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Chuks Udo Okonta
The African Insurance Organisation (AIO) has appointed the Chairman of Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA) and Managing Director, NEM Insurance Plc, Mr Tope Smart has the Vice President of the Organisation.
The appointment which took place at the just concluded AIO conference at the end of its 46th Conference and General Assembly which held in Johannesburg, South Africa from the 8th – 13th June, 2019.
Smart took over from Mrs. Delphine Traoré, Regional Chief Operating Officer Allianz Africa who was appointed AIO President at the end of the Assembly.
This is coming following Nigeria’s acceptance to host the conference next year, 2020.
In his acceptance speech, Smart assured members of the AIO of an effective and efficient work relationship.
He disclosed that the hosting by Nigeria has the full backing of the Federal Government.
Smart is from Ijagba in Ondo State. He was born on the14th of April, 1964 at Omuo Ekiti in Old Ondo State now Ekiti State. He started his education from St. Silas Primary School, Omuo – Ekiti between 1970 and 1976. He continued his Secondary Education within the same vicinity by attending the Community Grammar School, Omuo Ekiti where he completed his O’ level examination and emerged as the overall best graduating student in 1981.
Smart was not done with education like some of his counterparts that dropped out of school immediately after the completion of the Secondary Education. He got admission at the Federal School of Arts and Science in Ondo for his Advanced level program. This step led him to gain admission into the prestigious University of Lagos where he read Insurance and graduated in 1987 with a Second Class Upper degree and also won the University’s prize for the overall best graduating student in Insurance department.
He equally won the Unity Life and Fire Insurance Company Limited prize for the best graduating student in Insurance in the same year. He proceeded immediately after graduation for the National Youth Service Corps program at Everyman Insurance Brokers, Abuja where he was involved in the overall operations of the branch office.
He contributed in no small measure to the rapid growth of the Company. After the National Youth Service, he was rewarded with a permanent employment as a Branch Manager with the same firm. He however left Abuja to join Nigerian-French Insurance Company Limited as one of the pioneer staff in 1989.
In 1991, he completed his professional examination with the award of CII London where he equally won the prize for Distinction in Property and Pecuniary Insurance. He served Nigerian French in various capacities and became an outstanding staff in the company.
No wonder, he was rewarded with a double promotion and was made to head the Marine Unit of the company, a position he held till he left the company.
In 1991 he left Nigerian French and joined hands with two other people to pioneer Perpetual Assurance Company Limited as Assistant Controller. In this position, he was responsible for the development of the Technical and Marketing policies of the company, a task he performed beyond the expectation of the Board.
He was therefore rewarded with a promotion to the position of a Controller, barely a year after the company commenced operations in 1992. In 1994, due to his continuous impressive results he was again promoted to the position of Assistant General Manager (Operations) of the company.
In the year 1995, Smart joined Vigilant Insurance Company Limited as the General Manager/Chief Executive Officer. He was responsible for the overall growth and development of the organisation.
In view of the outstanding results posted in two years, the Board in 1997 approved his elevation to the position of Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer with shareholding in the company. Mr. Smart transformed the company from N6 Million annual premium income in 1995 to an industry leader with a recorded premium income of about N1 Billion in 2005.
The company was acknowledged and adjudged as one of the fastest growing Insurance companies in Nigeria then. The company was not only making profit but consistently paid dividends to its shareholders throughout the period. This excellent performance was rewarded with the Active Corporate Executive award for Excellence by Credit News in April, 2000. This was followed with the Award of Excellence by the Actuary Science and Insurance Students’ Association, University of Lagos in September, 2001.
In 2007, Smart successfully spearheaded the merger arrangement between Vigilant Insurance Company Limited and NEM Insurance Plc. After the merger, Mr. Smart was appointed the Managing Director of the merged entity. The company has since become the delight of shareholders and brokers alike.
He has properly positioned NEM to be one of the industry leaders today. The company has won several awards.
A visionary leader, Tope Smart, a very passionate Insurance Executive initiated the construction of a befitting edifice for NEM Insurance Plc. The building, now a pride to the Industry has contributed to the promotion of the image of the Nigeria Insurance Industry.
In 2009, he set up a subsidiary in Ghana, named NEM Insurance Ghana Limited which he wanted to use as a Springboard to launch out to other West African Countries.
He presently sits on the Board of Regency NEM Insurance and NEM Asset Nigeria Limited among others.
In 2014, he was appointed by the Federal Government as Co-Chairman of Insurance Industry Transformation Committee. An alumnus of Havard Business School, he is a member of Ikoyi Club 1938. He is an Assistant Pastor with Redeemed Christian Church of God is happily married with children.