‘We are positioned to unlock potential in Nigeria’s insurance industry’
You were recently appointed the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Anchor Insurance Limited. What is your vision for the company?
It has been a privilege to be tasked with overseeing the future of our company. As we all know, the Nigerian insurance industry is going through renewed efforts to unlock potential in the sector and ensure companies conduct business within their ability.
To this end, I envision Anchor Insurance becoming the pacesetter in several aspects of the industry; especially in the areas of underwriting excellence and expertise, prompt claims processing and payment as well as astute use of cutting edge information technology for the benefit of our customers.
What major changes has taken place in the last one year you came on board?
In the last one year, our focus has been on transformation. This has been all encompassing touching on all areas; People, Service Delivery, Product Enhancement, Information Technology, Customer Service etc.
People: Scaled human capital capacity with recruitment of experienced personnel
Service Delivery: Streamlined internal processes for efficient service delivery. Turnaround time for core transactions has reduced and we continue to work on this to achieve efficiency above current industry levels
Product Enhancement: We have continued to work on our current product bouquets to create unique value for our customers. E.g, Recent review of comprehensive motor policy where we included additional features as well as reward for customer loyalty.
Information Technology: We continue to develop capacities within our I.T portfolio, these include installation and configuration of I.T help desk, Redesign of e-business portal & ongoing implementation of core business software
Delivery Channel: Expansion of our service delivery channel through introduction of retails sales team focused on driving insurance penetration for the everyday man
Customer Interaction: As part of effort to get closer to our customer and better understand their needs, we have set up a fully functional customer service unit. Also, our customer interactive lines have been commissioned to ensure our customers are able to reach us.
Special Risk: We also set up our special risk team to allow them focus on needs of client operating within sectors of Oil & Gas, Aviation and Engineering.
The insurance industry is undergoing through a transformation now. How prepared is Anchor Insurance Limited to key into the new era?
I am a firm believer that every challenge provides an opportunity, if one only has the strength of character to see it.
Our company welcomes the introduction of the NAICOM Tier Based Minimum Solvency Capital model as we see this as an opportunity to consolidate on past efforts while we lay the foundation for future footprint on the insurance sector. We are well positioned to remain a key player underwriting risk in all sectors. Hence, we would operate in Tier 1 and we have communicated this to our regulators.
Retail market is the new way to go in deepening penetration, what is your plan in this area?
In this regard, and as an aspect of our revised corporate strategy, we have recently set up our retail team. The team is responsible for communicating our product value proposition within the retail space.
Also, we are investing in technology to provide support to the retail team as the long term plan of delivering convenient services to our customer can only be achieved through digitization.
This is just one of the numerous strategies being implemented to reinforce and grow our company’s market share.
How do you plan to close the year in terms of business performance, and what should your shareholders be expecting?
Our published half-year result shows marked improvement compared to prior year performance.
The premium income as at 2017 and 2018 was a paltry N1.9 billion to N2.1. But in the last one year, we did N3.4 billion and in any mathematics indices, the growth is geometric. We were able to change our indices because of the human capacity development and some of the innovations we developed. And again as regards the claim, we have strengthened our reinsurance.
I found out that our reinsurance was not so deep in terms of part of the reinsurance processes to cover our liability in area of claim. We have also paid off all our reinsurance payments, so in case of eventualities we will not be left bare.
One thing we have also done is to look at our surveys and probe into claims made by our clients. This is because fraudulent claims come in various ways. We also devised a strategy to put our scripting in terms of our payout and it has paid off.
We now have robust pre loss survey and post surveys attitude while we increased our security appetite in terms of physical evaluation of some of these things, not just hearsay. And we have put that across the country to make sure that we tell our loss adjusters our way forward.
With all of these, our claims level for this year dropped considerably. We are very serious with our claims responses, except when there are few arguments. In claims processes, it is neither here nor there because the onus is on you to prove that you have a genuine claim.
For example, somebody had an issue with us with our branch in Ibadan. We found out that the car that we insured was not the car that got burnt.
So, such a person cannot claim to have a valid case. But we will pay valid claims immediately. If we don’t pay claims, then we have no business to be in insurance industry. We sell services to make clients happy and the fact is that if you make someone happy, he or she will never forget you.
Why should somebody invest or retain their investment in Anchor Insurance Limited?
Our financial indicators are improving. There is steady growth in our top line business as premium continues to inch upwards. Same applies to investment income as we seek to diversify our revenue sources.
Operationally, we have implemented a comprehensive cutting-edge cloud based application that enables us to speed-up our entire process viz-a-viz risk management, underwriting, excellent customer service as well as a guarantee of prompt claims settlement to our clients.
We have invested in the right people from right from board appointments to every individual staff within the company.
To reiterate our company is strongly positioned to generate sustainable value to its investors in the long run.
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 physical about preventing the aftermath of occurrences that can happen any time.
This is where insurance practitioners come in. Anchor Insurance Limited , 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 youth 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 Anchor Insurance 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.
The International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) introduced by NAICOM, how ready is the industry and how prepared is Anchor in this direction?
Anchor is very prepared and it has been discussed by the management. We are already putting it in place for implementation. We are not against regulation because we like to play by the rules. I think the new accounting standard will improve the industry.
It will make us to adjust so that even if we are not doing some things right, we can begin to do them right. I remember when IFRS 4 policy that we were using before the new IFRS 9 came on board. We were complaining, but today we are used to it. I think we are all working to comply with the IFRS 9. Life itself is not stereotype. We should always think of development if we want to grow.
Growth in every way and not just in premium income. I know that there are certain things that they want to check. Like the banking check system, which has been helpful. I believe the reason they are coming now is to improve the loss of insurance in the sector.
Rate cutting has been a major industry challenge. What is your strategy?
Marketing is an art of war. If you are coming into a business in an industry that is regulated, there are many things that can be done.
NAICOM can regulate and say this is how it should be. But if I have to take a business for 10 per cent and I make losses, nobody is going to advise me to do a reversal. So, for those who want to do them, good luck to them. But for me, appropriate pricing is very necessary for our growth in the industry.
However, my concern is not the competition of rate cutting, but more of the risk appetite of the industry in Nigeria. Like we talked about recapitalisation to improve a set objective and awareness creation.
If this is done, there is no company in Nigeria that can take the risk of Nigerians. We are underinsured and these are some of the things that we are going through. Have you ever seen a competition that is fair, even in football?
In the insurance industry, nobody gives you power because the world is so wide for everybody. I don’t believe in the category of managing directors who say there is one insurance company that wants to oppress you from growing.
Nobody has the right to say that you should not grow. If they are making policies for you to fall, make policies that will make you grow. No two companies are the same. If as a managing director I come here and I have deliberate plan to grow, can another perceived big company come and tell me not to grow? No.
So, my colleagues should look more at ways of improving themselves than talking about those who are cutting rate. If I cut rate and don’t pay claims, the clients will not come back to me next time.
At Anchor, we insist that third party motor insurance is N5000 as stipulated by government, but how many people have complied? So like I said, marketing is an art of war.
Nigeria just concluded its general elections and businesses have commenced in full gear. What are the macro-economic conditions that will drive Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and economic growth?
If government policy remains the same it will be a familiar terrain. But I think the government needs to look at deliberate plan to improve on its budget timing. If budgets are not released on time, the economy suffers. It does not lead to policy direction, but if policies are released on time, it will help businesses a lot.
Even after the election, there is the fear that some ministers will leave and so many things will change. These are some of the things that investors will be looking at. If the economy does not move, insurance policies will not move as well. We look forward to the government coming up with deliberate plan to improve the micro-economic policies such as employment and not increasing taxes.