KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE Ag. COMMISSIONER FOR INSURANCE , Mr. O S. THOMAS AT THE 2019 INSURANCE PROFESSIONALS’ FORUM ORGANISED BY THE CHARTERED INSURANCE INSTITUTTE OF NIGERIA (CIIN) HELD AT PARK INN BY RADISSON HOTEL, ABEOKUTA, OGUN STATE ON OCTOBER 17, 2019.
I want to join the President and Chairman of Council of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) to warmly welcome you to this year’s insurance professionals’ forum. It is pertinent to mention that this year’s forum is remarkable as it is coming on the heels of the 60th anniversary of our prestigious Institute.
Let me once again congratulate the founding fathers; elders; members of Council, management and staff of the Institute for the attainment of this milestone and to add that this period is for us to reflect on our journey so far as practitioners under the Institute’s umbrella, appreciate the past and strategise for the future.
It always gladdens my heart to be in the midst of fellow professionals to discuss issues of common interest to our profession. This Forum is one of the only events that bring together all insurance practitioners from the nooks and crannies of the country under the same roof. For whatever it is worth, I enjoin you to take maximum advantage of this opportunity to network and freely discuss your industry; prospects and challenges – real or perceived bedevilling the industry while proffering possible solutions in the interest of all stakeholders.
The theme for this year’s forum “The Digital Era: Implications for Insurance Professionals” couldn’t have come any time better than now that the phase of technological advancement has taken an unprecedented leap to becoming an integral part of our lives. The Digital Era actually started evolving in the 1980s and presented society with information and technologies that are essentially transforming how businesses across all industries operate and serve their customers, the Insurance industry inclusive.
In 2015, PwC identified that Mobile devices, tablets and smart phones will be the most important technological advancements in the insurance sector in the nearest future. This implies that consumer experience, locally or globally are going to be greatly influenced by Digital Technology.
Imagine this scenario; consumers having their claims, complaints or inquires attended to with minimal human participation, tasks that ordinarily would take several daunting processes to accomplish, now simplified and automated, saving downtime, improving consumer experience, reducing operational costs and providing new revenue streams. This scenario I just described is not far-fetched from reality, it is not only possible and achievable, it is already happening.
This is where our true service will lie and also how the narrative of the insurance industry and market in Nigeria will change.
The prospects existing from embracing technological advancements in the Insurance Industry are almost limitless; it almost seems too good to be true, and one might wonder if there are many caveats or implications to worry about.
It thus becomes imperative that we ask ourselves these questions as insurance professionals as to where we want to belong and what we should do;
i. Where are we as an industry in the phase technological advancement?
ii. Where are our compatriots?
iii. Are we where we should be?
iv. What do we need to do?
In this 21st century, digital technology has integrated the world and its systems into “one global village” where all transactions are now on our finger tips. Our smart phones perform wonderful functions including almost all financial transactions. These are changes that affect all strata of our personal activities and businesses. Bigger than the phase of the advancement are the implications which are already affecting us positively or negatively depending on our answers to the questions raised earlier.
Insurers must understand that digitalisation has now taken precedence in people’s day to day affairs and the implication will be detrimental if we fail to fix that gap that it will create in our business between us and our customers. We must effectively integrate into the robust financial circle for insurance to take its rightful place in the economy.
We must invest in technology in order to meet up with current phase of advancement and take our products to the door steps of consumers. The demand by consumers for ease of transacting business is becoming clearer and aggressive. How we respond to these demands will certainly determine our position in the financial market and long time sustainability of our businesses.
The Commission on its part is committed to improving the use of technology in the sector. It is on this premise that the Commission is investing hugely in automating most of its operations. To this end, the Commission’s portal that will integrate all insurance transactions into a single hub will soon go live. The implication of this will be a transformation of businesses to online. Hopefully, by the time we meet next year, our processes would have become fully automated and operational. Suffice it to say that NAICOM has at all times encouraged practitioners to imbibe the adoption of technology in their businesses.
If the industry is to effectively key into the financial inclusion target of the federal government, it therefore behoves us to reinvigorate and face the challenge of digitalising our operations not only to build trust, confidence and reassurance of all stakeholders that the industry is ready to encore its peers, but to enhance penetration.
As I conclude my remark, let me warn that our failure to key into the 21st century demand for digital business services might spell doom for our industry. Our failure to master Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud technologies (SMAC), means we will be unable to serve even the most basic demands of customers and a post-digital world. Hence, we will be prevented from embracing the next digital trends or disruption. It is important we work towards being part of the wave because this new set of technologies will ensure we rethink the entire industry and the parts needed to be played in the world.
Insurance professionals need to be more alert and integrate SMAC as a baseline or core competency first before adopting newer technologies- the internet of things (IoT), telematics, “big data”, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), “chat-bots”, distributed ledger technology (DLT) and so on. Choosing carefully the customized and on-demand customer experiences we intend to target is essential before we can work backwards to map out or develop a strategy on these three things;
• How to get there,
• Identifying what ecosystem partners we need and
• Our position in that ecosystem
All of these simply mean, better decision making for all of us in the insurance industry. We all need to move beyond our comfort zone. This means moving beyond the current structures and culture we have in order to achieve our goals.
All these been said, for this transformation to occur, strong leadership is required. Chief Executives of insurance entities must embrace this change and do so rapidly. This is if they are all willing to benefit from the opportunities the digital era brings, so as not to be left behind as the industry is being transformed. The opportunities require that we reserve old qualities while engaging talent, focus and digital energy towards the new structures, model and culture which will become the energy of business transformation. Again, to recognize this, Leadership is required.
The Insurance Industry is indeed, in a position to embark on a digital journey that can have real impact on ourselves and customers while exploiting existing assets. Therefore, I enjoin you to understand the task ahead and resolve to make good the gaps that are created by technology in our businesses.
I wish you a successful and fruitful stay here in Abeokuta
O. S. Thomas
Ag. Commissioner for Insurance