Meet Insurance trailblazer – Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon

Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon

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What drives your motivation about insurance?

Empathy for People who lack knowledge of insurance and its benefits. With insurance, people can have a financially secured life but they just do not know, I saw this gap in the course of my working experiences and felt the need to help them by providing information that will enlighten, educate and empower them.

Why do you set up Insurance September?

To give insurance policyholders the platform to be heard and seen, and to engage other stakeholders in the insurance industry in Nigeria and elsewhere. Insurance September started in 2017 and its 6th edition is holding this year with the theme: “Regulatory and Operational Issues Affecting Policyholders”. It remains an interactive platform for insurance policyholders and investors in insurance to share their experiences and expectations of the industry leadership, anchored on its motto: No holds barred!

Where is the missing link in development of insurance?

Communication!!! The insurance sector, unknown to many, especially the operators, is on the course of REBUILDING TRUST, which is harder than building it. When you hear people saying that “Insurance companies don’t pay claims”, it is an historical matter that requires deep examination and new strong responses. However, what you get is either a company comes out to announce its claims payments within a certain period or the issue is glossed over, leaving the one who made the statement unconvinced about the position of the insurance industry. Under a situation where you’re trying to rebuild trust, you must communicate effectively, with clear evidence that you have changed for good but as you can see, that is not what the insuring public is getting from insurance companies. Some attempt to communicate but seek that the public should “Buy your policy with ease”, which actually hurts the feelings of those whose claims are/were unpaid and they have no choice but to tell others about their personal experiences. Communication, effective communication is needed to develop the insurance industry in Nigeria. Quite interestingly, on the same issue of claims payments, the insurance industry has failed to tell the world about the great impact of this on the national economy. We know that when claims are paid, especially to businesses (organizations), they are able to keep their doors open, keep their staff employed and keep paying taxes to governments at all levels! This is a very important role that insurance plays but ignored by other economic stakeholders and NOT communicated by the insurance industry in Nigeria. Juxtaposing this gap in the face of the criticisms against the insurance industry reveals clearly the need for the insurance industry to communicate strongly within the Nigerian marketplace.

What are the low hanging fruits to be harnessed for insurance growth?

The compulsory classes of insurance are the low hanging fruits that can be harnessed for insurance growth in Nigeria leveraging microinsurance, takaful and insurtech. Why operators in the traditional insurance market cannot do something innovative about attracting Nigerians to buy genuine Motor Insurance policies remain disturbing to me. Are they afraid of success or damned not to do well? With technology today, we know the owners of the vehicles, the locations of the vehicles and when they are in use, convincing them to have genuine Third Party Motor Insurance Policy is the part where we need to complete that picture. State the benefits in simple English yet we fail or refuse to, and that’s what has kept people away rather believing that the Third Party Motor Insurance Policy is meant only as part of the documents that the Police and other law enforcement officers on the road need to see and allow them continue their journeys. Why are insurance companies not advertising the Third Party Motor Insurance with the benefits to the public expressed as NAICOM did in the circular to them? I really think more should be done by operators to let the existing and potential policyholders know what their products can do for them (benefits) and not just mention those products expecting to be contacted. The other compulsory classes of insurance are also to be treated in same manner for the insurance industry to grow.

What should government do to grow insurance business?

In my view, I always say the government has done what it should and that is, make the law. However, because it is only the government that can punish those who violate the law, I expect the government to do just that, punish violators. For this to happen, the insurance operators have to work with the governments to identify violators who will pay fines and subsequently do their insurance correctly and continuously. Operators have to show the governments the gap from which they can generate more Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) whilst also generating insurance premiums for themselves.

What should the regulator do to expand frontier of insurance business?

The regulator, NAICOM, should pursue the creation of market opportunities for operators by seeking collaboration and partnerships with other MDAs. It should seek to have governments at sub-national levels establish State Insurance Commissions if they so desire rather than have this unprofessional approach of generating IGR through insurance without any value for the insurance industry. It should strengthen its capacity to respond to issues that concern policyholders from turnaround time for product approval to claims payments. It should create a Special Fund for insurance awareness and customer education from its Insurance Development Fund stated in the Insurance Act 2003. Finally, NAICOM should take some of the training responsibilities of insurance companies to ensure we have local capacity to underwrite special risks in Nigeria and stop allowing our premiums to go abroad.

What strategy should operators adopt now to entrench insurance?

To entrench insurance in Nigeria, operators should seek to entrench themselves in the activities of other stakeholders. We are too far from other economic actors. The insurance industry seemingly loves itself and likes its celebrations but you hardly see or hear them when events take place on the national stage. We even have operators contributing to causes and initiatives they do not attend. They are visibly absent from events that are meant to be grounds of opportunities for them because they do not like to sponsor or support programmes that do not directly generate premium. When operators begin to show interest in the activities of other stakeholders, appear at events, sponsor and support initiatives, especially by women and young people, they will be on their way to becoming entrenched in the society and the society entrenched in insurance.

What role do you expect the media to play in advancing insurance culture?

I believe the media is doing its best under the circumstances where the insurance industry is hard on communication and seeks to do more. Let the media do more analytical reporting on the insurance industry in Nigeria. People expect to know how many insurance policyholders and policies we have, how many insurance companies exist and the people behind them, how insurance companies operate and who are the managers of these companies. Are there more female entering the industry as professionals? Amongst policyholders, how many are young and women and are they entrepreneurs that can be showcased? Are our entertainers insured? These are the areas I expect the media to focus on and advance the insurance culture in Nigeria.

How important is research and development to insurance growth?

Research and Development are so important to the development of insurance that one can see it in the countries and sectors where they are emphasized, progress has been made unlike in Nigeria. Not investing in R & D is another bane of the insurance industry in Nigeria. Some insurance companies do not even have anyone looking in this direction and they expect to compete and win market share? Understandably, it costs a lot to invest in R & D but with new technologies and improved access to information and data, there is no more excuse for an insurance company not to have a functional R & D unit. Data has become the most critical success factor for growth of any kind and it is from R & D that strategy gets its feed, so insurance operators need to take R & D more seriously especially as digitization becomes imperative.

What should be done to make insurance appealing to the public?

Reveal the VALUE of insurance to the public to make it attractive and appealing. Enough has been said about the problems and challenges, now we need to say more about the benefits and the level of these benefits the insurance industry has given and still giving. Claims payments is one of the values but there are more that need to be communicated. For example, operators should not just point the public to Annuity but tell them how it will work for them; same with other classes of insurance. Importantly, the insurance industry leadership should consider conducting refresher courses for policymakers and decision-makers in the public and private sectors, creating the chances to update them and obtain their advices on taking insurance to a higher level in Nigeria.

Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon MNIM, CPP, AMRMN, is an Administrator, a Business Thinker and Customer Advocate. He is
Currently involved in knowledge sharing and advisory services on Insurance, Risk
Management, Strategy and Management, his working experience has been largely in the insurance industry at management and leadership levels with leading insurance brands where he participated and led actions in product development,marketing and business development, relationship management,mergers and acquisitions, strategy planning and execution, change managementand customer experience management.

Ekerete readily gives credit to these great organisations, and valuable individuals he met there, for his career and personal advancement: Leadway Assurance Company Limited,Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc, Central Insurance Company Limited, First
Chartered Insurance Company, United Trust Assurance Company, Cornerstone
Insurance Plc, CapitalExpress Assurance Plc, Guinea Insurance Plc, J. Akin George Insurance Brokers, Northlink Insurance Brokers, Mark George Consultants,USAID and Egwafin Microfinance Bank Limited.

Besides insurance, Ekerete has continued to be involved in consulting projects and capacity building assignments for banks (commercial, development, microfinance and mortgage), cooperative societies, renewable energy developers, agricultural sector actors and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)and government agencies.

He is the Founding CEO of Finterate Projects, a business-fitness consultancy firm and Co-Founder, Smart Coach Global Nigeria Limited, a progressive community of seasoned business coaches and brave entrepreneurs.

A 1988 graduate of Economics from the University of Calabar, Full Member of
Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered) since 2003, Certified Process Professional (2010) and Associate of Risk Managers Society of Nigeria (2019), Ekerete will like to be remembered for his spirited contributionto the development of new
thinking and innovative solutions for better appreciation of insurance in Nigeria.

You can connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter today.


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