Thomas: Financial Services Hardest-hit by Covid-19

Sunday Thomas Acting Commissioner for insurance

By Ebere Nwoji

Financial services sector is the most affected by the Covid-19 and its resulting business lockdown, the Commissioner for Insurance, Mr. Sunday Thomas has said.

He made this observation while addressing insurance brokers at this year’s CEOs’ retreat organised by the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) in Lagos.

He said this was because the nature of their business mostly require physical contact, saying often than not, product distribution requires face to face contact for the sellers to get the buy-in of potential clients.

He noted that this year has no doubt been a very challenging one for the insurance sector, individual households and the economy at large as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said for the insurance sector, what this situation has thrown up is that there must be a paradigm shift from operators’ usual way of business practice.

Thomas, said it has become imperative on insurers to embrace and align their businesses to the new world order if they must be seen to be relevant.

He informed the brokers that NAICOM on its part had also adjusted to the challenges and opportunities which the pandemic has imposed on the socio-economic and business environment, adding that among the fall out of the pandemic was the review and extension of the recapitalisation programme, fast tracking of automation of the Commission’s processes for prompt service delivery, among others.

Thomas, x-rayed the menace of the previous tax laws on insurance operators, saying that it permitted double taxation by taxing investment income and policyholders’ funds.

It allowed tax losses to be carried forward only for a maximum of four years of assessment contrary to what was obtainable in other businesses, he said.

He further noted that it did not allow a full tax deduction on unexpired risk provision in relation to the financial year.

He said with the enacting of the financial act, the industry has been liberated from the draconian tax laws.

He urged the brokers to embrace ethics in their professional dealings, saying the unprofessional conduct of a few amongst them posed great dangers to the insurance sector’s collective integrity as an industry.

“Over the years, a lot has been put into improving the fragile image and perception of insurance in this country. We all must rise up to the menace of unethical business behaviour in our sector.

“As the insurance industry positions itself for Post Covid-19 era, the demands of the insuring public will require sound work ethics for us to optimise performance,” he added.

As intermediaries, he charged the brokers to ensure sincerity and customers’ satisfaction were central to their core business principles.

He assured the brokers that the Commission has always and would at all-times extend full support to all stakeholders in the industry in its drive for the sector’s growth.

“The Commission is open to new ideas and shall continue to introduce new reforms and initiatives in line with international best practices that will strengthen our institutions”, the commissioner assured.