Sterlin takes on international development role at Vitality Group

Elena Sterlin, senior vice president, Vitality Health International

Elena Sterlin has left her position as global head of health and education at IFC (International Finance Corporation) to take up the role of senior vice president, Vitality Health International. She assumed her new role on February 1, 2022, and is, to begin with, based in Washington DC. US headquarters for Vitality are in Chicago.

Vitality, part of South Africa-based Discovery, a shared value insurance company, tech platform and financial institution that incentivises customers to stay healthy through their lifetime.


“I had a very exciting opportunity to work with an innovator in the health and behaviour change space where I can not only leverage my strengths, but also follow my passion and stay on the cutting edge of what is happening in the sector,” said Sterlin.

Discovery, a public listed company, started out in South Africa as a health insurer with the idea of building its business by changing people’s behaviour, “motivating people to think of their long-term health through regular engagement and various perks, but also by linking their health insurance payments to how they live their lives,” said Sterlin.

“It’s a win, win, win,” said Sterlin. “For the customer, it improves their health and reduces premiums. For the payor, they take less risk, and the provider can reduce their costs”.

“And then, at the macro level, it reduces a country’s budgetary burden from health expenditure.”

Vitality statistics

Since it was founded in 1992, Discovery has expanded its offering beyond the health sector into other areas of insurance and financial services, and to other geographical areas across the world.

“Discovery has extended this model of creating shared value by incentivising positive customer behaviour to multiple other areas of financial services, including life insurance, motor insurance and banking. The company now has a presence in 36 countries reaching 20 million people, mainly through direct partnership or franchising type structures with life insurers, but the next step is to go much deeper into select markets with health insurance and health technology solutions,” said Sterlin.

Jonathan Broomberg and I will be responsible for this next stage of Vitality’s international expansion,” she said.

Broomberg is CEO of Vitality Health International, and global head of health insurance, Discovery Group.

Vitality is the name under which Discovery’s international operations are known. In the UK, the company offers insurance and investment products in a wholly-owned structure but in other countries business is conducted as a joint venture or in partnerships with local incumbents who are typically market leading insurers, such as AIA in Asia, John Hancock in the US, Generali in Europe and Sumitomo in Japan.

Sterlin joined IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, in 1997. In 2002 she moved to Turkey to lead the infrastructure division for Eastern Europe, Turkey and Central Asia before moving back to Washington to lead the organization’s overall operations for the health and education (H&E) sector.

“I have invested over 15 years into building IFC’s H&E business,” said Sterlin. “Today IFC has a US$4bn portfolio in those sectors and a very strong H&E team that can do extremely well without me. It was a good time for me to move on.”

A formal process to fill her position at IFC is underway. In the meantime, Chris McCahan remains manager of the health (and education) services division and Srividya Jagannathan of Life Sciences.