CELEBRATION OF THE DOYEN
ADDRESS GIVEN AT THE SECOND SESSION
ON THE THEME:
REPOSITIONING THE NIGERIAN INSURANCE INDUSTRY
The theme of this address provided by the Celebration Committee presupposes that all is not well or as it should be with the Insurance Industry. As it is patently so I concur with that view.
Using the benchmarks of perceived good image and customer satisfaction, what is the perception of Insurance by the insuring public, organisations or corporate entities, governments and the other sectors of the Nigerian Financial System? Some within the latter are competitors of the Insurance Industry. All is not well with the Nigerian Financial System as well. For the good of the economy, the country, and its people the time has come for the Financial System to be reviewed. By doing so light will be beamed on some of the ills within the Insurance Industry. The last review of the Nigerian Financial System was in 1976. The System, like most things in Nigeria of today needs to be re-examined and revitalised.
To start off with the matter of the moment – repositioning of the Nigerian Insurance Industry – I wish to pose a few questions:
How high up in the list of ‘must’ spending to ensure survival and continuing well-being of individuals, corporate bodies and governments in this country is insurance? The first question presupposes that we are even on the list. So the next questions should be are we even on the list and if not why not?
Is the posture of the Insurance Industry within the Nigerian Financial System right, correct and assertive enough?
What is the impact of Insurance on the social and economic life of the nation?
Has the Insurance Industry a good vision of its role within the national economy? Or is it lacking in vision?
Does the Nigerian Insurance Industry have good visibility?
Is the full potential available to the industry fully exploited?
Why has insurance not made greater impact on society and the economy?
Why has insurance not effected greater penetration in the market?
Why is insurance visibility not as dominant as it is for banking?
The foregoing and many other questions should at this session engage our attention. Our findings and subsequent actions are what will propel the industry into its rightful place and a better future to the overall good of the economy.
The twenty minutes I have been given for this address will not be enough to deal with the various issues at length, nor is it adequate to do so in all its ramifications. I hope, my good audience, that a compressed version of my thoughts on the theme will stimulate your interest.
As you are aware, in recent years I have been more of a consultant in the fields of management, staff training and manpower development. All these have put me in a unique position to see perspectives of the industry which more often than not players within it are unaware of. While most players in the industry see the parallel and angular perspectives, I see, the oblique perspective in addition, which enables me to criticize objectively. I am thus able, from time to time, to rouse the industry from its slumber; and to stimulate it to make it achieve the best.
What I intend to do at this session is to pose questions to which I expect answers from you. I will point out perceived shortcomings: your contributions will be to provide solutions, to rectify them. These, I hope will enable us as an industry to perform our best to make the desired impact on the life and economy of the nation.
I, see the industry – insurers, reinsurers, adjusters, brokers, other facilitators, and the regulator as one seamless entity. This has to be so, as the strength of a chain is in its weakest link. Besides, the eye sees not itself. You will, therefore, permit me to be the mirror to show the reflection of the industry as I see it.
Before proceeding further let us refresh our memory: What is the role of Insurance in a nation? It is to protect the wealth of the nation as represented by its many resources, revenue, profits or returns accruing from the exploitation of them and the consequential fall outs; to conserve the wealth of the nation as well as to generate additional wealth, all with a view to ensuring the well-being of the nation. As against this, the ordinary man in the street will see the activities of insurance as the ability of the industry to pay claims promptly as and when they arise. This then should be our focus: fair and prompt settlement of claims. NAICOM can be of great assistance in this respect. NAICOM should take it as a special assignment to ensure that claims are paid fairly and promptly; this will restore the confidence of the public in insurance.
At this juncture I wish to ask yet other questions. What have hitherto constituted impediments to visibility and deeper penetration into the Nigerian Market? Why has insurance not made its mark in Nigeria?
The reasons are many. Due to time constraint I shall, focus on the cogent ones. These are, lack of education/awareness, inadequate investment in the training of our staff, deficiency in the appreciation of the peculiar nature of our industry – selling an invisible product and the uniqueness of NAICOM vis-a-vis the Nigerian Insurance Market.
Lack of Education
Our public needs to be informed about what we as an industry has to offer to improve the quality of life of the individuals; what we have to give to aid business and commerce. We need to expatiate on why Insurance is the handmaid of commerce: We need to convince both the individuals and corporate bodies how we can cushion the effects of untoward happenings which abound within the economy and society. Expressed in simple language which the average Nigerian will understand: Fair and prompt settlement of claims.
Before inception of a policy explanations of and expatiations on the small prints in the policy conditions, the consequences of underinsurance, and the impact of average need to be made. We need to articulate them, at the inception of the contract, not when the claim has occurred.
It is imperative for us to intensify provision of education at all levels – schools, colleges, and universities; to explain and demonstrate to market women, small scale businesses, industry and commerce generally how we can provide support and aid them. Hitherto we have failed abysmally in this respect. Without spelling these advantages out clearly and timely there will be no awareness of them. The situation needs to be put right with immediate effect.
HOW MUCH DO WE INVEST IN OUR STAFF?
Are we as an industry doing enough in the areas of staff training and development? Do we invest enough in our staff? Here too the answer is No.
Permit me to ask the chief executives here present a crucial question. Is your organisation a habitual staff poacher? You may wonder who that is. What does a poacher do? He waits for other companies to train and develop staff; he prefers to grab the ready made staff trained and developed by others. Such companies that mainly or solely rely on poaching maybe unaware of the potential deleterious effects of their over reliance on poaching Staff training and manpower development, like trees and other plants, need to be grown and nurtured in good soil, conducive environment and in suitable climate. When you uproot a seemingly good plant and replant it in soil deficient of good nutrients – correct business values and ethics, action centred teams, appreciation of understanding of common goals – the uprooted tree may not produce the expected good fruits. In the end the seeming boon of staff poaching may later turn into doom. Believe me, I am speaking from experience. Yes, in my time I have trained innumerable number of staff; granted that I lost some I feel fulfilled and better off for having done so. I have over the last seventy years served variously within the industry as inspector, risk surveyor, underwriter, broker, teacher, manager, consultant and mentor. My penchant for training people – the most important asset in business – has been the anchor for my success and those of the organisations I have been associated with.
Is your organization innovative? Is it using up to date Information Technology for improved performance and to create awareness? Whatever your answer may be, I urge you to do more – for your organisation, the insurance industry and the nation.
Do the various sectors within the industry collaborate? If they do, do they collaborate enough? What does your own organization do to obtain competitive edge? Meditate on these two posers and improve on your efforts.
PUBLIC AWARENESS NEEDS TO BE CONSCIOUSLY MADE TO MARKET AN INVISIBLE PRODUCT LIKE INSURANCE
Public awareness of the benefits of insurance to individuals, organisations, corporates and the economy needs to be created jointly as an industry. Awareness in all its ramifications must be provided within all sectors and at all levels. This is a crucial area which must be tackled by NAICOM, CIIN, NIA, NCRIB, ILAN and other relevant sub-sectors within the industry.
Ours is a peculiar industry. We are in the business of providing an invisible service. You cannot see, you cannot touch, you cannot feel or smell the products. It is difficult to conceptualise. insurance as a product is difficult but not impossible to market and sell. Provision of the service and the provider of the service are inseparable. These are the more reasons we need to train and retrain to know the products, markets, sectors and business to better appreciate our insureds, and the services and solutions required of us. Their changing needs must be borne in mind constantly. We must also learn about their businesses as well to enable us offer risk management advise. We all – Reinsurers, Insurers, Brokers, agents and adjusters need distinctive knacks to market, sell, service and provide customer satisfaction. We need passion. As upholders of ethics and values we must be professionals. Some, arguably many in Nigeria think that values and ethics are things of the past. We cannot afford to adopt such an attitude as we are in the business of utmost good faith. One of the tripod on which the stool of insurance stands is uberrimae fidei. In our business ethics and values are sacrosanct. NAICOM must be involved at all stages in getting the best out of insurance. We are all in it together. The fortune of NAICOM is tied up with that of the Insurance Industry; the more we are together, united and more useful to Nigeria we shall be. You may ask, why NAICOM as I have repeatedly harped on that name.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF NAICOM AND THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY
NAICOM is not just the regulator; it is also the referee. All good referees in soccer as in other games must have played the game before emerging as a referee. In our own case NAICOM the referee is our own creation. We created it; it was not forced on us. At a time when the supervisory ministry, for whatever reason ignored The Nigerian Insurance Supervisory Board – NISB, we as an industry provided the impetus and opted to give willingly part of our income to set up NAICOM as a regulatory body. Well recommended to government to set it up because we needed it then as we still do now. Insurance is the only Industry within the Nigerian Financial System which contributes towards its regulation. Notwithstanding that what the industry had in mind had been distorted NAICOM continues to serve a good purpose. It’s staff is equally knowledgeable in insurance as we are. We and NAICOM are aware of the role and importance of insurance to the economy; NAICOM apart from being the watchdog for the public maintains a level playing field for the benefit of all parties. Mr. Commissioner, I commend you and your team. Kindly continue the good work; it is a national service. May God continue to prosper your efforts.
NAICOM together with the other facilitators, especially the CIIN must be in the forefront for providing awareness, education and up to date resources to ensure that the industry remains on an even keel and positioned to protect the wealth of the nation as well as to generate additional wealth. These are the only ways to reposition the Insurance industry. Let Nigeria learn from the more developed economies of the world. We need insurance more than they do.
NIA, NCRIB and other sectoral bodies acting jointly with CIIN need to create and provide the awareness on a continuing basis.
Thus positioned and constantly fulfilling its main duty of meeting claims, the Insurance Industry will always be visible and relevant. Whilst NAICOM, CIIN, NIA and NCRIB are charged with being at the forefront of championing awareness, the actual players, brokers, insurers, should be right behind or arguably should be leading the charge themselves. Those individual players who seek to gain the most economic benefits should obviously make the most investment in time, money and other resources to champion awareness.
MEETINGS NEEDED BUT AT THE RIGHT TIME
The Industry must get its priorities right. Meetings need to be held, but at the appropriate times. The best part of our working day must be devoted to either satisfying the needs of the insuring public (ensuring provision of good cover and prompt settlement of claims) or marketing of insurance. With the improvement and advance in IT most of industry meetings can now be held on the Zoom, preferably in the late afternoon or early evenings. Do not give servicing of insurance business, your main occupation the fag end of the day. I repeat, the Industry needs to get its priorities right.
What must we do to remain relevant, visible and thrive? We need all hands on deck. Insurers and reinsurers need to provide transparent service: all knotty points must be dealt with at inception. When claims occur we should not quibble. Claims must be adjusted fairly and paid promptly. It is said that “justice delayed is justice denied” so we can take a cue from this “claim delayed is claim denied” In this respect NAICOM must put in place a process to ensure that’ll recalcitrant insurers and reinsurers – (the black sheep) – within the industry meet their obligations as and when due or as and when advertised. Fair and prompt claim settlement is our besthope and pray to live to see a virile, repositioned and positively impactful Insurance Industry. form of advertisement. All the other things we do thereafter will be like icing on a cake.
The Industry should pay more attention to the education of the public and its staff. The various sectors must cooperate and collaborate. NAICOM can and should be of great assistance in this respect.
I wish to rest my case on this crucial note: all is not well with the insurance industry. We all must accept responsibility for the unsatisfactory state of things. Now is the time to wake up from our slumber. From now on we must live up to the promise to pay claims fairly and promptly. It is the best form of advertisement. It is the only way to ensure relevance and visibility.
I wish to seize this opportunity to express my appreciation to the entire Insurance Industry and the Celebration Committee for seeing it fit to recognize my modest contribution to the industry. I hope and pray to live to see a virile, repositioned and positively impactful Insurance Industry. God bless you all.
Doyen of Insurance
Chairman, Scib Nigeria & Co. Ltd. 29th April 2022