President, Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Sir. Muftau Oyegunle, in this interview with Chuks Udo Okonta, said insurers having pooled good money, through the recapitalisation, need good thinking to yield good returns to their investors.
How is the Institute adjusting to challenges posed by COVID-19 Pandemic?
The pandemic and economic challenges faced by Nigeria wasn’t exactly foreseen. However, we know that the challenges in the business world are things that can come anytime. Hence, every businessman has to adapt. It was common knowledge that information technology is the future of any business however, circumstances have moved the future to now. Information technology is the NOW of business growth. At Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria and the College of Insurance and Financial Studies, we have been making efforts to enhance our technology. All COVID-19 did was to fast track the process. To the glory of God, we have been able to adjust quickly and move on. As early as June, we had a webinar warning our professionals that the game has changed. That every insurance professional has to be up and doing. They have to enhance their technical skills, not only that, but that technology has become the driver of business. I am happy to announce that all the programs we lined up, we were able to do them. We had our Education Seminar and the Economic Outlook with the Lagos Business School amongst other seminars and trainings. The College of Insurance has since May, been having their online programmes, even the diploma that used to be a classroom programme has fully been moved online. It is heartwarming to note how quickly we have been able to quickly adjust.
The beauty of what is happening now is that the world is our market, we can get professionals from anywhere in the world and students from everywhere in the world. That is the reality we are trying to adjust to. Luckily for us, before COVID-19, we were actually at the verge of giving out a contract to review the entire information technology setup of the institute. So, when COVID struck, all we just had to do was to sit back and say, in view of the new reality, what are we to immediately implement and which items can come later. With that, we were able to ensure that whatever information technology we were putting money on was what would sustain us at the next level. We are good to go and thank God that we are doing pretty well.
What are you doing to tackle the dearth of skilled professionals in the marine insurance business?
To the credit of the Institute, every year, the number of professionals we produce is increasing. The increase may not be in radical numbers, but the number of professionals has been going up. The issue here is in the area of specialisation. Where are people concentrating their efforts? At a stage, it was aviation that was the problem. Another stage it was life that was the problem. These days, there are whispers of Marine here and there. However, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) and the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA) are working on increasing the number of actuary technicians in the market. I am happy to report that NAICOM gave the College a project to fast track the training of actuary technicians for the next five years. For Marine, we have more than three marine courses in our syllabus. One at the diploma level and two at the qualifying level. But the question is, are people taking them? My answer may be as good as yours. Because if people are taking them, I think the industry will not be complaining. We cannot force people to become specialists in certain areas. The courses are there, people are free to specialise in that area, but of course, you know people will specialise in areas they feel they have a clear future. It is for us now to work together to make sure we sell a future in the marine area to our people. Once they know that there is a future there, I am sure people would go in that route and everybody would be happy about it.
What is the institute doing to stem rate cutting that is perpetuated by professionals raised by the institute?
The law that set up the CIIN has provisions for the investigative and disciplinary committee. The two of them are headed by past presidents that are of repute. The disciplinary committee is headed by Olola Olabode Ogunlana and the other one by Chief Elioramo. The reality is that we can not act on rumor. It is only cases that are presented to us that we can investigate and award disciplinary action against. Do not forget that anything we do can still be taken to a court of law. So, you should not do anything you cannot defend at the court. I can confirm that cases that were brought to us in the past were handled in a way that would not affect the reputation and discipline of the Institute. The last case we handled came from NAICOM and we acted on it. I can assure you that when cases are reported to us, we would deal with them promptly.
Is there any link between CIIN’s disciplinary committee and NAICOM’s complaint bureau?
Yes. Just as said earlier, the last case we handled was referred by NAICOM. If you have a case with underwriters you report to the NIA. If you have problems with brokers, you report to the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB). If the case is on claims and you feel you are not satisfied with the judgment from NIA, you can escalate it to NAICOM. But when it is a professional issue, the three of them will file the case to the CIIN.
What are the legacy projects you are working on to bequeath on the institute?
We have been lucky in CIIN. I can comfortably say that all our presidents have been good. In fairness, CIIN has been lucky in picking presidents that have assisted us. The CIIN has a vision, irrespective of who you are, when you become a President, you have a template of development already laid that you have to build on. For example, now that I am President, we have an auditorium we are building at the College. We are also trying to revive our Victoria Island project, by the grace of God. These are things, I have no option but to move forward. In addition to that, the information technology issue is something that must be concluded. The facelift of the Institute is of course an ongoing thing and the issue of E-library is something that must be completed as soon as possible. These are things that are on the top burner that I’m looking to achieve during my tenure.
How positioned is the institute in the area of research for the insurance industry?
Two of the visions of setting up the College of Insurance, are education and research. When we had our retreat early this year, we gave the Rector of the College a directive that mandated the college to research in order to find out the technical needs of the industry. That report would be released to the industry very soon. We are working on that. We know research is part of our mandate and we are taking it very seriously. By the grace of God, before the end of my tenure, at least we must release our published research to the industry.
What is your vision for corporate social responsibility?
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is something the institute is highly committed to. Over the years, we had visited the Motherless Homes, Internally Displaced People (IDP) settlements. The next level we are trying to achieve is to have insurance clubs in schools. That would not only provide education on insurance but would us meet the needs of the students and also direct their vision in the right direction. This initiative is to support the insurance textbooks we have been distributing in schools. We are also thinking of a quiz competition where we would be giving prizes to secondary school students. These are areas we can move people in the right direction, we can impart the environment further and at the same time, we are making people to understand what insurance is all about.
What advice do you have for underwriters with regards to the insurance industry post recapitalisation?
When people ask me questions on post recapitalisation, my simple answer is that yes, I am a professional, more than that, I am an investor in the insurance industry. I know as an investor, what I expect them to do with my money.
I am happy that NAICOM is serious about insurance penetration. I expect the NIA to work closely with NAICOM to make sure we get through to State Governments. As you are aware, without the cooperation and collaboration of the State Governments, compulsory insurances cannot be enforced. Though the compulsory insurance Act is a Federal law, the State Governments are the ones that license vehicles. So, without their cooperation, we cannot achieve anything. If we can achieve the enforcement of compulsory insurance, it would help everybody. Furthering the conversation on the issue of insurance penetration, it has been agreed that we need technology and data to reach levels close to what has been achieved in Kenya. I am happy that the NIA is looking at that direction, when properly worked on, it would help everybody.
The industry also needs professionals as well as measured investment. Gone are the days you can just go and buy treasury bills, do fixed deposits, and go and sleep. All those roads cannot take insurance companies anywhere today. The industry indeed needs investment gurus that would turn around the money. With good money, you need good thinking, to yield a good return to your investors.
Technology, manpower, and creativity are what I expect all insurance companies to put their money into.
How prepared is the Institute on raising adequate manpower for retail business post recapitalisation?
We have a lot to do on the training side. The College of Insurance and Financial Studies started training on microinsurance and retail training in partnership with a firm last year. Our Education seminars have been based on retail training. We now have a course on Takaful. We equally have developed a coursebook so that people can know how to go about it. Data and technology which are core duties of NAICOM and NIA are what would drive retail insurance. I am happy that many insurance companies are working on how to reach people without leaving their homes. The problem of retail is the cost of gathering, so if you can work against increasing your cost, you would break even.
How has the institute fared in making contributions to the nation’s yearly budget?
We have been doing that and would continue to do it. It becomes amplified when there are serious issues and we want to draw the attention of government to. Luckily for us, with the new Commissioner, we seem to be getting the ears of the government. The Chairman House Committee on Insurance & Actuarial matters, Darlington Nwokocha, also gives a listening ears to the insurance industry.
What are your success stories since you assumed the position of president of the institute?
I give glory to God for the privilege of being on this seat. My investiture was in the mid of COVID-19. Initially, there was this fear, whether it would take place however I thank God, we were able to host it and it was very successful. It gave me personal joy. It was the first opportunity we had to showcase the Institute as being ready to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly after, we did the webinar to educate the professionals on the new reality. It gives me joy that we were able to adapt and survive after COVID-19. All our programmes are going on despite that things are not the same anymore. It is an honour to be in a position where I can sustain the legacies that legendary Past Presidents who have served before me created. I thank God for it and hope and pray that I will be able to achieve my plans for the institute.
What advice do you have for the insuring public?
The problem is not the insuring public but that we are not doing enough to introduce insurance to them for the right reasons. In developed economies, nobody begs citizens to come and insure. People budget for insurance because they need it for survival. It is that level of education that we must all put hands together to spread within the country. Working for money and insuring are two sides of the coin. If you are working hard, you need insurance to back up. That should be the message we are to take to the public. Once they get that message, we would not beg them to come and insure. I think it is still on our side to do what we can do to educate people on what insurance is all about. That is what we should do to bring more people into insurance.