By Chiamaka Ajeamo
Tackling cultural biases, creating intensive insurance awareness, strategic partnerships and providing a wide range of insurance products and services for individuals and businesses especially; Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are principal steps insurers and regulators need to adopt to increase insurance penetration and growth in Nigeria, experts have said.
These experts, who spoke at the maiden webinar series organised by BizWatch Nigeria; sponsored by Leadway Assurance Limited and FBN Insurance Brokers, also advocated a roadmap that would serve as a guide to investors, and other stakeholders in the industry. The keynote speaker, Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon, an insurance expert and the Chief Executive Officer, Finterate Projects, delivering his presentation on the theme; ‘Building financial resilience with insurance solutions amid COVID-19’, emphasised the need for the insurance industry to have a data room and engage more with the public on happenings in the sector.
According to Gam-Ikon, claims payment is still a major challenge which the industry is battling with, hence, there is a need for transparency and clear communication between insurance firms and customers for easy claims settlement. While highlighting the need for insurance companies to develop products that are relevant to their market in order to expand insurance adoption, he also advised them to maintain a constant line of communication with customers, especially when there is a claim to be paid.
He further added that one of the lessons learnt at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic was the way data was managed and how it was utilised by stakeholders.
“Customers expect you to communicate with them on issues bordering on claims among others but what we have now is that they are asking questions and no one is responding. It is tougher for us when people have to go through the whole process of insurance without getting their benefits. I hope that as we encourage them to buy insurance, we encourage them to understand how it works because without receiving claims payment, the insurance cycle is not complete.
“An insurance solution has to make you protected, give you peace of mind and must allow you receive your claims. Until you have gone through this cycle, you don’t have insurance”, Gam-Ikon said.
He added that operators need to constantly assess the relevance of their products to the market they operate in so that, they can always provide those products that meet the specific needs of customers.
For his part, the Senior Manager, Brand, Media and Communications, African Alliance Insurance,Bankole Banjo, while speaking, debunked the myth that insurance was reserved for the elite alone in Nigeria.
According to Banjo, insurance is open to everyone as against the belief that only the rich can take up insurance adding that; insurance is an essential part of human survival.
He, therefore, urged insurance companies to take hold of the narrative around insurance in tackling cultural biases that had discouraged Nigerians from purchasing insurance policies.
“Insurance is not an elite thing as it is something that is literally part of life. We have to tackle the issue of cultural bias and other beliefs, make sure religious leaders buy into the idea of insurance and build trust so that people can understand the benefits of insurance,” Banjo said.
Also, the Managing Director/ CEO of FBN Insurance Brokers, Olumide Ibidapo, explaining the various kinds of insurance cover businesses should get, implored customers to utilise the services of insurance brokers when they want to buy policies so that they get professional and seamless services particularly; when claims arise; stressing that claims management support is very key.
Ibidapo maintained that insurance products suitable for Small and Medium Enterprises should be simple and provide coverage for financial loss, workers and physical assets.
“The type of insurance coverage for SMEs should be wide enough to cover their financial loss, workers and physical assets. In the event of a claim, it should be simplified and settled on time, this is why it is very crucial to engage the services of an insurance broker”, he added.
Speaking on the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 and #EndSARS saga for small business owners, the Associate Director, General Business Commercial, Leadway Assurance, Oluwatumininu Ayodabo, stated that “An unforeseen event like the #ENDSAR aftermath can adversely impact businesses if the company does not have an insurance policy to help protect against such an event or lack of adequate capital to restore any loss.
Ayodabo however, noted that business liability insurance could help to minimize risks so that a business continues to operate and grow when an eventuality occurs.
She said: “Largely, in an event where a business hits severe misfortune, it may not be able to solely afford the cost of getting back on track and running again. However, in the case of an insured business, the risk is shared between the company and the insurance company.
She, thereafter, urged Nigerians; individuals and businesses to embrace insurance, emphasising that insurance is a major risk mitigator.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Managing Editor of BizWatch Nigeria, David Oputah, explained that the webinar was conceived to enlighten Nigerians on insurance matters. He described the insurance industry as a significant sector with a huge potential but underutilised, in Nigeria.
He highlighted the importance of being insured against uncertainties, especially in Nigeria, where insurance is perceived as a taboo due to a lack of understanding of the subject. Oputah urged Nigerians to take advantage of insurance as a strategic safety net during a time of financial crisis.