IIG News

Roots & Wings: Nosipho meets commercial insurance expert, Janine Smith

When contemplating the importance of experience as a source of knowledge; Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, once said: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards”. When one of our Roots & Wings mentors, Catherine Albertyn, found out that her mentee, Nosipho Fumba, was moving into the commercial/corporate insurance space; she thought it was apt to introduce her to a friend and expert in this area of insurance.

Nosipho wrote about her experience after meeting with Janine Smith, and has shared it with the IIG.

Left to right: Janine Smith, Nosipho Fumba and Catherine Albertyn

It’s the middle of June on a beautiful, sunny winter’s day in the west of Johannesburg. As I walk towards her, she’s relaxed, donning a funky hat, already waiting for me in this equally funky and upbeat Mexican restaurant.

Me: Janine??

Her: (Bright smile and gets up from her bar stool), “Yes – I’m Janine, Nosipho” she beams as brightly as the sunlight outside.
There’s a slight chill in the wind but we are both content to move to the outside area where we can chat openly.
The nip in the wind is very quickly overpowered by the warmth and depth of our conversation.

Bright, young at heart and an absolute stunner– Janine Smith a founding member of the GWII (Gauteng Women in Insurance), is a powerhouse who has willingly dedicated an afternoon to me as she shares her journey of 24 years in the insurance industry.

Janine started her career in 1995 at Coface (formerly CUAL) as an assistant underwriter and has filled many roles in insurance over the years. She is currently a Director at Sintelum.

Goal-driven and determined to make a success of anything she was faced with, early on in her career – this became the theme that would keep her focused and enable her to continuously set herself up for greater achievements.

These days she is considered by the industry as a technical expert in Property & Terrorism amongst her many other roles that she currently fulfills as part of the Sintelum Executive.

I ask her, what is Janine’s superpower, with a true desire to know what and how she has remained dynamic and relevant in this industry: She admits that what she would deem her “superpower” is her ability to remain resilient and persistent towards her goals, always.

“We may not be able to change the principles and the values of insurance, but we sure can make the industry vibrant and exciting!” – this is how she has kept herself consistent and successful, committing to her craft and consciously keeping it alive and fun, like the person that she is.

Janine prides herself in “being different”, she’s always strived to be different and challenge the conventional way of thinking and being, which is evident as she visibly stands out from any crowd.

This can inevitably lead to loneliness and being misunderstood. When asked how she gets through those seasons of solitude she gladly admits that her inspiration and guide through these tough periods, remain her Mom, her friends as well as her husband of 16 years. They keep her grounded and remind her of the bigger picture.

Having completed her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) through the University of Cumbria two and a half years ago, she confirms that those were the most grueling and sacrificial two and a half years of her life.

When asked whether she would do it again, without hesitation, she would do it repeatedly. Janine embarked on the MBA journey to push her own limits and prove to herself and to her peers that she was capable and able to do anything she put her mind to.

Where does Janine see women within our industry in the next 5 to 10 years?

Her natural and unapologetic response is honest yet simply profound.

“I want that question in itself to disappear! I’d like women to be visible and present, integrated at all levels so that that question no longer needs to be asked!”

Diversity brings success, she says and firmly believes.

Janine also believes in always making her team know they are valued; understanding and tapping into the human element of any and every situation is part of what drives her success.

“I want everyone who works hard for it (success) and deserves it, to have it!”

On advice to women, she says “Never give up, navigate the industry on your own terms and don’t try to be someone else! Be unique, believe in yourself and never let others bring you down!” – “Never stop learning!”

What advice would Janine have for a young person/professional thinking about getting into Insurance?

“It’s not all boring”, she laughed. “Never stop learning and taking risks and fully commit. It can be a thankless industry, so be passionate about it”. She also advises that one must look for and surround themselves with “good, solid and open-minded people along the journey”.

In closing, Janine says “Always strive to uplift others and be the change that you want to see!”
An afternoon seems like it isn’t enough time to absorb the pearls of wisdom that adorn this woman.
As we part ways at the parking lot and she heads back to Summer and Misty (her adorable cats) as well as her loving husband, I absolutely cannot wait to spend more time with her for the sole purpose of soaking up her wealth of knowledge and experience. ‘Till next time…. Adios Captain Smith!

Article written by: Nosipho Fumba