Excerpt from interview with the Commissioner for Insurance, Sunday Thomas, during the 2021 NAICOM seminar for Insurance Journalists in Lagos. Chuks Udo Okonta reports.
Corporate strategic plan
The ever changing political and socio-economic landscape and the lessons learnt in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the need to review our strategies. To succeed in this dynamic environment, we have developed this strategic plan to guide our focus and drive our efforts to respond more effectively to emerging challenges in the next three years.
Since development of the last Strategic Plan for the period 2016 – 2020, there have been various events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the End SARS protests, and the rise in kidnappings, armed banditry,
communal tensions and conflicts, which have impacted on the activities and initiatives of the Commission. These events have ushered in the new normal hence shaping how the industry conducts its business going forward and the corresponding regulatory response.
The major thrust of this has been preparing the workforce for the new work order, protection of policyholders, improving human capital, leveraging on technology and alternative channels of insurance distribution to stimulate productivity.
The 2021-2023 Strategic Plan has five (5) goals designed to entrench effective and efficient service delivery, ensure safe, sound and stable insurance sector, adequately protect policyholders and public interest, improve trust and confidence in the insurance sector and encourage innovation and promote insurance market development.
We know that the driver of the economy is the people at the lower level of the pyramid and, therefore, we are taking financial inclusion policy very seriously. While it is a national policy, the insurance sector is far behind but we are doing a lot of catch up.
To this effect, two Takaful companies have been licensed in addition to the existing ones. We have four micro insurance company that has also been licensed and two are on the verge of being licensed. We believe that if we are able to properly take care of the supply side, the demand aspect of it is will run smoothly.
Similarly, the traditional method of distributing insurance has become inadequate to take care of the speed we want to gain and the people who want to reach and so we must begin to develop other channels of distribution.
There are few of them that have been developed and waiting for final touches here and there for them to be released.
We are conscious of the fact that the sector is a knowledge-based sector and, therefore, human capacity to drive this initiative is critical. The development in the actuarial profession has been on the drawing board for years.
The first sets of those who will write the actuarial exam will qualify as certified actuarial analyst. The exam was held last week and I was made to understand that in the next six weeks or so, they will hear the results. We have made a pledge to see the possibility of having about 100 of them in the next four years.
It’s a target and we see how far we can go. We believe that we need actuarial analyst to stand in the gap pending the time that we will have sufficient number of actuaries for the market.
Deployment Of Technology
I want to say that we are also conscious that technology drives business. We have started with ourselves at the commission and our automation plans have commenced. We want to see how far we can run within the commission.
The plan by the commission to have a portal started about now nine to 10 years ago and until last year, nothing was happening. But we picked it up last year and the first phase of the portal has been successfully completed. On the strategic plan of the commission, the last one ended in 2020.
So, we have picked it up from 2021 to 2023. We are following and pursuing it. We believe that with what we have in the plan, we should be able to make a difference in the market.
Harnessing Government’s Insurance Businesses
One of the a low-hanging fruit is the government business. We know that a lot of government businesses, especially at the states are far from experiencing the benefits of insurance.
We want to be engaging the states so that we can draw them closer and bring the consciousness of the benefits of insurance to their doorstep.
To this effect, we are committed, especially to the Federal Government agencies, getting the concurrence of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Musa Bello for a guideline that will make it mandatory for agencies to make adequate provision for the insurances. At present, the sum of about N9.2 billion has been set aside for group life of the 2021 to 2022 financial year of Federal Government agencies.
Companies don’t fail on their own, people make companies to fail. The death of companies most of the time evolve from poor governance structure.
Therefore, we are aware, that effective from June 1, the corporate governance guidelines have become effective. This is to make sure that whatever resources that is put in the insurance sector is well protected.
On capitalisation, what we are doing beyond what has been done is that Risk-Based Supervision (RBS) has become a reality. It’s been in the works for a long time and we have been waiting for it’s taking off.
I am happy to announce to you that all that is needed to be done in respect to the RBS has been so substantially done. In one or two months, the first set of risk-based supervision in the market will take off.
The relevant persons have been trained, necessary skills have been acquired, instruments that will enable implementation have been developed.
Consolidated Insurance Bill
On the Consolidated Insurance Bill, a lot of work had been done, very soon the commission would be having an engagement with the National Assembly to look at the draft bill.
One area we had not gained speed is in the Academy. However, property had been allocated to it and it is being developed.
By the end of third quarter or the fourth quarter of this year, the insurance academy will take off.
We have been assisting a lot of institutions to develop their actuarial and insurance programmes. We are leading the integration within the West African region. We are familiar with African Continental Trade Free Zone.
At present, I am going to be chairing the West African Association of Insurance Supervisors. We are leading in integration of procedure practices and the first thing we are about to do is to establish the insurance college. This is not a school but the coordination of insurance supervisory college across the West African Coast.
Enforcement of Compulsory Insurances
The enforcement of compulsory insurances is also on. Last week, we played host to the Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps. About a month ago, we were with the FCT minister and two weeks ago the Minister of Road Transport, Mrs. Gbemisola Saraki was with us in the commission.
We have been trying to engage across the country. We visited the Governor of Ekiti State and we were to visit the Governor of Enugu State but for the prevailing security issues that happened there recently. The fire service management was in our office two weeks ago.
These are some of the engagements that we have been having because we are determined to make a difference. We want to encourage our operators to increase their budgets in publicity. We are too far behind because not much of insurance is known. The regulator will do its bit but the operators must cooperate with us for all of us to be on the same page.