How should insurance industry’s rebranding be done?
For me, I have heard a lot of ideas about rebranding. Working together on this rebranding does not mean all of you doing the same thing at the same time, but it is just that you will be playing the positive role wherever you are in achieving the objective. So when we need to come together, we should know what to do. I know that they have appointed the consultant to handle it. But like a former minister said, what you need to know is that if you want to rebrand, you must have a product that you want to rebrand, or else you will spend money rebranding and every action that you will take could be a waste of money. So, there are certain things we must find out like the issues that cost us the challenges; how we are addressing those issues; how we are going to consistently address those issues.
After, the rebranding can now start; otherwise we will go there, spend money but may not make headway. There are some fundamental issues we need to get right. So, we can’t be saying that you are rebranding and some insurance companies are not paying claims.
How are the brokers keying into this rebranding project?
For us as insurance brokers, we have already started our awareness, we do radio programmes; we bring up various professionals among the NCRIB to handle various programmes. At the National Insurance Conference recently in Abuja, insurance companies were unhappy that we were doing that alone. But we had to say, sorry; what you have to realise is that we are not insurers; we are in the same industry. The service that we sell is broking service and we need to bring awareness to that service; it is not a compulsory service; so if we don’t tell the public the advantages of using a broker, many may not know and our business may not flourish. That can be an issue.
How should the N300m rebranding fund be raised?
On the issue of the budget, as far as I am concerned, this is the kind of budget I am going to say insurance companies should handle on their own. They can ask us for some support, ideas and what have you; but an insurance company will be involved in every single success. Anybody who says because of this awareness, they want to buy insurance, insurance companies will be involved; but we (brokers) can do all that and pay all this money and all the people will go directly to the insurance companies and the brokers won’t get anything. But if you want to make it compulsory that anybody that wants to do insurance in Nigerian industry must go through a broker, we can always be with you and provide the money.
The insurance companies should just get up; they are extremely large entities; they are capitalised and some have far above N5bn as their capitalisation funds. They should be able to put together those funds to drive it. But what we want to see in my tenure going forward is a lot more in practical cooperation; not cooperation based on just words of mouth, but there have to be practical steps, actions that you are taking. You cannot be on a committee and somebody else will be doing the job. If you are on a committee, members of that committee must sit down and do the job; otherwise you must resign from the committee. At a recent forum in Abeokuta, I also made the comment. And I said that moving forward, we are going to have practical cooperation between the various arms, where we have to sit down and do the work. We sit down and address issues that people have raised. And when we finish addressing them, whether we can resolve them or not, we will communicate back to the members and the industry about the progress. And having looked at an issue, if we find out it has no merit, we will leave it.
What are your major plans for the broking profession?
The primary focus is I want to put all my efforts into the institution’s building; we will like to concentrate on the secretariat itself, empowering it appropriately such that it can be a lot better. The president may come and go but the institution continues to thrive. It is going to be a major focus.
What will the institution’s building involve?
That will involve issues of training, getting people on board. We are coming up with a 10-year plan; and a 10-year plan is a very difficult thing for a two-year president to put together because we are only there for two years. But we are putting together that document; so that by the time we all agree together and sign it, when a president goes and the next one comes and does the succession plan, then they all come and implement the next phase of it.
How can compulsory insurance be better implemented?
Talking about compulsory insurance, I must tell you that you will find out that the issues you have with compulsory insurance are also related to issues of awareness. But it has to do with the issue of cooperation between the various arms of the industry because we need to come together, to be able to aggregate the views of Nigerians on insurance. And when it is compulsory, they should know the penalties if they don’t do it. I know that discussions have commenced with the minister of finance; and they are getting involved, talking to state governments and other agencies. The commissioner for insurance has always had passion for it but it is the success of it that I think we should try to look at.
What is your view on foreign investors coming into the Nigerian insurance industry?
In terms of foreign investors, that is just a question of money. You saw people bringing money to set up insurance companies from outside or inside. We are not really looking at foreign investors, but key investors in insurance offshore that are now beginning to spread into Nigeria. Now, I must tell you, in other aspects of our nation, we have multinationals in our country with international brands, employing people. So for me, I don’t get excited on an issue of people coming in. For me, if they want to come in, that is fine. If they have something to add to our knowledge, then their coming is okay.
How does that affect the indigenous insurance companies’ share of the local content law?
In terms of local content, the Nigerian Content Act that says that we must give some business to Nigerian companies knows that the companies they are talking about are at least 51 per cent Nigerian owned. They frame it that way because it wants to create wealth and work for Nigerians. So when we also want to create compulsory insurance, I don’t think we should give it to offshore companies.
We are happy when they are investing; but we don’t realise that after a few years, they will not be investing but will just be taking dividends out. So, forcing all Nigerians to insure their group life with the foreign companies operated in Nigeria is not appropriate. It is not illegal for them to set up in Nigeria, but let them go and sell value; let them bring new products and value what they want to sell. When they bring that and sell it and people want to buy from them, they are not prevented from selling their products. But if we are going to create a special market, let us create it for the local content guys, local content champion. If government wants to buy cement, for instance, it should buy from a Nigerian firm.
Government said we should make cars in Nigeria; it should patronise them and I think that is the idea about local content. The issue is that it is the government that is creating compulsory insurance; it should not be creating it for offshore companies.
The offshore companies coming in are good ones; I think we will learn from them but they will also learn from us because many of them are coming in and they are burning their fingers. They are seeing that things are not as easy as they thought; the terrain is different. When they are coming in, they are looking at the 180 million Nigerians, but now seeing the 180 million people don’t want to buy insurance at all.