By Henry Uche, [email protected]
Abass Olufemi (Ph.D) is the Head of Department (HOD) -Insurance department, Lagos State University (LASU). In this interview with Daily Sun, he revealed why many school leavers do not see a future in Insurance studies or as a career after graduation. He also revealed what his department is doing to make Insurance a choice field of study like other disciplines in schools of Management Technology and how he manages students transferred to study Insurance from other departments.
Our research shows that admission seekers from time immemorial do not opt for Insurance? What’s your experience as the HOD?
I assumed office in April 2022. Since then, what I see here is a different ball game. I’m not surprised by what I have seen, because the trend has been thereover the years. A majority of school leavers don’t apply to study insurance. Many of them in this department cry to me that they really applied for Accounting, Banking, and other courses but they were pushed to Insurance. The reasons are majorly due to their cut- off marks were not able to offer them their desired proposed course. From the management point of view, Insurance is perceived to be less (in value) than some courses in the School of Management Technology. Some people think insurance gives less headache, but when you come in, they discovered that Insurance is not as easy as they thought. So I have salient responsibilities over them.
How do you encourage students in insurance discipline
I do my best to disabuse their minds on the subject matter. So long as I’m succeeding in insurance, I try to make them see reasons to embrace Insurance even though it was not their wish / desire to be here. There are many instances today where I have to counsel and counsel them, after counselling some of them, they see reasons to remain, today they are happy being in insurance department. You know these students are desperate to be in school, when they are denied Accounting or Banking & Finance, instead of staying at home, so they have no option than to take insurance as a course of study and career eventually. It’s not an easy task to absorb their spirit and soul into Insurance. But we are striving to do something new. What are we doing? As they come in, we catch them young, our orientation is in -depth, I mean for our department, I go into the class rooms and make them love the course. Because if they don’t like it from the beginning, they would be scoring zero, they would say “After all, I never wanted it”
Negative impact of those students studying insurance unwillingly
Of course it affects them adversely if nothing is done to catch their interest. They won’t perform well because the perception about Insurance is negative from the beginning. It’s psychological issue. But what we do is to disabuse their minds. 85% of them in this department never wanted to be here. Insurance is one of the least if not the least sought-after course of study in every Higher Institution in Nigeria. Note, if we leave them to their fate, the multiplier effect is churning out half -baked Insurance graduates- and you know what that means in the world of Insurance.
How do we change that wrong perception from secondary school level?
It would be very difficult to change from that point, but as a department, we want to do something different. Good enough, Insurance is now a subject in most secondary schools. But most of the teachers of insurance are coming from different backgrounds. You know insurance is a sub – subject (topic) in Commerce. I have been involved in training teachers who teaches insurance secondary schools (a sort of train- the- trainers) In Lagos, Osun and Ogun States. Most of the Insurance teachers in secondary schools do not know what they are teaching.
As a department, we are proposing a Program we called Bachelor of Education (B.Ed. in Insurance) just like we have B.Ed in Accounting, English and the rest of them. We want to have those to be admitted into Insurance from the Education point of view (faculty of Education ). They would be taking most of our courses with Education related courses, while others would get B.Sc. What this means is that- those in Education lane would be a feeder to the secondary schools, we are working with the education faculty, we have submitted our curriculum, so we want the Insurance intakes to be in two categories: The B.Sc and the B.Ed graduates in Insurance, as these ones are rounding off, they already have jobs waiting for them in the secondary schools. It’s our strategy to catch them young, currently most teachers handling insurance in the secondary schools did not have insurance background, so we need to prepare professional teachers for them going forward. We do not need to be using Accounting or Commerce teachers to teach Insurance. So we want to catch them young to make them love the Career. By the time they are done with SSCE, they would willingly embrace insurance for further study. One of the things we did to make insurance stand out is by introduction of dress code for our students, like you see Accounting, Banking and other students dress professionally. Insurance is also a professional discipline.
Government, operators, others’ roles
Government should do more by ensuring that every schools teach Insurance. All hands must be on deck to propagate the gospel of Insurance. Operators, regulators and all stakeholders should be in involved, government should provide the enabling environment. For parents, putting undue pressure on children by parents to study a particular course is unacceptable. Why must a parent decide for a child what to study? We should guide them not to Influence them. If you are lawyer or doctor as parent, your child must not toe your lane. We need to be happy doing what we do. Parents should not discourage children from picking Insurance as a profession. We should know that risk is what we take every day consciously and unconsciously, so if we know this, we should guide against the unexpected, since we don’t expect unfortunate events but they must happen whether we like it or not.
Just like the CBN is doing on the banking sector, the regulator need to do more. I learnt most Insurance company are offering Micro- insurance, that is a good step in the right direction. But they need to do more. Look at any country with low insurance penetration, their survival index is very low. So there is a connection between Insurance and demand for it. Any country that pay more attention to insurance grows, if it’s in advanced economies, operators and agents do not need to market insurance before you buy it because you will see the need for it and there is this trust. But here, they would need to push and persuade you, but with time we will get there.
Why is insurance so unpopular among students?
The major problem of insurance today remains penetration despite all efforts put in place. The perception is still widely negative, people see insurance as a legalised 419 business. Because they believe that Insurance companies just use their money if the risk does not occur, the money is gone but if it does occur, to receive claim becomes a problem. Sadly, most people who speak against insurance does not even have any Insurance policy. They always anchore their beliefs on “Hearsay” couple with our religiosity, people don’t buy the idea because they believe that only God can cover and guard them against all evil. Of course, we believe in the Almighty God. But we must act wisely.
So looking at the lacuna, it’s multifaceted thing, however, insurance companies too have to be blamed, for seeing insurance as a service, people are paying for a service they don’t know if it would occur, when or how it would occur, or the quantum of occurrence they don’t know. They call Insurance an “Inverse cycle business” that I have to pay ahead of time, so when it does occur, most Insurance companies start to tell stories and unnecessary delays, by that time, the insured becomes agitated because he wants to get back on his feat.
Changing the narrative
I want to change the ugly narrative of how people perceive Insurance. I will do this by bringing in the reality of life to people around me. For instance, if an incident or accident happen, I use the scenario to let the next person understand the need to have an Insurance policy, using that accident as a case of reference to let anyone around that such could happen to anyone of us, so if it had happened to any of us, what could have been our fate by now? The victims of that incident or accident believe in God though, and they applied every necessary precautionary measures, but then it happens, so what next? it could be anyone.
More so, if I have my way, I would invest more in Research and development (R&D) Most Insurance company does not have R&D department. If I have my way, I will introduce Risks- Based Supervision, that would increase Insurance penetration, just like what we have in the banking sector (Tier 1,2 and 3). I know they muted it before I don’t know why they….looking at it, that is the best way to go. It’s all about building competitive advantage in a core area of strength where we can leverage on. If you start low, you penetrate, most Insurance companies are seen in urban areas with few branches, unfortunately.
I have a lot of connections (contacts). Currently I am a facilitator ILO in Africa on *Impact of insurance facility”. We train people on micro -insurance and that has further deepened the depth of my knowledge because how ILO trained us is different. Many Insurance companies have Micro -insurance they come to us through ILO, we train them, because the model for micro insurance is totally different from the model of conventional Insurance, so the way ILO taught/ trained us- that we have to look at the priority risk. Most so, through the College of Insurance and Financial Management -CIFM, I have been able to train some Insurance companies. Moreover through my publications and relationship with my colleagues within and outside the country, in fact in any way or opportunity I see, I used it to preach the gospel of insurance as an authority.
What were your challenge when you opted for Insurance
My case was a different experience away from what other persons would say of themselves. I have a brother- in -law who was coming in different cars, I asked, I was told he worked with Insurance company, so I was motivated that I would like to be like him so that I would be coming in with different cars, I approached him, he encourage me and gave me a book in Insurance, he groomed me and that caught my attention, so I had a positive mindset about Insurance then, but the reverse is the case today, I can tell you authoritatively.
However, my friends did not support me at all. And till today, people do not see life in Insurance. They are not even happy. Look at those in at the echelon of different Insurance companies, many of them didn’t study Insurance, when I train Graduate trainees, I ask them what they studied, I found out that most of them didn’t study Insurance. Out of 48 persons whom I trained in the Insurance industry, only two (2) studies Insurance.
The reasons (why) most of them from different backgrounds found themselves in Insurance industry was because they saw it as the only alternative to succeed, some just gave it a trial, you know different circumstances led them into Insurance industry, but they are succeeding today. The truth is that there is life in Insurance. Most of them who didn’t study Insurance go and get professional certificates (chartered) to stabilize in the industry. We must know that there is prospect in Insurance.
How fulfilled are you in the profession?
Fulfillment is relative. I work with First Spring Insurance Brokers (a subsidiary of Spring bank ) but I left to the join the academic world because I had wanted to be an academic. My friends were angry thinking I was going to be a failure because the money was too small, to cut the long story short, career wise, I think I’m fulfilled.