Chief Executive Officer of Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers Limited, Mr. Anselem Igbo, tells Kasie Abone, in this interview that he has assembled most vibrant and energetic professionals to correct negative perception about insurance and thereby drive penetration
The Nigerian insurance market appears saturated. What informed your decision to enter the market at this point in time?
The holding company Stanbic IBTC Holdings prides itself as an end-to-end financial service provider, before Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers the holding company had presence in banking, asset management, pension, trustees, stockbroking and bureaux de change. The coming of insurance brokerage company completed the chain in our drive to be the leading end-to-end financial services provider in Nigeria. The above notwithstanding, we observed a major gap in the insurance value chain mostly on lack of trust and the low insurance penetration. Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers therefore came into being to correct some of the existing negative perception concerning insurance, restore public confidence and reassure the insuring public that insurance has huge benefits and pays.
What kind of team have you assembled to compete against the old guards and become a successful venture?
We assembled one of the most vibrant and energetic professionals both from within the insurance industry and beyond. We have a team made up of men and women from diverse academic and professional background. Our technical and claims operation team are made up of tested professionals while our business development team is made up of the best in business development skills. Our major strength from day one is the adoption of robust insurance software that will enhance our underwriting and claims processing.
What will differentials Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers do in the market?
It is important that we distinguish our role as an insurance broker from that of an underwriting house. We are into distribution of insurance products and the only way we can distinguish our service is by partnering with only reputable insurance companies that have the ability to pay claim. In as much as we will not bend the rules our vision is that within three years of operation we will win the confidence of the insuring public to see us as a reliable partner that they can trust in placing their insurable interest with insurance companies.
Do you believe that enough is done by the regulators and operators through their communication and marketing strategies to create awareness about insurance considering that penetration in Africa’s largest economy is low?
For the past 10 years, the regulators and operators have improved on the marketing and communication strategy to positively position the insurance industry. However we still need to do more in terms of communication, public enlightenment and marketing strategy. Considering the cost intensive nature for effective communication, I believe we will get more results if public education on the importance of insurance and the communication strategy is done collectively as an industry agenda rather than individual companies doing it on their own. The industry both brokers and insurers should have a strategic communication plan in letting the insuring public know their contribution to the economy. An average Nigerian still has the impression that insurance companies do not pay claim put in reality this is not the case considering the number of insurance claims paid by the industry.
Is Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers offering a full range of services and products or only a few?
At Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers we are licensed by the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) to act as insurance broker in General and Life businesses. With this licence we are allowed to deal with both short term and long term insurance products which include motor insurance, marine insurance, group personal accident, group life, all classes of individual life, property insurance aviation insurance, goods in transit and so on.
Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers Limited is part of the Standard Bank group, Africa’s biggest financial services institution. In what ways has this relationship impacted on your insurance business in Nigeria?
Being the youngest member of the Standard Bank Group has gone a long way to enhancing our acceptability in the insurance industry. February this year was our first year anniversary since we obtained our operational licence from NAICOM but Stanbic IBTC insurance Brokers is now a household name in the Nigeria insurance market. We are being looked up to for leadership in the market. All this were made possible because of the international exposure we have by being a member of Standard Bank Group. On regular basis members of the team have the opportunity of being exposed to international best practises through various avenues like trainings, sharing knowledge and experience from more advanced clime with better insurance penetration within Standard Bank Group operations.
Nigerians generally have a negative attitude towards insurance; what will you recommend as remedy to that attitude?
The remedy to this is continuous enlightenment of the public and a strategic communication plan. Also insurance should be included at a very early stage of school curriculum even at the primary school level. The major sector of the industry that is affected by this is the life arm of the industry for most African community talking about death is a taboo but the truth of the matter is that death is a necessary end which must come when it will come. We need to use the traditional means of communication together with the modern means of communication to correct the perception concerning insurance. Also we need to concentrate more on the retail segment of the market, in a situation where most insurers and brokers have their offices in the major cities with no presence in the local areas the insurance penetration will continue to be low. We need to learn from the development in the telecommunication industry and the revolution that took place in the banking industry.
What are the available channels through which customers can reach you when they have enquiries and queries?
We have multiple channels we can be reached, you can reach us through our group email email@example.com , our Stanbic IBTC 24 hours contact centre, our telephone line, website, among other channels.
How will you appraise the Nigerian environment vis-à-vis development of the insurance industry?
The insurance industry is functional in both ways, in the period of prosperity there is more disposable income as a result there will be extra resources to buy insurance. Also, during recession as we are in now people see insurance as the last resort. From available statistics more claims are paid during recession as most claims that were overlooked in a buoyant economy are now reported to the insurance companies. There is no doubt that insurance drives more when the standard of living is high but insurance is also more desired when things are not looking up.
Looking at regulation of the industry, have you noticed any gap that requires further reform to enable the industry operate more effectively?
We have a dynamic regulator who is already thinking ahead by positioning to implement a risk based underwriting firm and also allow mergers and acquisition to naturally take place without regulatory inducement. Also the insurance broking sector is now sanitised in the sense that is no longer business as usual most broking firms now take their regulatory reporting more seriously and remitting the premium collected from the insuring public as stipulated by the insurance Act. Having said that there is still more room for improvement but we have to bear in mind that the sector is still at a very fragile stage.
Some experts have canvassed the need for policies that make certain categories of products mandatory so as to enhance local content and manpower development. Areas that easily come to mind include aviation and oil and gas. Will you subscribe to the emplacement of such policies in the insurance sector?
In as much as I support the local content policy to develop the local market, insurance generally is an international business from marine insurance to aviation insurance and more importantly the reinsurance market. However in most cases we don’t have the capacity. NAICOM is very strict on ensuring that all risk are exhausted at the local market before placing abroad the truth of the matter is that because of the low entry point of N3 billion most insurance companies take a limited proportion on aviation and oil and gas business. The re-insurance treaty may also not be robust enough to enable them take a higher percentage of the risk. In terms of manpower you will be amazed that we have some of the finest insurance practitioners in Nigeria but you still find greater percentage of the special risk been placed in UK market.
Digitization and ICT have become major drivers of business success. Occasionally, we hear people say that insurance and medicine are stuck in their ways and are refusing to modernise. Is this assertion true? To what extent does technology underpin Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers’ operations?
There is a lot of improvement in this aspect due to technology; some insurance companies now settle uncomplicated motor claims within three days from reporting of the claim and the customer receiving payment into their bank account. Some have gone the extra mile to design app where customers can buy insurance without visiting the insurance company. At Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers we intend to make the buying of insurance less stressful and designing process that will be attractive to those that are technologically savvy through digitalization. We have realised that the upwardly mobile and younger generation like to do everything in the comfort of their home and in real time. We will start this with the retail end products while the insurance products for the large corporates will still be handled through the traditional means of distribution.
The Stanbic IBTC Group boasts of industry leaders: Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers Limited in pension management; Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Limited in asset management; and Stanbic IBTC Stockbrokers Limited in stockbroking. Though Stanbic IBTC Insurance Brokers is relatively new, will it be tall order expecting you to emerge at the summit of the insurance industry in the next ten years?
One of our strategic intent is to become the market leader within the next five years, from our impressive outing within our first year of operation and the market acceptability we have received I have no doubt that we will emerge a market leader in the insurance broking segment in less than ten years. We have a strong brand to build on and within a small space of time it is very clear to the insurance industry what we stand for. We will follow the leadership pattern of other members of Stanbic IBTC Holdings.