Ebere Nwoji writes that the industry has embarked on a rebranding project aimed at redefining the future of the industry
The Nigerian insurance industry operators, in their bid to redefine the future of the industry through creation of mass awareness on the relevance of insurance, recently kicked off an industry rebranding initiative targeted at selling the industry to Nigerians.
The rebranding initiative was mused by the industry leaders few years back but only came to fruition last week. Among the key drivers of the initiative were: Leadway Assurance; Custodian and Allied Insurance; Consolidated Hallmark Insurance; AIICO Insurance Plc, NEM Insurance, among others.
Their effort was supported by the regulator and in particular the educational arm of the industry, the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria(CIIN) .
Investors in the industry were not left behind in the initiative.
Over the years, the insurance industry, has occupied the least position among other sub-sectors of Nigerian financial services sector. Though the operators have been struggling to wriggle out of the over shadowing effect the banking sector through various activities and strategies, these have not yielded the desired results as the industry's contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the economy has remained below one percent.
Besides, the abysmal performance of most of the operating firms year-in-year out remained unabated.
The reason for this is not farfetched. Most Nigerians are ignorant of relevance of insurance to their day to day lives as such many jettison insurance.
Indeed, in the scale of preference of an average Nigerian, insurance ranks least and is always the first item to be deleted anytime there is need for adjustment in their list of expenses.
The compulsory insurances like Motor third party insurance, is often purchased from fake operators.
But thanks to the industry's data base launched few years ago which has, to a reasonable extent, checked the activities of the fake operators and enlightened Nigerians on how to purchase genuine motor insurance.
Against this backdrop, the industry, few years back, set to break the wall alienating Nigerians from insurance by resolving to embark on massive awareness campaign that will bring Nigerians and insurers at a common market place, first by making them understand what insurance can do for them.
The regulator initiated a similar idea in 2009 when it launched the Market Development and Restructuring Initiative(MDRI), which saw it launch the five compulsory insurances in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The CIIN followed by championing the course of awareness creation and repositioning of insurance in the minds of Nigerians especially the youths.
The institute, has in this regard been distributing insurance text books to secondary schools in the country free as well as collaborating with the senate of various universities for the establishment of insurance departments in both private and government owned universities.
It also prevailed on the Federal Ministry of Education to include insurance as a subject of study in senior secondary schools with the result that currently, senior school certificate examination candidates write insurance in the West African Examination Council.
To coordinate the activities of various fragmented groups in the industry, NAICOM, last year, formed a committee tagged: 'Insurers Committee,' which is similar to the bankers' committee of the banking sector, to serve as a forum where the industry operators including the underwriters, the insurance brokers, the loss adjusters the educational arm CIIN will speak with one voice and take a long lasting decision that will protect the interest of these fragmented groups and take decisions that will position the industry better.
The committee has six different sub- committees assigned with functions that will reposition the industry.
The Publicity Sub-committee, chaired by the Managing Director, Leadway Assurance, Mr. Oye Hassan-Odukale, is the one charged with the responsibility of rebranding the industry.
The committee last week commenced the rebranding project aimed at advertising the industry and ensuring that every Nigerian, irrespective of age and class, has one insurance policy or the other.
At the launch of the project, which the committee said would come in two phases, Odukale, stated that middle class, lower class and individual citizens of Nigeria needed insurance more than corporate citizens who are currently major buyers of insurance services.
According to him, the first phase of the project which the operators had budgeted N300 million for publicity,will last for three years after which they will kick off the second phase.
According to the Vice Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Publicity of the Insurers Committee, Mrs. Ebelechukwu Nwachukwu, during the first phase of the project, the industry will focus attention on showcasing Nigerian insurance industry as one entity and the names of the operating firms, their chief executive officers and their addresses.
She said through the project, the industry wants to capture individual citizens of the country and put them under insurance cover by first of all making them know the benefits of insurance.
She noted that insurance penetration is still low in Nigeria because most Nigerians don't know the benefits.
Nwachukwu, who is also the Managing Director, NSIA Insurance Company Limited, noted that the industry, has conducted an extensive research into the project before embarking on it adding that the project is expected to transform insurance operations in the country.
Nwachukwu also maintained that rebranding project is in line with the seven goals set by NAICOM, in partnership with insurance operators, adding that the rebranding project will vigorously pursue the goals.
On the project financing, she said NAICOM has contributed N40 million while most companies have also made their contributions towards the initiative.
Earlier, insurance operators had agreed to raise 50 per cent of the funds for the project from companies' gross premium income, and the balance of 50 per cent, shared evenly amongst themselves.
The initiative, according to her, will be driven via social media, print and electronics, adding that greater attention would be on the social media due to the youth population.
Also speaking, Odukale said the rebranding project was not a new one but a project that will show Nigerians that insurance is a standardised business.
He said the industry paid huge claims including that their oversea counterparts, who before the local content law of the federal government often hijack, thought that they could not pay.
He said hardly do people know about this but that through the rebranding project, the industry has determined to sing its song to make Nigerians see insurance from positive perspective.
He said advertising the industry to the Nigerian public became necessary because despite Nigeria's huge population, insurance penetration was still very low as efforts have over the years been concentrated on public sector and corporate business while ignoring individual citizens.
He described this as a wrong strategy, adding that foreign investors were attracted to the industry not because of corporate or public sectors, but because of the individuals who make up the huge population of Nigeria.
He noted the individual citizens need insurance most to secure their hard earned assets.
Insurance underwriters, who spoke to THISDAY on the project, described it as one that would transform the industry to a trillion naira market.
The industry's overall premium is a little above N400 billion whereas during the launch of the MDRI by NAICOM, it was targeted that by 2012, the industry will be transformed to a trillion naira market. Unable to achieve this, the regulator gave second chance of achieving the trillion naira market margin by the year 2017.
Their failure to achieve this compelled the operators to embark on earnest search for solution on how to open up the market for mass patronage hence the idea of the Rebranding Project.
But some members of the insuring public, who spoke to THISDAY on the rebranding project, said the insurers' efforts in this regard would be boosted by their willingness and ability to pay claims promptly especially individual claims which is currently characterised by arguments and delays by some insurance firms.