Is ‘Old Mutual’ the Next Big Thing?

0

L-R: President, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB), Mr. Kayode Okunoren; Commissioner for Insurance, Alhaji Mohammed Kari; Chief Executive Officer, Old Mutual General Insurance Company, Mrs. Rachel Emenike; and Chief Executive Officer, Old Mutual Life Nigeria Assurance Company, Mr. Keith Alford during the 2016 CEO’s Retreat of NCRIB in Ilesa, Osun State…recently

Stories by Raheem Akingbolu

Three years after the Old Mutual brand entered Nigeria, the brand has started entrenching itself into the insurance market. As at the time it was entering the market, top brands like IGI, Mansard, AICO and Mutual Benefit were already making waves and this was a challenge for the promoters of Old Mutual. Its first strategic move was the acquisition of the Oceanic Life, which was used as a lunch pad into the market. Since then, the 171 year- old brand has built on its global experience and local resources to navigate the market.

In a fresh attempt to capture the market, promoters of the Old Mutual Nigeria and its two subsidiaries -Old Mutual Life Nigeria Assurance Company and Old Mutual General Insurance Company, have been consistent in the last few months in its positioning drive. To build a robust profile in the market, the brand has successfully leveraged sponsorship and partnership to warm itself into the hearts of patrons in the insurance market. Another thing that has worked for Old Mutual is the way its handlers have guided its heritage and brand promise for decades.

At a time when many service providers and manufacturers appear to be cutting cost in response to the harsh economic reality in the country, Old Mutual still see the need to engage stakeholders in the industry. To this end, pundits are wondering if the brand’s recent approach will not unsettle the market and possibly swing things in its favour.

The first approach in recent times was the sponsorship of the Nigeria – South Africa Chamber of Commerce Breakfast meeting in Lagos last month, where the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Economic matters, Dr. Yemi Dipeolu, rolled out the country’s economic strategic plan.

Considering the current economic situation in the country and the choice of the speaker, the event attracted the needed attention. Also, Dipeolu dexterity in dissecting government’s plan to reinvigorate the economy was mind-boggling. Expectedly, the chamber and its sponsor, the Old Mutual brand, took the credit. Though an event that was put together to examine economic issues, as it related to the two countries, the Old Mutual involvement was viewed as both patriotic and developmental. Dipeolu, who delivered a paper titled; “It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint” stated that the present administration is keen on embarking on strategic plan to take Nigeria out of her present economic quagmire. He said while the nation tries to keep the short term, it must also keep an eye on the long term.

The economic adviser stated that given the strategic location of Nigeria on the continent, whatever happens in the country impacts the rest of Africa, therefore, Nigeria must devise a means to survive the present economic hardship.

One week after, in what industry players described as a pragmatic move to add value to its customers and the banking public, the insurance company announced the partnership between Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), parent company of the Ecobank Group, and Old Mutual Emerging Markets (OMEM). Before the euphoria over the two companies’ strategic agreement could go down, it was announced that Old Mutual would sponsor the 2016 CEOs’ Retreat of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) in Osun State.

The enhanced strategic agreement between the company and Ecobank is expected to strengthen existing ties between the leading pan-African bank and the insurance and asset management giant. Old Mutual Emerging Markets currently has a bancassurance partnership with the Ecobank Group. This latest agreement will grow the existing strategic alliance by offering seamless insurance services to Ecobank clients across selected countries where the two groups have operations.

A statement issued by the company indicated that clients will benefit mutually though access to a range of financial services that include life insurance, savings and short-term insurance solutions across a greater network on the African continent.

The statement quoted the bank’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Ade Ayeyemi, as saying that plans for the integrated model include providing access to Old Mutual solutions for Ecobank’s banking operations across selected countries.

According to a source closed to the insurance company, the sponsorship of the NCRIB retreat was informed by the need to strengthen professionalism and deepen awareness among stakeholders in the insurance sector.

The theme of the retreat which was held in Ilesa Osun State, was ‘Growing Insurance Amidst Regulation’.

Speaking at the event, the Commissioner for Insurance, Alhaji Muhammed Kari, emphasised the need for practitioners to adhere strictly to the ethics of the insurance profession. He pointed out that rules and regulations are important to drive professionalism, adding that the regulatory body was prepared to be more flexible in its approach to the industry. The commissioner also called for the rebranding of the industry to appeal to the consuming in public.

On why Old Mutual Nigeria threw its weight behind the retreat, at a time many organizations are cutting corner, the Chief Executive Officer of Old Mutual General Insurance Company, Rachel Emenike, said the 171 year-old brand has consistently supported platforms that could promote professionalism. She described brokers as major stakeholders in the insurance industry that could not be dismissed, especially for the role they are playing in the economy.

“As an association of brokers, NCRIB is a major stakeholder not only to the insurance industry but also to the economy. Over the years, brokers have redefined the industry through effective practice and sensitization of the public on the importance of insurance. Who else can we partner to take the industry to the next level if not NCRIB?,” she said.

Earlier, the President of NCRIB, Mr. Kayode Okunoren, had described the annual retreat as a programme put together to review activities of brokers as well as providing networking platform for players in the insurance industry.

Old Mutual began in Cape Town in 1845 as South Africa’s first mutual life insurance company, offering financial security in uncertain times. Today, 171 years on, the Group is made up of four strong businesses operating successfully in their respective markets and enabling positive futures for their stakeholders.

Having been listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges, among others, since 1999, the company is moving towards becoming a household name in Nigeria. However, whether it will succeed in the market or not will depend on how focused its handlers are and the response of its competitors in the market.