Sandra Snowball: IIG International was crazy, amazing – and fascinating

One of the most eagerly anticipated initiatives in insurance every year is the IIG International – and for Fulcrum’s Sandra Snowball, the 2017 trip more than lived up to expectations.

The IIG International group during their AIA visit.
(Photo by Sandra Snowball)
The IIG International group during their AIA visit.

The IIG International, an initiative of the Insurance Institute of Gauteng, sees a group of insurance professionals take an overseas trip and engage with leading brands in the industry (as well as some envy-inducing fun).

This year’s trip, which took place from 12-20 September, took the participants to Hong Kong and Singapore. There they visited several leading insurance and reinsurance companies, including AON, AIG, AIA Group, Guy Carpenter, Lloyd’s, Allianz, Munich Re, InsurTech Asia, and SwissRe, as well as the Singapore Insurance Institute, Norton Rose Fulbright and S&P Global Ratings.

In between the group managed to fit in sightseeing, a sailing trip aboard the famous junk-rigged boat Aqua Luna in Hong Kong, and a particularly special experience: trackside seats at the Singapore Grand Prix. 

“It was crazy – as fast-paced as it looks,” says Sandra, adding that the companies the group visited had bent over backwards to accommodate them, and enlighten them about the industry in the Asia-Pacific region. 

“The companies went out of their way. Everyone went to a lot of effort,” says Sandra. “We gained a good understanding of the Asia-Pacific market, and their roles in that market.” 

What was particularly fascinating to Sandra is the modern-day revival of the ancient Silk Route, a Chinese-led project to link Eurasia, which drives much economic planning in the region.

What also stood out for Sandra was the “uncanny” similarity between the Singapore Insurance Institute and the IIG. Apart from certain emphases, such as the IIG’s focus on transformation and diversity in the insurance industry, there was very little in the way of differences between the organisations.

Apart from work, the entertainment was great fun – mostly. A landlubber, Sandra says “the boat trip [in Hong Kong], for me, was not a highlight. It was beautiful, but I could not wait to get off.”

A collage of images from the trip.
(Photo by Sandra Snowball)
A collage of images from the trip.

Contrast that experience with attending the Grand Prix, where the IIG group were seated a mere 50m from the finish line.

“It was crazy, and one of the most amazing experiences … It was electric,” enthuses Sandra.

Her biggest highlight of the trip, however, wasn’t the company visits or the activities: it was her colleagues.

“I would say, one of the big things I took out of this trip is that the people on the trip represented South Africa and its diversity. We travelled together so well, and represented South Africa and the insurance industry,” says Sandra.

Her advice to anyone thinking about securing a place on the next IIG International is simple: go for it.

“People who don’t put themselves out there won’t know – and they won’t grow,” she says.