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‘Govt should diversify economy, intensify efforts in adoption of tech tools to boost sector’s growth’

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Funmilayo Omo

Mrs. Funmi Omo is the Managing Director of African Alliance Insurance. In this interview with Bankole Orimisan, she lends support to the real diversification of the economy, and how African Alliance has embraced technology to ease its processes and the team’s future plans for the company.

Tell us briefly about your background?
I have always been in the insurance industry. As the Managing Director of African Alliance Insurance Plc, one of the foremost insurance companies in Nigeria, I have spent over 25 years in the sector but in different aspects of the business, ranging from underwriting, product development to administration and operations. More importantly, I have been driven by the passion for the industry and the significant value insurance provides to our country and the masses. This has led me to keenly follow trends in the industry, while building my career.

What are your plans to continue growing insurance policies, usage and acceptance in Nigeria?
It is a fact that insurance penetration in Nigeria is still remarkably low. There is low awareness of the role insurance plays in minimising everyday risks. Strangely, we are not unaware of these risks. Every day on social media and WhatsApp, people share content depicting gruesome scenarios where families were left suddenly without their breadwinners or family member, and we end those messages with “It is well” without doing anything tangible about preventing the aftermath of occurrences that can happen any time.

This is where insurance practitioners come in. At African Alliance Insurance Plc, we are aggressively targeting both the insured and uninsured to ensure that they are on a policy that provides the utmost coverage for them and that they overcome the attitude most Nigerians have of procrastinating or just turning a blind eye to the reality of life.

One way we plan to increase the adoption and acceptance of life insurance is through the ongoing education of our target audience.
Through various channels, we educate people and open our lines to receive feedback. For those who do not know what insurance can do for them, we give them a broad overview of the role of insurance and we use practical approaches to show them how much better life could be in the long-term if they had life insurance to mitigate life’s risks.

How would you assess the investment culture in Nigeria?
The investment culture in Nigeria is growing quickly. Nigerians are becoming shrewder about attaining success while in their youth. While the older generation was known for the culture of loyalty – the gratification that at the end of about 35 years of service, one would be rewarded, our youths are by far the opposite. They are actively searching for information on investment and ways to multiply their wealth now, not tomorrow.
This wave of high internet usage has done us some good in that area as it has exposed people to the right culture of investments.

How is African Alliance committed to the investment culture in Nigeria?
We have various plans to meet the different lifestyles and life stages of our customers and beyond. Our plans help customers increase wealth in the medium and long term and have the additional life insurance elements. What this means is that during the period of investments, if anything happens to the policyholder, African Alliance Insurance steps in to provide monetary comfort to the loved ones left behind or any other named beneficiary. This way, we give our policyholders peace of mind while they go about their day to day activities, and even when they are gone, we ensure their beneficiaries have the same peace of mind.

We are working on building strong channels of communication and marketing using technology to empower our customers to easily make a purchase of any insurance and investment plan online from our portals.

We want to ensure that insurance is as easy to purchase and understand as banking is today. We also want to be part of the success stories of our customers. We go beyond the everyday service to provide a listening ear to our customers.

African Alliance recently posted a N6b+ profit. What are the plans to further grow profit?
We are embarking on a massive project in a few weeks which we are excited about. This project will unveil our efforts in raising the bar in the insurance industry while positioning African Alliance Insurance as forward-thinking and innovative.

We are also channelling more of our resources to research and development to further uncover insight that will show us the specific needs of our customers and even those who do not have an insurance plan yet. More importantly, we want to add value to our country while making profits.

What areas of growth and opportunities are there for the financial services industry?
There are numerous areas to make a difference. Nigeria, Africa even, may be one of the most populous continents in the world but the market is still a young, growing one with huge potential to scale. Others are looking here for investments because they know they can generate a massive return on their investments due to our population and excitement for new trends despite our low earning ratio.

However, our market still faces challenges, some of which technology can make easier. For example, access to markets, ease of purchase, access to information, trust, and data gathering, among others still remain significant challenges. If we can solve these, the financial services
industry will become more formidable.

How is African Alliance leading this innovation in technology?
In the past few months, we have focused on channel maximisation, ensuring that our channels provide us with direct access to customers, for ease of purchase and to help us understand their needs, trends as well.
We believe that if we understand customers’ needs, we will be in the better position to serve them and fill gaping holes in the insurance industry.

What would you say is the major challenge of the insurance industry in Nigeria?
I believe that previously we had set ways of doing things, but now, with technology, social media, the internet in general, we cannot continue to rely on the old methods, products and channels. We must move with the times and adapt to the changing business environment. That is the new wave that NAICOM is steering the insurance companies towards– embracing innovative methods of doing things to catch up with the others in the broad financial services industry. We are supportive of these initiatives and we are working towards championing these trends.

How would you address the issue of corporate governance in the sector?
We have a lot to do to ensure strict adherence to positive corporate governance standards. We also, in our Company, have received backlash in the past. However, with this new administration and new management of the Company, we are working to clean up the system internally and begin on a fresh note where our shareholders will be confident in their investments. We want to assure our shareholders and other stakeholders that we are committed to them.

Hence, we recently appointed Deloitte & Touche, foremost accounting and audit firm, to work with us in achieving this. We have begun an internal awareness campaign to ensure we are aligned with industry regulations and requirement. We have engaged top management companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Ernst & Young (EY) and Vetiva Capital to provide the necessary strategic guidance needed to take the company to the next level during this period of transition.

What are your future plans for African Alliance in the Nigerian market?
African Alliance Insurance may be old, but we are young at heart. From our people to our products and our channels, we are repositioning the brand as leading the next trends in life insurance in Nigeria. We have begun putting things in place to achieve this and there are many more things we are yet to roll out.

In a few weeks, we will begin unveiling our new corporate identity in line with the changes we have mapped out. We are excited about the future. It looks more promising than ever.


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