of our goals is to empower brokers to serve their clients the best that they can.

What are your plans for the future?

In my personal capacity, I am busy writing a book, so I plan to publish it.

In the business space, we are savvy in technology, so our business operates in real-time, and we can service the country on a national basis without having physical office structures or branches elsewhere. However, we are continually looking to expand and grow.

We work in a hybrid manner right now, meaning we have part of our team working at home and others are working at the office. We do our best to create balance and provide the best of both worlds.

Give us a short brief of your success story. What would you say is a success story?

My learning and growth story has been instrumental in setting up five companies in the industry.

The biggest success story for me personally is my endless personal journey to self-mastery.

As we expand our awareness, we can be of bigger service to the world and create more value. I am sure in the future my life will demonstrate it more.

Who is your role model and why?

My daughter. I see so much of myself in her, and at the age of 14, she is teaching me so much.

Complete the sentence, “I wish women would just… 

Spend less and invest more. It is not about how much you earn, but what you do with that money and the habits that you learn. If women are gutsier with their money, they will be much better off financially.

What advice do you have for other young women entering the industry?

Behind every successful woman is a lot of unsuccessful moments. In your 20s, get fit, build healthy habits, learn profitable skills, give yourself a financial education, and don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is what makes us successful. Keep failing forward – if offered opportunities, say yes, yes, yes! See the blessings and the lessons.

Do you think GWII is a significant platform in the industry and what role will it play in the future?

Just like men have golf and cycling clubs, GWII is like a golf club for women… there are times we have to socialise, but it is also compelling for women to support each other through challenges.

I see GWII as a lasting entity.

Groups that we can associate with create an environment where we can stand on the shoulders of others. It is empowering. It provides an opportunity to be inspired by learning something new and valuable from everybody.

It’s essential to have this.