Salawudeen: Insurance Can be a Good Foreign Exchange Earner for Nigeria

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Dr. Ahmed Olaniyi Salawudeen is the President/ CEO, Standard Insurance Consultants Ltd. He is a renowned insurance broker, who has made giant strides in his more than 40 years of practice. With integrity and transparency in his dealings that have won him many laurels across the globe, Salawudeen, whose company has offices in Nigeria, Dubai, United Kingdom and China, speaks on how insurance can help Nigerian economy, in this interview with Funke Olaode. Excerpts:

You’ve demonstrated a high level of integrity, transparency, and ingenuity in Nigeria’s insurance sector, which is viewed with much scepticism. What has kept you going?

Well, what has kept me going is like a slogan of a bank: I keep to my word. My ‘A’ is A and won’t come back later and say it has changed to B. And because of that, when people are coming to me they  know that they are going to hear the truth from me. Again, with modesty, my humility nature too has helped over the years in this business.  So I try to live above board, maintain my integrity and integrity in whatever I do. I try not to be sellfish. With that, things will come to you easily without struggling for it. Finally, if I have the means, I try to help my fellow human beings.

 

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 recognize those companies who were leaders  in their field,  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 in these companies’ development.

 

As an astute insurance guru, who has won many laurels, 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 them; they look at our antecedents and gave us an excellent mark. It means a lot; to be recognised by a reputable global body is overwhelming. This no doubt it will bring glory not to us as a Nigerian company but to Nigeria as a whole. It shows that despite our challenges in Nigeria, there are companies that are still doing very well.

 

Are you the first Nigerian to be honoured?

I wouldn’t know that. I only know about this and this year 2017, Standard Insurance Consultants is the only company being honoured from Nigeria come November 15(Wednesday) in Dubai. 

What informed the decision of WOLDCOB to honour you with this prestigious award?

They must have seen our company’s performance; our profile and pedigree of integrity and all that we stand for come to that decision to honour us. I don’t know them from anywhere and is not something that I apply for. In fact, when they contacted me I had to look for their website to know what the organisation is all about.

 

What does the award mean for you?

As a professional, getting recognition from a reputable international body is overwhelming. We have been in insurance business in the last 36 years and we are one of the top five insurance brokers in Nigeria with international offices in Gambia, UAE, corresponding office in England and an affiliate office in China.

 

Having won this award, what’s your next target?

My target is to continue to be doing good business with integrity. And anybody that gives us business, we must give the best services to our teeming clients. So I will continue to ensure that my company continues to render qualitative and unique services to Nigerian markets globally. 

 

How would you use the opportunities that come with this award to forge a strong alliance with United States insurance businesses, if none existed before now or deepen the existing relationship between the countries’ insurance markets?

This is another opportunity for the country because this global organization is ready to sit with us and discuss how we can get insurances from other countries away from Nigeria alone. But there is something you have to understand, that insurance is an invisible business export. If you check the Great Britain, her only invisible export is insurance. If you get businesses outside Nigeria it is a very good exchange earner. If Nigeria insurance companies have been doing that, people will pass business to Nigeria from Asia, Africa, and Europe. South Africa has been doing it very well and we can also do the same. As said, we would sit with WORLDCOB and discuss how we can get insurance into Nigeria.

 

But considering the challenges of low economy (coming out of recession), do you think it is it is possible to penetrate the market and  will foreign companies like to commit their funds to Nigeria?

When it comes to insurance business even United States cannot give me insurance in their shores, they as a country still have to insure their businesses wherever they are. Like the Hurricane Maria, Joseph and the recent disasters, do you think America can bear it alone? It is not possible.  They have to insure in Europe, Asia and all over the world including China. Even China does her insurance somewhere else. You don’t have to operate insurance only within your domain. It is an international thing that moves round. The most important thing is for the insurance company is to have integrity and good profile, good rating.  And if you are well rated, you can get business anywhere in the world. This award is a very good move to penetrate international markets more. For instance, we are getting marine business in the United Kingdom. Britain doesn’t have anything but depends on banking and insurance. So if your local market is strong it will attract international businesses that will boost the economy.

Can you tell us about Standard Insurance Consultants Limited?

It was founded over 36 years ago with the aim to provide solution to the teeming population of Nigerians. Our duty is to make sure that anybody that has insurance through our company in the case of any claim should be able to get their claims as and when due. We specialise in Energy Insurance Placement, Aviation and Space, Marine and General Insurance, Oil and Gas, Construction Engineering, Marine Hull and Cargo, Professional Indemnity, Life Insurance and Special Risks.  We can arrange good insurance for kidnapping and ransom.  So I sleep, breath and eat Insurance. In a way, it is my life. Apart from that, we are professionals with experts in various aspects of insurance. The National Insurance Commission recognise us as one of the professionals in Nigeria and with business of re-insurance programme.

 

As a veteran broker and successful entrepreneur in the Nigerian insurance industry, what is the winning formula that you recommend for those coming behind?

Well, the winning formula is for all the associations and bodies of insurance company have to work together and unite to forge a strong alliance. All arms of insurance including the regulators must come together. And, we must be able to create confidence in the insuring public because the business is about trust, trust and trust. We need to erase the notion from many quarters that it is a legalised robbery.

 

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 an 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 facet of life. Motor car is just a minor business in Nigeria. Life, Mortgage, Aviation. Education etc. are very important.

 

Do you think you’ve all that you set out to do in your career?

In life, nobody can say he has fulfilled all life aspirations as long as you are still breathing. You can only try and do your best. I am still very agile and ready to meet the demand when the need arises.

At 72, it appears there’s nothing stopping you as a great thinker and worker. When do you intend to retire?

Well, to be honest with you, as I am, I think what we keep me to live longer is the ability to be able to work.   I enjoy working and I don’t have any specific age for retirement because insurance is a career and life for me. I have passion for the job. Again, the best that has happened to this century is technology. With it, I can communicate from anywhere across the globe and have meetings via tele-conferencing. And this makes life easier.