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Dawn Newman – A Household Name

Ticking all the boxes

Longevity? Tick. Loyalty? Tick. Professionalism? Tick? Excellence? Tick.

In fact, Dawn Newman ticks every box, and given her reputation and profile in the equestrian industry, one could even go as far as to say she’s the face of insurance heavyweights Kuda.

Dawn Newman – passionate horsewoman is a familiar face

Dawn Newman – passionate horsewoman is a familiar face (Pic – Supplied)

When CEO Wehann Smith started the company from his garage in 2009, the first phone call he made was to Newman. “That’s true,” Smith confirms. “Dawn was Kuda employee No2 and Josi Marais was No3.”

Now, 15 years down the line, Kuda has swelled to some 40-plus permanent staffers and Newman ranks as the template for someone representing the cornerstones of what Kuda’s DNA is all about.

She is a household name in the equine industry, a national equestrian champion who started her competitive career on some outstanding thoroughbreds, the best of whom was a horse called Foxcroft bought from Stan Elley for R500.

While we talk, Newman is still coming down from a recent high. “I’ve just ridden my first Grand Prix dressage test on my 10-year-old Hannoverian gelding, Callaho Lincoln.  I’m very involved from a competition point of view, I’m proudly flying the flag for Kuda in the sport horse market in any way that I can, sport horse will always be my first love.

“Last year I won the National Dressage Medium Tour Championship. So, it’s going really, really well. Grand Prix is the highest level of dressage, the test that I rode a couple of weeks ago is the same as the test that they’ll be riding at the Olympics in Paris. Not many horses and riders in the world get to that level. So, it’s a huge privilege, a dream come true.”

It’s easy to see why CEO Smith called on Newman when he needed to start building on his Kuda dream. She speaks with passion and authority and her reputation and achievements are laid bare for all to see.

However, in the work environment she continues to thrive. “I started the sport horse business for Kuda despite having no experience in insurance at the time – I am an accountant by trade. I headed up that side of the business for around ten years, and then in September of last year, the next project that I took on was running the Personal and Commercial Insurance division of the business. This move was made so much easier knowing that Sport Horse would be in the capable hands of Lara Neill. It was an opportunity that I grabbed with both hands and I’m loving every minute.”

I ask her to explain her “day job” to those of us who don’t necessarily understand the differentiation of divisions in an insurance company. Personal and Commercial insurance covers “normal” insurance like your car and house, business insurance, liability insurance and many others, the list is almost endless.

“Not many people know that this arm of Kuda has been in existence for a long time, at least seven years. But there’s never been a real focus on it in terms of saying, you know, somebody’s going to head up this division and really take it to the next level. And that’s what I’ve been tasked with.

“And sales is my absolute passion. I get a complete kick out of it. It’s like an endorphin shot straight into the veins. I love it, and I love dealing with people. And of course, growing this business is a great challenge for me. We’ve got such a huge opportunity to cross-sell, because we’ve got a huge book of niche clients in terms of both racehorse and sport horse. We’ve already got a relationship with those people, so it makes sense to offer them our Personal and Commercial Insurance products as well, so that they kind of have all their insurance in one stable, so to speak.”

As Newman uses the pun “in one stable”, let’s add our own one to the mix. She is now into full stride in explaining her role, something that has evolved naturally and excitedly as Kuda continues to leave its hoofprint in the industry.

“Everyone needs insurance and what better company to place it with than one that you have come to know and trust. Given my background, I’m fairly well connected. I’ve got a great team working with me. Now we are looking to take the business to the next level, and to make people aware that it is not “just” a horse insurance business. I say that with the fullest respect, because the horse insurance business is certainly not to be downplayed, it has been the backbone of Kuda since inception!

“While it’s fair to say that Kuda’s main focus has always been horses, there’s certainly is a lot of merit in the work that we do on the short-term, personal and commercial realm, and we’ve got some very big clients on board, in a book that we’ve built up over many years.

“Stud farm insurance is just one of the things that we specialise in. When you go out to a farm and you’re looking at paddocks and the horses and the things attached to that, you need to have a background knowledge of that industry to give them expert advice.

“Insurance for a horse truck, for example, is a very different risk to insurance for the same sized truck used for delivery of consumer goods all day every day. We can bring this message across to insurers with authority and knowledge giving them reassurance as to the risk in question and thereby securing dramatically better rates than would otherwise be available to our clients. After all, people are understandably emotionally and physically invested in their horses and are going to take every precaution to make sure that they travel safely. That’s just one example of why knowledge in the industry is so important.”

I specifically ask her the obvious question, “why give Dawn Newman a call”?

“I’ve been involved in the equestrian industry all my life, so I have a lot of people who believe in me. I always try to relate the advice that I give to what I would do in the same situation, this tends to build trust. We get a lot of referral business which is the ultimate compliment. Much of our business stems from relationships that my team and I have built up over the years. And you know, our brand has got a very good name in the industry and, as cliche as it sounds, you’re talking to real people, If you phone for a quote, a claim, or advice, you’re going to speak to me, or you’re going to speak to one of my team members.

“We really are real people, with real experience and real passion.”

Newman’s immediate future involves more than her day job. I’m an international showing judge so next week I’m off to judge at youth champs in KZN. Then I’m going to be glued to the TV watching as much of the Olympics as possible (don’t tell Wehann). Even though first prize would be to attend the events in Paris, a bird’s eye view from my lounge will have to do for now. And watching the riders do the Grand Prix with such skill and finesse is simply breathtaking! And those who win medals, just wow!”

With that, she apologises as she has a call waiting and that’s the end of our telephonic discussion. Which is a prime example of the career line. Talk to real people, in real time. Another box ticked.

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