Insurance

Insurers moving beyond claims settlements amid COVID-19

A member of staff of AIICO Insurance Plc, presenting COVID-19 Palliatives to a beneficiary in Lagos.

The belief that insurance operators are conservative and not giving much back to the society has been deflated by the role played by the insurance industry amidst COVID-19 Pandemic. Chuks Udo Okonta, in this report spotlights contributions made by insurers to ameliorate challenges faced by the citizenry.

Though, COVID-19 pandemic came with negative impacts on lives and economies across the globe, it also provided enomous opportunities for people to rejigged their strategies and operations.

The Insurance industry, which is traditionally known for mitigating risks, was challenged by the pandemic, hence, it had to draw closer to the society where it operates. The society became great beneficiary, as insurance companies in a bid to esteem their brands and sustain policyholders, engaged in life impacting ventures.

Though, operators were not immune against challenges thrown-up by the pandemic, as risk bearers, they let down their issues and took up the maladies of those around them. This is a gesture which will forever be remembered by lives that were positively impacted.

The philanthropic gesture of the insurance industry during the peak of the pandemic, elicit compliments for the sector, of which the loudest of such compliments, came from the President of the country, Muhammadu Buhari, who lauded operators for the N11 billion health insurance package for 5000 health workers attending to the victims of the pandemic in the country.

NAICOM Intervention

Insurance operators, under their umbrella body of the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), took the first step to support health personnel and allied professionals who were attending to victims of Coronavirus (COVID-19) by providing a free N1 million life insurance cover for each of them and also procured testing kits, protective materials worth over N100 million.

Donations made by each insurance firm to support the fight against COVID-19 pandemic

Tope Smart, who was the Chairman of NIA, when the gesture was offered, noted that the life cover provides for N1 million for death and N1 million for permanent disability for medical personnel all over the nation who are at the frontline attending to coronavirus victims.

He posited that the frontline staff were exposed to a lot of risks and as an association, the body felt the need to provide cover for them against their exposure.

Just few days after the association disclosed its plan to meet the needs of the health workers, few of the operators regrouped to declare their separate contributions. Worried about the likely crisis that would emerged when the operators attend to the needs from different groups, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) had to intervene, summoned all the operators and brought them under a single platform to contribute towards combating the pandemic.

The intervention of NAICOM led to the contribution of over N500 million which was presented to the Federal Government in support of health workers who were at the frontline in the fight against the pandemic.

The Commissioner for Insurance, Sunday Thomas, speaking on the cover, said, the insurance sector collectively and individually, amongst other numerous palliatives supported the Federal Government by providing N11 billion life insurance cover to the frontline health workers employed in the fight against COVID-19.

He noted that the cover will enable families or named beneficiary of any medical doctor that dies in the line of duty to claim N3 million; Pharmacists/Nurses N2 million and others N1 million.

Thomas said the premium which was in the sum of N112,500,000 for the cover was fully paid by the Nigerian Insurance Industry in line with the principle of No Premium No Cover, stressing that, a total of 19 Life Insurance companies were accredited to provide the Cover.

Operators’ Individual Involvements

Aside the intervention by the insurance industry regulator-NAICOM, insurance operators, on their personal capacities, took laudable steps to support individuals and families living in the environment where they operates.

Bags of rice given to the public by AIICO Insurance Plc.

As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and contribution towards flattening the curve of the health hazard caused by the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, FBNInsurance and its subsidiary, FBN General Insurance donated an ambulance to the Lagos State Government as well as food items to the needy communities within Lagos.

While presenting the ambulance to the Lagos State Government, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of FBNInsurance, Valentine Ojumah, explained that the gesture was to support the State Government’s effort in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

He further stated that both companies in collaboration with the other insurance companies was putting together resources to provide an insurance cover for medical personnel who are in the frontline of the fight against the virus.

Receiving the ambulance on behalf of the State Government, the wife of the Governor, Dr. Mrs. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu alongside the Lagos State Chief of Staff, Tayo Ayinde, applauded FBNInsurance for the donation and assured them that the Lagos State Government would put the ambulance to adequate use to serve the purpose. Dr. Sanwo-Olu said the donation would also help the State Government in the management of other health related issues.

In a related development, FBNInsurance Limited, also provided food items (Rice, Beans and Semolina) to 6,000 Lagosians in Ajegunle, Iwaya and Agege areas of the state.

According to the firm, the donation was designed to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the less privileged in the area.

FBNInsurance and FBN General Insurance also donated various items to homes and hospices across three geographical regions: Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.

Beneficiaries of AIICO Insurance palliatives

Another underwriter, African Alliance Plc, also partnered the Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA in a food outreach, which distributed food items to the people of the community.

The company’s past Managing Director, Mrs. Funmi Omo, on the gesture said: “We believe the government cannot do it alone, therefore it is our corporate social responsibility to offer support and provide for the needs of those around us in these trying times.”

Leadway Assurance Company Limited, within the same period made a donation of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) materials, COVID-19 test kits and foodstuff to the tune of N135 million as part of its efforts to support optimal testing and treatment of Covid-19 cases as well as access to nutrition in the country during the quarantine period.

The underwriting firm also partnered other insurance companies to provide life insurance cover to the tune of N5 billion for all frontline healthcare workers battling to save the lives of those infected by the virus.

Commenting on the company’s gesture, the Managing Director, Tunde Hassan-Odukale, said “We understand the magnitude of the risk taken by health workers who have elected to support the government to take care of Nigerians in the wake of a pandemic that is ravaging worldwide.”

“We salute their tenacity, resilience and professionalism as they battle COVID-19, putting their lives on the line to ensure that Nigerians are adequately cared for during this period. We understand the weight of their duties and hope that this support reassures them and indeed all Nigerians, that we are in this together,” Hassan-Odukale said.

Leadway Assurance Company Limited also had a giveback for its Personal Motor Comprehensive Insurance policyholders.

The “give-back” , the company said was the equivalent of two weeks premium, to policyholders who were constrained to ground their vehicles in strict compliance of the lockdown order by the Federal Government, in alignment with the World Health Organisation’s social distancing recommendations.

The Managing Director, Tunde Hassan-Odukale, said “the lockdown has had far reaching effects across the country, challenging both individuals and businesses. People are watching and will remember how businesses treated them during this crisis.

“Our decision to provide the “give back” to our loyal comprehensive motor insurance policyholders will go a long way to support customers experiencing unforeseen pressure on their finances at this time. This is another way we are thanking our clients for supporting the FG to flatten the curve by staying at home.”

AIICO Insurance Plc, on his part, embarked on a relief programme that saw the firm, on a daily basis, feed over 130 people that are within underprivileged communities in Lagos, amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.

The firm noted that as socially responsible organisation, it saw the need for the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) intervention to complement Government’s efforts aimed at ensuring access to food supply while restricting movements to contain the spread of the virus.

The Managing Director/CEO, Babatunde Fajemirokun, on the gesture posited: “We are prioritizing the needs of the vulnerable and less privileged in these extraordinary times in line with our commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal on ‘Zero Hunger’. We will continue to pursue causes and drive initiatives to ameliorate the impact of the lockdown, through this season and beyond.”

Sunu Insurance Plc, presenting palliatives to the public

AIICO Insurance, also donated reusable face masks to the Nigerian Red Cross, We Stand Foundation and the African Clean Up Initiative (ACI). Non-Governmental Organisations which were actively leading initiatives for public health and humanitarian causes in battling COVID-19.

The firm’s Head, Strategic Marketing & Communications, Segun Olalandu, noted that the donations were in alignment with the Nigerian Stock Exchange ‘Mask for All Nigerians’ campaign initiative, adding that the gesture is a demonstration of the Company’s relentless commitment to its corporate social responsibility causes.

Coronation Insurance Plc, formerly Wapic Insurance Plc, amid the lockdown caused by the pandemic, offered customers refunds on their insurance premiums. This act of empathy, the firm said was made in line with its understanding that most drivers were stuck at home and unable to drive their motor vehicles in line with the COVID-19 pandemic stay at home policy.

Beyond financial and other contributions the company made to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm was serious about supporting its customers, particularly the most vulnerable, during the difficult time.

The past Chairman of the firm, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, on the gesture said: “We know that our customers are experiencing unprecedented circumstances and many are struggling to cope. We want to recognise the sacrifice you are making by driving significantly less as you support our country’s objectives in flattening the curve of the pandemic. We want our customers to know they can Rest Assured and we will defeat this pandemic together.”

Companies such as African Alliance Insurance Plc; Sunu Insurance Plc; NSIA Insurance Limited; Old Mutual Insurance also impacted their environments.

The Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, the umbrella body of insurance Brokers also made donations to support the public.

Reactions to Insurers Gesture

The roles played by insurance operators amid the pandemic attracted the highest level of recognition from the government in recent times.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elated by the gesture offered by the operators commended the Nigerian insurance sector for the provision of life insurance cover for 5,000 frontline health workers helping in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

Buhari gave the commendable in his address to the nation at the State House, Abuja, stressing that the government through the insurance sector procured insurance cover for 5,000 frontline health workers.

“We have also procured insurance cover for 5,000 frontline health workers. At this point, I must commend the insurance sector for their support in achieving this within a short period of time,” he said.

The Nigerian Insurance Industry supported the Federal Government by providing N11 billion life insurance cover to the frontline health workers employed in the fight against COVID-19.

The citizenry were not left out in the outpouring of encumion to the operators, as attested by a resident of Iwaya Community, a suburb in Lagos State. The resident, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed this when expressing gratitude over COVID-19 Palliatives presented to members of his community by one of the insurance companies in the country.

To him, “Before now, I do not believe in insurance companies. I always feel all they do is take people’s money, but with this kind gesture from FBNInsurance and FBN General Insurance, I am amazed. This simple act of kindness from their organisation has changed my perception about insurance. The people of Iwaya are grateful to these reputable insurers for coming to our rescue at this critical time.”

Mbachu Izuchukwu James, while commenting on the premium pay-back by Leadway assurance said: Honestly, I was so impressed when I got this message. Leadway is so outstanding when it comes to making a positive contribution. I sincerely thank the leadership of Leadway Assurance Company for coming up with such and idea in this turbulent times.

Another commentator, Olubusola, said: Waoh! Great initiative. Wished I had an insurance cover with Leadway.

Claims settlements on COVID-19 pandemic

As at the time of publishing this report, the industry is yet to come out with specific amount paid to claimants as a result of COVID-19 Pandemic.

Ojumah

Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of FBNInsurance, Valentine Ojumah, who his firm, is the lead insurer on the cover provided to frontline health workers by the insurance sector, told this medium that the government and the National Insurance Commission is yet to present any report on health workers who died or suffered loss due to the pandemic.

Director-General, NIA, Mrs. Yetunde Ilori

Director-General, Nigerian Insurers Association, Mrs. Yetunde Ilori, said the association is yet to receive any report on claims incurred as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

Opportunities Created

Owing to the role the National Insurance Commission played in providing palliatives to the public amid the pandemic, the Federal Government reciprocated by quickly elevating and appointing Sunday Thomas as the substantive Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive Officer, NAICOM.

Sunday Thomas appointment came at a time several of his peers at government’s Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were not considered for elevation.

The insurance sector regulators said the pandemic has thrown-up new trends stressing that it is adjusting to the challenges and/or opportunities which the pandemic has imposed on the socio-economic and business environment.

AIICO Insurance Plc presenting palliatives to the public

It noted that the pandemic had led to the review of the recapitalisation program and granting of extension to operators in recognition of the current realities. It also noted that automation of its processes for prompt service delivery has been fast track, due to the pandemic.

Other gains are that, the E-Portal for regulatory submission of various applications by operators and obtaining E-approvals is in the final stage and the Framework for Digitalization of operations (such as IT Standards, Web Aggregators, Regulatory Sandbox, etc) of regulated entities are in progress.

President, Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) Sir. Muftau Oyegunle, said the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled the institute fast track the development of its Information Technology processes.

He also maintained that the pandemic has enabled the institute to extend its scope.

“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 information technology of the institute. So, when the COVID came, all we just have to do is to sit back and say, in view of the new reality, what are we to add and deduct. With that, we were able to ensure that whatever information technology we are putting money on is what will sustain us at the next level. We are good to go and thank God that we are doing pretty well,” he said.

For the Managing Director of Anchor Insurance Limited, Austin Ebose, the pandemic, has forced operators to reinvent their processes and customer experience as well as how to meet the expectations of the public.

Leadership of Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers presenting palliatives to Abuja recidents.

“Customer’s expectations has been met, businesses are been generated, despite the pandemic. Before now, we used to have physical marketing but now, we don’t have that. Now, we have to do Zoom meetings and use other digital means. That is the change we have no other option than to embrace,” he posited.

As the saying goes, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”. The pandemic has indeed, triggered new impetus amongst insurance operators. The quest to remain afloat has forced them into seeking innovative ways to carry on their businesses. Working hard to meet public needs has also brought the citizenry closed to understanding the working of insurance.

As the insurance sector embraces the new normal, all eyes are on the operators as they go about meeting their primary goal of being in business which is paying claims promptly and being socially responsible which will elicit insurance interest amongst the citizenry.

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