Hollard, The Creative Block Programme and BASA

As South Africa’s largest privately-owned insurance group, the Hollard Insurance Group includes The Hollard Insurance Company and Hollard Life Assurance Company.  Established in 1980, the group provides short-term and life insurance as well as investment products to a diverse customer base, including individual consumers, commercial entities and corporate clients. Robert Enthoven started the company based on the idea that long-term, genuine partnerships with customers could disrupt an industry that believed standard products fulfilled the needs of an extremely diverse set of consumers. Since then, Hollard has continued to partner, to challenge and to disrupt, not for the sake of being different, but to make a real and meaningful difference, and to enable more people to create and secure a better future. Hollard prides itself on being purpose-driven and measuring its social dividends alongside shareholder contribution. Since inception, partnership and shared value has been at the heart of the Hollard business model, with the group today boasting over 100 ventures across the insurance value chain. Each one supports Hollard’s purpose of enabling more people to create and secure a better future.

One of the ways in which Hollard has created longterm genuine partnerships is through the arts. Hollard believes that every genre of art asks meaningful questions, changes viewpoints and challenges the status quo. It takes what exists, and asks what could be. It provokes and inspires. It causes reaction and drives action, and in doing so it facilitates change, in turn enabling more people to create and secure a better future. Through a focused investment in the arts, Hollard is able to fulfil long-term genuine investments through growing the arts sector and contributing to society through the arts, thus developing artists and exposing communities to the artworks of their very own locales.

Hollard’s relationship with Yellowwoods Art (now Spier Arts Trust) and involvement in the Creative Block project, for example, has further disrupted a stringent industry and provided opportunities for artists, therefore tapping into a long-term relationship with customers and beyond. The Creative Block programme, initiated in 2004, invites select artists to transform 18cm x 18cm blank blocks using any medium they choose. Each unique Creative Block artwork represents one of more than 250 participating artists and their individual stories, subject matters and styles. The finished artworks are submitted for critique at regular submission days in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth, and the best are purchased by Hollard for resale to corporate patrons and the general public. A high calibre of work is guaranteed, with artworks purchased according to stringent quality standards. Behind these logistics is a vision that is twofold: to empower South African artists by offering them regular income and exposure; and to offer collectors, both new and established, access to the work of both established and emerging artists, at affordable prices.

Hollard has been involved in this process of growth and empowerment and has further involved many of the Creative Block artists in its “Better Futures” campaign, in which Hollard’s ability to create a better future is depicted. Hollard uses specially-commissioned Creative Blocks to demonstrate each of its Better Futures initiatives, and these blocks can now be seen on television adverts, billboards around South Africa, and even on bus shelters. Excitingly, Hollard has also commissioned local artists to decorate township walls. In what Hollard believes is the ultimate proof of the concept of “Better Futures”, it has enabled better futures by creating both paid work and audiences for these artists on different platforms, allowing more people access to these artworks on everyday canvases and contributing to the development of the artists’ reputations.

Hollard is also a member of Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) and is the lead sponsor of BASA’s high profile Awards. The BASA Awards, partnered by Hollard and Business Day, reward businesses for their arts partnerships and underline the important role that the sector has to play in South Africa and its economy. Imaginative, innovative, and cost-effective partnerships between business and the arts are highlighted, demonstrating the potential for synergy, the window of mutual opportunity, and the far-reaching benefits for business, for the arts, and for all South Africans. Hollard’s partnership with BASA is testament to this power. Fostering collaboration between business and the arts brings positive change and enables better futures: for artists, via the exposure that the awards generate; for business, through the creativity engendered by the process of working together; and for society as a whole, through the conversation and engagement around the works that are produced. By supporting a wide variety of arts projects and genres, businesses contribute in no small way to South African creativity. Through affording artists space to create their works and giving them the means to market and publicise them, these partnerships and the BASA Awards promote a vibrant and sustainable arts sector.

However, these high-profile awards are not about giving recognition to companies that throw money at the arts, nor are they simply about awarding those businesses with the most budget to spend, but the BASA Awards judging criteria go far beyond simple financial support, requiring entries to consider elements such as the art forms chosen, societal impact, and equity, return on investment and reputation for both partners. These last criteria are especially noteworthy: by assessing how arts projects benefit both the business and the artists, and by examining the impact of the relationship on the reputation of both parties, the mutually beneficial relationship that flows out of these partnerships is highlighted.

Through the major standing contribution to the BASA Awards, Hollard ensures its objectives and passion for the development of the arts are achieved through recognition. The BASA Awards also provide a platform for networking; hence Hollard is able to contribute to an even stronger network growth. “Hollard has demonstrated a deep understanding of the value of art - both for internal HR wellness, but also for brand awareness and social currency. This has informed their Shared Value positioning. BASA’s partnership with Hollard over the years has been one of equitable engagement, fun and opportunity. They really know how to make it work,” according to Michelle Constant, BASA’s CEO.

As an avid supporter of BASA, as well as the Creative Block programme, Hollard also played a major role in a large donation that assisted the Johannesburg Art Gallery’s maintenance and redesign of permanent display, the Jackson Hlongwane Room. The donation came from the Creative Block exhibit at Hollard’s Villa Arcadia, alongside the National Treasures exhibition, which drew over 1,200 visitors. The exhibition saw over 400 artworks being purchased.

Hollard continuously meets its founder’s primary objective of forming long-term, genuine partnerships with customers, and has continued to do this over the years by touching the lives of different races, communities, old and young within South Africa and beyond through the arts. Hollard has contributed to the growth and maintenance of an industry that tells stories and brings people together. According to Heidi Brauer, Chief Marketing Officer at Hollard, “while our involvement in the arts may have started with the passion of our founders, today it goes well beyond sponsorship and corporate social responsibility. It has become an integral part of our purpose.”