‘Getting global recognition in my field is overwhelming’
He is a son of an Islamic scholar who rose to a great height in the Insurance sector. Chances are that if the name Ahmed Salawudeen sounds strange to you, then you probably are not resident in Nigeria, or if you do, then you hardly take any interest in the Nigerian insurance sector where he ranks among the shining lights. Dr. Ahmed Olaniyi Salawudeen is the President/CEO of Standard Insurance Consultants Limited. Though he stumbled on the insurance profession, his passion and hunger to succeed later laid the path for a career, which began in Nigeria and later blossomed in England, where he acquired a PhD. As he is being honoured by the World Confederation of Business in Dubai on November 15, Salawudeen tells MARIA DIAMOND it was a height he attained by abiding by simple tasking work ethics: hard work, integrity and tenacity
You are certainly an insurance guru going by your resume, how did you find yourself living in the world of insurance?
Well, as a professional insurance broker, I qualified as a Chartered Insurer in England 40 years ago. Insurance is something that I cherish so much. I take it as a business, I take it as a profession and as a career. And, over the years, I have toed the right path. Although I got into insurance sector by accident because in the early days people took any job that came their way. I started my insurance training as a student through correspondence. I remember in my Part A examination I was the best student that year. A man called ‘the boy is good’ gave me the award. For me, I stumbled on insurance, I embraced it and today I have no regret.
Tell us about childhood and growing up. In what way has it impacted your way of life or lifestyle?
I am not from a rich family. My father was an Imam, an upright person. Everybody knows him in the community. And this traits rubbed off on us his children and always put us in check to live above board at all times. Again, being a Moslem, Islam teaches humility. That one needs to be humane. Then why do people make noise? Is it to draw unnecessary attention to themselves? I think the most important thing or the purpose of our existence as human beings is to touch lives. The Yoruba have an adage that states: ‘it is an empty drum that makes the loudest noise’. That isn’t part of me. And despite one’s achievements, it is God that made it happen.
How would you describe your growing up?
I am from Oyo State. My growing up was wonderful. I grew up in a good Moslem home where we were taught the tenets of Islam. My childhood and education started here in Nigeria before I moved to England where I had worked and lived over the years.
Has your religion impacted on the way you work, too?
To be honest with you, my religion plays a key role in my professional life. It teaches me how to be honest with my clients, how integrity is important and how one should demonstrate humility at all times as a Moslem.
You will be honoured by the World Confederation of Business in Dubai on Wednesday November 15, 2017. What does this mean to you and the country?
I feel elated and overwhelmed being recognised by a reputable global body. It means a lot to us at Standard Insurance Consultants Limited. There is no doubt that it will bring glory, not to only us as a Nigerian company, but to Nigeria as a whole. It shows that despite our challenges in Nigeria, there are companies that are doing very well.
Can you tell us about the organisation and why more Nigerians and companies should join them?
The World Confederation of Business (WORLDCOB) was founded on September 9, 2004, in the city of Houston, Texas in the United States of America. The initial vision of WORLDCOB’s founders was to create an international business organization that would bring together and recognise those companies who were leaders in their fields, striving day in and day out to boost growth of the economy of their countries and the world making them models to be followed. That is why the BIZZ international business award was created. This award offers a wide range of benefits to aid these companies’ development.
How do you feel about this award?
Recognition is not something you can buy, as we know that integrity plays a big role in all human endeavours. We didn’t apply to join then, they looked at our antecedents and gave us an excellent mark. It means a lot to be recognised by a reputable global body, it is overwhelming.
Are you the first Nigerian to be honoured?
I wouldn’t know that. But the present award being given in Dubai on November 15 was given to my company this year as a Nigerian company.
Tell us how lucrative and rewarding the insurance profession is?
Well, many people see insurance as a money-making venture. No. Insurance business is not a venture where you make huge amounts of money because your duty is to manage money on behalf of a group of people. That is the idea. I mean collection of premium and payment of claims out of that premium is very critical. Therefore, anybody who believes that insurance is a money-making venture is wrong.
Why it is that many people don’t like taking up insurance policies unless they’re compelled to do so? Tell us why it’s important to obtain insurance policies.
Let me make it very clear, it is only in Nigeria that you have this situation. Anything you do anywhere in the world you must have insurance otherwise nobody will come near you. There was a tornado or tsunami in the United States the other time, insurance companies don’t wait for people to come, they themselves are going about meeting their clients to come for claims. For instance, if you want to fly an aircraft without premises insurance, no airline will take you. Unfortunately in Nigeria, insurance is not being practised as it ought to be. It is important to obtain insurance policies because people have to realise that it is important in case of any disaster. Nobody prays for an eventuality though. For instance, if you take Life Insurance and you die prematurely it will take care of your dependants. But if your wife doesn’t know about this, what happens to that family? The idea then is that whatever insurance money received should cushion and help the family left behind. Education insurance, for instance is to take care of the education and its responsibilities in case the bread- winner dies. For instance, if you go to the bank to take a mortgage loan, this also requires insurance because if you take a N100 million loan and just pay N5 million. If you die who will pay the balance? Of course, the bank will take over the house from the family. In order to avert this, insurance would intervene. So, insurance is very important in all facets of life. Motor-car insurance is just a minor business in Nigeria. Life, Mortgage, Aviation. Education etc. are very important.
Give us instances of when taking up insurance policy has helped some individuals?
In Nigeria of today, there is no solid brand new car that is less that N6 million or N7 million. If you borrow six or seven million to buy a car and you travel out of Lagos and suddenly the car had an accident. What would happen? It is the insurance company that will make provision for another car. This is why the Yoruba call it “adojutofo.” Of course, insurance shames your loss.
What legacy do you want to leave for the upcoming generation in the industry? What do you want to be remembered for?
It would be my joy to see that the Nigerian insurance industry is living up to expectations like her international counterparts whereby all insurance claims are settled as at when due. If all of us can do this, it would boost public confidence in the sector. I will be happy if we can have positive turnaround in the sector.
What’s your advice for young people who want to come into the profession?
That the future is bright and they shouldn’t have a wrong perception about the profession. For those who want to embrace the profession it is a good venture. Some of the people we have trained here don’t know anything about the profession until they come in. Insurance is a financial institution just like banks. In actual fact, insurance business is better than banking. Outside Nigeria, banks borrow money from insurance companies while development of a country depends on insurance because they collect a lot of money they can put in fixed deposits. This is not the case in Nigeria and we have to look into it.
What is the potential of the insurance industry in the country?
The potential is very great. Insurance thrives very well when the economy is good. This present government under President Buhari, to me personally, is doing very well because it is looking at other areas such as agriculture. In the first place, a country that can feed itself like China would live on abundance. A Yoruba adage says ‘Ti onje ba tan ninu ise, Ise buse.” Meaning, once you are able to overcome hunger, it reduces your poverty to zero level. So, agriculture is very key and Central Bank of Nigeria’s intervention in creating a department within the bank to look at this is commendable. For instance, if farmers are given loans, you have to look at the crop: it may do well or otherwise and insurance company would come in. Or if you have a poultry farm and there is a bird flu, the insurance will come in. Now, we are talking about mining, which is new. Oil and gas has been there over the years. So, there is a great potential with the newly-introduced agriculture and mining. If properly done, insurance companies will gather a lot of premium.
Is any of your children taking after you?
If any of my children wants to go into it they are welcome. Luckily for me, I have a daughter who has a Master’s degree in Law and has shown interest. She is currently doing insurance and reading for the profession. I still have a son who has shown interest. But I don’t force them the choice is theirs.
If you were not practising insurance, what else would you be doing?
Apart from insurance, I have dabbled in many businesses that I am still doing till today. We have a very formidable IT training department, we are into real estate, travel agency and so on. But my basic profession is insurance.
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