Low Awareness, Customer Apathy Stymie Insurance

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Moruf Apampa

In this interview with Nosa Alekhuogie, the Managing Director and Chief Executive of Equity Assurance Plc, Moruf Apampa spoke on burning issues in the insurance sector and his company’s growth strategies. Excerpts:

About a year ago, you were appointed the Managing Director of this company. With your team, what has changed between then and now?

Upon assuming office as MD/CEO, one of our foremost priorities was to change the culture of the company by focusing on beliefs and behaviors of our people.  The transformation agenda at Equity started with changing our beliefs, behaviors 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 behaviors are beliefs turned into action. Behaviors deliver results. When we talk about behaviors, we are talking about norms of behavior; 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 company, and what is driving this vision looking at your strategy?

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, we are assiduously building execution capacity and implementation competencies while adopting a phased (short, medium & 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 & 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 would you say about this?

Like you rightly said, Our USSD mobile solution; *931*11# is an unprecedented technological initiative in the100 years of Nigeria’s Insurance market. It is a simple self-service solution that enables car owners/users to  purchase authentic  3rd  party  Auto Insurance with the use of their mobile phones in less than 5minutes. 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 going forward. We are committed to providing convenience 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 impact is it going to have on your performance going forward?

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 & 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 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 (USSD) Mobile Insurance is a scalable and flexible solution. We have started with the launch of the 3rd 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-center 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 realizes 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 product 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 & 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 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 suggestion, what efforts do you suggest will help increase 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), 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. 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 to the less privileged and under-served segments of the market who have little to no disposable income.

 

What other issue would you like to discuss?

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.