Abisola Nwoboshi is Assistant General Manager and Head, Corporate Business Group, AXA Mansard Insurance Plc. A graduate of Chemical Engineering from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and holder of MBA (Business Administration), Nwoboshi started her career in GTBank in 2005 as an executive trainee. She rose to the positions of Relationship Manager, Branch Manager in several branches, and Group Head, Commercial Banking Group Mainland 2. In November 2014, she worked briefly in First City Monument Bank Plc. as Head, Commercial desk Ikoyi, a desk she pioneered, before joining AXA Mansard Insurance. In this interview with Vincent Obia, Nwoboshi speaks on the role, achievements, and plight of women in Nigeria. She also talks about how AXA Mansard is helping to empower women.
On her job and what she loves most about it
Basically, my role entails supervision of the activities of the relationship managers within the Group. I develop and implement strategies for business development for the group, grow and expand nationwide market share for the group, provide direction and leadership for the group, drive the implementation and achievement of the group’s budget. I monitor the company’s portfolio to ensure profitable portfolio of policies is maintained and, lastly, manage the relationships of key executives of large customers within the group.
What I love most about my job is the opportunity to provide coaching and mentoring to members of the group, most especially the young ladies, to always think into the cloud. Do everything to the best of your ability with the time allotted.
On the significance of the International Women’s Day
It is an opportunity to reflect, rejoice and recharge ourselves together as one with women all across the globe. It’s also a day to connect with one another physically, virtually and spiritually – and to give thanks for the generations of amazing women who have come before us, and the generations of phenomenal women still to come! Women have not always shared the same rights, and still do not in many respects. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the women who have paved the way towards our progress. At the same time, it is a reminder of the inequality that plagues society. We must continue to support our leaders, innovators, and risk-takers for thinking forward and expanding the possibilities for women around the globe.
The global International Women’s Day or month allows us to celebrate women, their achievement, and measure the progress we are making when it comes to the topical issues that concern women. From gender parity, to inclusion in leadership and politics, spousal support and, generally, women empowerment – allowing women to be who they want to be or allowing them to pursue their dreams.
On the challenges faced by Nigerian women
Personally, I think it is the veiled patriarchy. We rarely stop to think about the ways that patriarchy shapes our daily lives as an invisible organising principle. We’re largely unaware of the way the female perspective is quietly omitted in design, business, technology, clothing and even our cities.
On what AXA Mansard is doing to empower women in Nigeria
AXA Mansard launched her SHEFORSHIELD initiative in 2016. Our objectives include partnering with women from all walks of life to become their preferred insurer. Being the Preferred Insurer for women goes above selling insurance products to women. It is about redefining the way women customers view and react to insurance while being innovative and impactful. We are designing relevant products to protect women – health covers for their families and themselves, education cover for their children and wards, protection for their businesses and assets, savings products for the rainy day. We also look to provide value adding services beyond our products to help women whether in building their businesses, or developing their careers or from falling back into poverty (for low income women).
On benefits of the SHEFORSHIELD initiative
a. Change women´s insurance attitudes and behaviours. Nigerian women want help and protection against daily risk — for themselves and their family. However, perceptions of insurance are low. They see insurance as a luxury good, with returns that are too small and too far removed from their daily realities. Many also feel that their faith serves as their insurance — regardless of denomination.
b. Innovate and create long lasting solutions. Women’s priorities change at different life stages, although, their needs around financial success and stability, family and personal health remain, and financial management skills remain constant. Current insurance products alone do not address these needs — and limit opportunities to increase women’s total insurance spending. Therefore, we need to move from a product focus to a solution-based approach, which will better address women’s needs and increase cross-selling opportunities over time.
c. Build brand recognition in women’s segment. AXA Mansard must position itself at the centre of women’s lives — remaining consistently present and visible — to gain an advantage over its competitors
d. Develop gender-sensitive distribution models. Our agent network is a critical asset. They will be trained and leveraged to serve as empathetic advisors for our customers.
e. Women’s employer of choice. We will invest in women employees and advisors’ growth to ensure market growth.
f. Company social targets align with women’s core concerns. Actions show that AXA Mansard is active and engaged in the community, committed to topics, such as children’s development (e.g., a girl-child initiative), women’s welfare (fighting domestic violence and sexual harassment), women’s economic growth (national financial inclusion agenda), women’s health (maternal health and fertility, breast and cervical cancers).
On why women need to be empowered
Women are systemic thinkers and consumers. Women control 85 per cent of consumer spending globally. Why? Because your average woman makes purchases for herself, her husband or partner, her children and also her elderly parents. Women make 70 per cent of major financial decisions for themselves and their families, everything from auto, insurance, home and investment.
On the responsibility to mentor younger, less experienced women.
As I have mentioned earlier, the need to empower women cannot be over emphasised, but I believe it has to start with you and I. I believe strongly in guiding and mentoring women in my sphere of influence, whether in the work place, in my family, in my religious circle. Women need to help one another to succeed. While it feels nice to have someone who cheers you on, the most effective mentors are brutally honest. They would tell you what you need to hear to reach your goal, would point out your blind spots and push you to understand where and why you are making a mistake. The best mentors also possess superb EQ (Emotional Intelligence, also called Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence Quotient) and know how to deliver the message so that it has the highest probability of being accepted. A mentor also provides helpful suggestions about what the mentee can do differently. The most effective mentorship sessions lead to reflection and ultimately positive change. Reciprocally, a good mentee is an open-minded thinker who craves to know what he is missing or how he could improve. Additionally, being a mentor has helped me identify talent and be able to build effective teams quickly when the need arises.
On her biggest model or icon.
Over the years I have learnt to find roles in different models. Maya Angelou is my hero because she is always positive. She is my role model because of what she had overcome and because of what she has accomplished. She took life head on and she never gave up. One of my favourite quotes from her is, “No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.” However, my greatest Icon remains the everyday Nigerian woman. To her, again, I quote Maya Angelou, “Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.” Succeed in every aspect of life.
On changes she hopes to see in girls in the next generation.
The new generation of women is increasingly stepping into entrepreneurship and innovation. Yet, as they do so, we are seeing a wave of businesses with women cantered innovation at the core — meaning, products and services that are designed to reflect women’s pain points and direct needs. This may seem like a minor point, but keep in mind that this simple assertion disrupts thousands of years of social conditioning to “code” for the masculine. So, for me, it is more about more women taking their destiny into their hands and test erstwhile uncharted territories. I want the next generation to be limitless and fearless, to see the world as an equal playing ground for all, and to reach far beyond the star.
On her message for men and women on the International Women’s Day.
To women, it is only when you risk failure that you can discover new things. When you play it safe, you’re not expressing the utmost of your human experience. In life, we are either growing or dying. Life doesn’t have to be complicated. Let’s try and keep life simple. Women take calculated risks. We need three things in life: Something to do, everybody needs someone to love, we need something to hope for. There is never a right time to do the wrong thing and there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. Let’s just be right on time. Always show people you care. Press for progress, do more, be more, do not limit yourself. Challenge the status quo always!