‘Government should diversify economy, intensify efforts to make insurance sector viable’
SHOLA TINUBU is the new president, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB). He is also the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, SCIB Insurance Brokers. In this interview with BANKOLE ORIMISAN, he spoke of the collaborations in the insurance industry, to make it more viable and competitive among other sectors in the economy. Excerpts:
Congratulations on your election as the 19th President of NCRIB. What is the policy thrust for the brokerage profession and the insurance sector in the country?
I think the most important thing is that we are the professional arm of the industry, and are focused primarily as far as insurance brokerage is concerned, on professionalism, which will lead to improved image of the brokerage fraternity, and of course the insurance industry as a whole.
We focus more on improved collaboration, because we have been too divided in the past, but we are more or less trying to forge one united family, because we are insurers, whatever we say in the public is regarded as insurer’s voice not minding which arm of the sector it belongs to. That collaboration is important to the success of the industry. We want to speak with one voice on matters affecting the public, industry, policyholders and customer alike.
The focus is on the nine point plans I will be presenting during my investiture, which bothers on professionalism, how we conduct ourselves in the market place, how we relate to the public, the advice we give to the insuring public, and the general service delivery. These are all part of professionalism. Anything that will promote the Council, the insurance industry in particular, and the protection of the consumer is what is uppermost in the conduct of our business.
Taking the leadership role as the new President of NCRIB, what does this mean to you and your career?
It is an honour to be given this type of leadership role where one is able to implement or better implement some of the ideologies and concepts that I have nursed in the life of my career. It is important to note here that this position is a non-executive position, where you have the chairman of a board, Council members and the Chief Executive Officer, and the board led by the chairman, who gives certain leadership. So, I do not expect that it is something I am going to do alone; of course, I am going to do it with my team. So, it’s a fulfilment that at this point in time I am called for this leadership role.
On completion of your tenure as the President of the NCRIB, where do you want to see the Council?
Essentially, the vision that I have is that NCRIB will stand as a strong institution that can be placed side by side with many of its peers. As an institution that has internationally affiliation, the standard for us are the standard that is seen with British Insurance Broker Association and many of those things and standard they apply. If I am to explain it differently, I am looking at an Institute that will outlive each and everyone us. That is, NCRIB, where from year to year, president comes, president goes and the institution stands, and can be able to play effective role, by being able to talk to government on institutional issues, professional issues on the economy. We also relate with government on all affairs that affect our members, because essentially that is the challenge we have as a group.
Given the role you play in the industry as an intermediary, how do you intend to maximise the potential of the brokers towards achieving increased growth?
First of all, you must be able to see where the market is going because you wouldn’t want to help the broker to maximise their usefulness in what happened in the past, it must be what is going to happen in the future. So, let’s look at what the future holds for brokers. The broker has always been known as strong in the corporate business. Retail is the big thing coming, insurance penetration is going to be potential for us in terms of retail. That will happen, but the corporate businesses remain important because companies like Shell, as big as it is has big insurance departments with technical advisers on insurance, which will continue to require the role of brokers.
They still use brokers and they will continue for the future. They have captive insurance companies run by themselves yet they still use brokers sometimes to run their captives. We even have a situation where NNPC captives is run by brokers even till today, so the role of brokers in cooperate sector will always be there.
In the future, the growth of the corporate sector in Nigeria will only be limited to the growth of the economy, so it is a bit of saturation in that existing corporate sector. Therefore, it is only when the corporate sector runs, with new companies opening and the existing ones doing better, you will see a larger role. That role will always be there no matter what, but I suspect that the role will be dwarfed by the speed and growth of the other sectors, which will be the retail business because it is coming around the corner.
That retail business is going to be enhanced by the use of technology, and where brokers need to look at is how to be relevant in the new market that is going to explode. So it could be relevant that brokers starts to arrange a technology platform, after all entities that are not brokers are arranging technology platforms for insurance, so why can’t brokers also be involved in doing that because we have an added advantage over them because those people don’t know anything about insurance. So, you are going to see a lot of that.
But importantly, people have to be prepared for the unknown and the organisation must be right on their feet also to anticipate that there is going to be issues with regulation. Regulation is going to come, and it is going to surprise us more and more because regulation is even trying to catch up with what is happening. There is no regulation for doing internet insurance broking, and that regulation will soon come out. It will have to come out unless you will just have a space where people are going to be doing anything they like, as things change, we are going to be seeing regulation role as well. So, if you ask me as you have done, l believe the future is extremely bright for the insurance brokers, but there is going to be an effort to be made in terms of ingenuity and creativity to be part of the new created business in years to come.
How can 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.
You want people to be able to buy insurance, even if the premium is N50 or N40. How do you collect this little money from people in the village? Can you send people to go there and spend N10,000 to collect N50 premium?
It is an issue for information technology; it is an issue for banking and other financial institutions because they are the ones being used for payment and the rest. So, we then realise that we cannot just sit down and start strategising and thinking by ourselves alone. So, we have to be able to take along other stakeholders. This is why we are inviting many other stakeholders to be able to address some of the challenges we have.
What is the relationship of brokers with the underwriters in the conduct of business?
It is to ensure that there is effective collaboration so that we will be speaking with one voice in the aspect of image making and promises to our customers. In this direction, we have formed the insurance industry consultative council, which involves not just brokers and underwriters, but also the loss adjusters and reinsurers.
Nigerian economy is in recession and many say this is not the best time to insure. Do you agree?
The reverse is the case. It is when things are so hard that you must ensure that you put a little amount to insure. Insurance must remain in place either during boom or decline. The little assets you have must be protected because you don’t know whether you will be able to replace the assets as the economy has declined. We will continue to insure in time of recession.
How do you intend to direct your members to take the retail business more seriously?
I keep coming back to it but at the national insurance conference earlier this year, we invited an important speaker Tony Elumelu, and he told us that capital goes to where it is welcomed, and that is very instructive and you can see it in many areas. If there is money in a particular area and people can see it, they will move into that business. If brokers are not moving into retail, it is because they are not seeing money in it, some of them are trying but they are burning their fingers, they run around spending money getting agents and they are not getting enough money to pay their expenses. So, the main issue we are going to find is that if you have a medium that makes money you will see people spend their time going in there, but we haven’t even seen that in retail. So, I think the main issue like I said is creativity, and I believe strongly that technology is going to be what will open doors to that area. If you look at the success stories that you have whether it is in Kenya or in other areas or countries, you will see technology playing a significant role in retail.
With the introduction of technology by many underwriting companies, do you still believe that insurance brokers have a job?
Well, I understand where that thinking is coming from because I can see that there is a channel that seems not to have encouraged the broker’s participation on that. It has been raised at the national insurance conference where we had an open forum with all the parties there including the commissioner himself and the brokers were also able to respond.
The outgoing president has responded to some of the things we said, and I believe that the commissioner also made his point there as well. I think what he was trying to say is that if it is true that this particular channel that is being created has not encouraged brokers on that platform which is what we are also pointing at it is not the only channel. It doesn’t mean that you can’t create retail channel as well. So, I try not to see things from a negative perspective, try to look at opportunity that arise from every situation and make good use of it.
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