‘Low awareness, customer apathy stymie insurance industry growth’
Moruf Apampa is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Equity Assurance Plc. In this interview with BANKOLE ORIMISAN, he spoke on partnerships among stakeholders that would unlock potential in the insurance industry, to make it more competitive among other sectors in the economy. Excerpts:
Roughly a year ago, you were appointed the Managing Director of the company. What has changed in Equity Assurance since you assumed office?
Upon assuming office as MD/CEO, one of our foremost priorities was to change the culture of the company by focusing on beliefs and behaviours of our people.
The transformation agenda at Equity started with changing our beliefs, behaviours and attitudes, and I have to say, we have made significant progress in the past 12 months. By working in groups, we identified the most critical beliefs that had shaped the company’s view of itself in the past five years, and the beliefs most needed now for the journey forward.
Some of our new beliefs include: We will be better listeners to our clients, collaboration is the key to our success, we can grow faster than the market profitably and using capital efficiently etc. These new beliefs have become an agenda for attitude change, not only among the top executives, but for all staff at Equity Assurance Plc.
After all, our behaviours are beliefs turned into action. Behaviours deliver results. When we talk about behaviours, we are talking about norms of behaviour; the accepted, expected ways our people behave in the corporate setting, and they are critical to our company’s ability to create a competitive advantage.
What is your vision for the establishment, and what is compelling this vision? My vision is to transform Equity Assurance Plc into a high-performance organisation with a competitive advantage anchored on its ability to innovate and execute solutions that best address existential challenges facing customers in Nigeria.
In simpler terms, our plan is to be the customers’ preference, and create a sustainable competitive advantage while leaving sufficient money on the table for the shareholders.
At Equity Assurance, we are assiduously building execution capacity, and implementation competencies, while adopting a phased (short, medium and long-term) approach to our transformation journey. We will continue to improve our key processes and approaches in strategy development, talent management, and operations design and implementation.
Today, Equity Assurance is blazing the trail to sell insurance through the mobile phone, an initiative that is not common in the industry. What led to this innovation? Like you rightly said, Our USSD mobile solution; *931*11# is an unprecedented technological initiative in the 100 years of Nigeria’s Insurance market.
It is a simple self-service solution that enables car owners/users to purchase authentic Third Party Auto Insurance with the use of their mobile phones in less than five minutes. It does not matter whether the phone is a smart phone or a basic phone. Furthermore, the service is accessible without internet/data bundle, and can be used on all the GSM networks.
This mobile solution is an example of the disruptive, problem-solving innovations Nigerians have been yearning for, which they can now expect from Equity Assurance going forward. We are committed to providing convenient and speedy service at affordable costs by using technologies to power insurance solutions for all Nigerians.
What is unique about the new product and what value does it bring to the existing and prospective policyholders in Nigeria? The key benefits are speed and convenience; customers get their e-certificate in five minutes or less, as well as an automated upload of their insurance details onto the NIID database.
The company’s decision to develop this groundbreaking mobile insurance solution is aimed at ensuring excellent customer experience at all times, and at affordable cost. It guarantees customer convenience, easy and secure access, real-time interaction and speedy service.
Furthermore, it serves as a platform for customer engagement, claims payment, and other after-purchase services. We are well aware of the Government’s drive towards achieving financial inclusion across the country. The Equity Mobile Insurance solution is designed to further this objective, as it is available to everyone, regardless of their GSM network, type of phone or whether or not they have access to the Internet.
The company has witnessed a surge in purchase of its insurance products since testing the application with a few selected customers, garnering a lot of very positive feedback from customers and organisations that are looking to partner. I can confidently say that Equity Assurance Plc is on the verge of revolutionising the insurance marketplace in Africa within the next few years.
Now that you have done the motor insurance module, are you considering other line of products, and how soon are you looking at launching other products?
It is important to note that the Equity Assurance USSD Mobile Insurance is a scalable and flexible solution. We have started with the launch of the Third Party Auto Insurance because it is simple, and is the most frequently demanded insurance product in Nigeria.
In the near future, we will deploy and roll-out other products and solutions that are in high demand across our target segments. We have invested in world-class operating systems and call-centre infrastructure to ensure real-time, online customer support, claims administration and other after-purchase services.
How is SUNU Group (a leading Insurance Group that operates in 14 countries in Africa) going to impact on the operations of Equity Assurance Plc? Like Equity, SUNU Group’s core values of professionalism, customer-centricity and respect for the individual is fundamental to its business operations and conduct.
These values are what make SUNU Group either the clear leader or a close second in all the markets where we are present; 22 locations across 14 countries in West and Central Africa. SUNU Group’s remarkable growth/expansion credential is even more impressive when one realises that it was achieved in less than 20 years.
As with all of its member companies, Equity Assurance Plc will have access to the SUNU Group’s operations hub (located in Cote d’Ivoire), which provides both technical and business support services including specialty functions such as products development, actuarial services, technology, branding etc.
Nigerians are poised to enjoy fresh, innovative insurance products and solutions as we leverage the vast knowledge capital, partner network and expertise that have over the years, been garnered across our various locations. In addition, Equity will continue to benchmark and align with the best-practice standards of the group as well as entrench leading corporate governance structures and culture for its Nigerian business operations.
Are you looking at rebranding the company soon, and what message do you have for your numerous customers out there? Please watch this space because in the coming weeks, we will be unveiling the company’s new brand and logo in a full-fledged corporate rebranding and repositioning initiative, which will last several months.
We will introduce the SUNU brand to Nigerians, with emphasis on our brand promise, value proposition, brand values and what customers should expect from us going forward.
We are working closely with the regulators and other stakeholders to ensure that the public is adequately informed and educated about the superior benefits of choosing the new Equity (a member of SUNU Group). Details will be communicated shortly.
In your opinion, what efforts would you suggest to help spread insurance penetration in Nigeria?
The long-standing challenges of low awareness, poor enforcement, customer apathy, and poverty continue to impede insurance penetration and growth in Nigeria. Insurance operators, alongside related associations such as Nigerian Insurance Association (NIA), the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) etc need to collaborate more and intensify efforts to raising awareness of the innumerable economic benefits and social impact of insurance on personal, business and public life.
Furthermore, enforcement (especially of compulsory insurances i.e. Market Development and Restructuring Initiative (MDRI) by government agencies need to be improved. Insurance operators need to collaborate better with other stakeholders (within and outside the industry) to develop flexible pocket-friendly insurance products to cater for the less privileged and under-served segments of the market, who have little or no disposable income.
How can the insurance industry be made more relevant to the national economy?
One of the things we have talked about for many years is insurance penetration, and people think insurance penetration can happen just by insurance people doing their business a lot better; it is not true.
For many decades, many of the reasons why insurance penetration has not occurred is because, first, you don’t even have payment platforms for people to pay. For you to get insurance penetration, what you are saying is that you want to take insurance penetration to the grassroots.
What other issue do you think will affect the future of the industry? The world is experiencing a tectonic shift; the global business environment is being ‘reset’ largely by digital technologies. This potential for overnight radical change often throws up new business challenges as well as opportunities.
While no one can predict precisely what the future holds, business leaders can drive their organisations along the path of disciplined execution, which allows for seizing and maximising opportunities.