The popular saying is that "Insurance is sold, not bought"! Reading and watching efforts made by insurance companies recently, not just in Nigeria but elsewhere, got me into deeper study of the unfolding scenes in different climes and I was able to conclude that, there is a new generation of insurers determined to change the saying and deliver new experiences to existing and potential policyholders.
These insurers are seeking, quite determinedly, to change the narrative from the usual "My father was not paid his claims until he died simply because he missed paying his premium for two months after losing his job" to "Insurance works, I did not know until I had a fire claim in my house, and it was settled to my satisfaction". This is understandable because in Nigeria where 99 percent of the 200m population do not have insurance while 80 percent of current industry Gross Written Premium comes from corporate policyholders, the time has come to approach, engage and attract the uninsured and underinsured individuals.
The breed of today's executives are often not old enough to even understand that "story of the past" and set their priorities on making it easy and convenient for people to buy insurance and have the wonderful experiences of simply pressing some nodes or scanning some codes and in a few minutes, you become an insurance policyholder. Thankfully, other service providers have made it easier for our personal data to appear when trying to complete forms and we make our payments very easily and can buy insurance with ease.
Setting the Market to Go
Excited about what I had observed and hoping to see the insurance industry in Nigeria finally get on the cruise mode, I dared to do the "final round of check-up" by asking a random group of people as I met and spoke with them, "Will you buy insurance today?" Besides the younger people who are just starting their careers and would already be captured in the corporate policyholders' category, the others that are not formally engaged still have other things in their minds to deal with before considering insurance. The new challenge I could read from this was HOW these new breeds of insurers are seeking to sell insurance to the emerging pseudo-formal sector individuals because buying insurance is not in their subconscious minds. Whatever bits that may be found there are not positive.
So, the only probable way of trying to put insurance in their minds would be telling them that "insurance solves problems"! This line will surely get their attention and set the stage for the market to exist.
When the market exists to solve problems, individuals in the formal, pseudo-formal and informal sectors will be more willing to be engaged. Consider the problems of the people to be access to finance, healthcare, education and even their chosen lifestyles; offering their points of service such insurance relevant to their situation in an embedded manner can be a more ingenious way to get the insurance market going than being in their faces.
Years ago, it was the banks under the Universal Banking System that promoted insurance because they nudged their customers who wanted loans to buy insurance for both their lives and the asset or transaction that the loans were meant for.
You can advertise all you can but getting people to buy insurance has to be "a condition precedent to" whatever and wherever people seek. Avoid telling them that it is compulsory; they will simply resist it!
Can We Stop Comparing and Start Promoting
Long ago, I was one of those who thought that insurance was a foreign culture and if we were to successfully get more Nigerians to buy insurance, we needed to do what we saw in foreign countries. How wrong I was after listening more and understanding that insurance has been with us in Nigeria and Africa for as long as we have been living together.
In those foreign countries where the credit system had been built over the years and individuals were made to depend on the stipends the government provided as social security, insurance of individuals and personal belongings could readily thrive because whoever gives you credit has the first duty to protect it. That is very much unlike our environment where our relatively open financial system allows one person to give the other huge sums of money, and we see no need to discuss insurance because if something goes wrong, another opportunity will fix it.
Therefore, our system of "gatekeeping" whether good or bad has to be taken into consideration and indeed promoted, if we desire to get past this point guided by the new breed of insurers, rather than just working towards putting us where the advanced insurance markets are or have been.
Evidently, more Nigerians buy insurance for their cars, largely fake ones without knowing, just to ensure they are not disturbed by the "gatekeepers on the road", that is, the law enforcement persons. If we may consider this as the approach that works for people to buy insurance, why are insurers rather not promoting insurance in those places where problems arise for people and they are helped to resolve them.
Using insurance agents or advisors to promote and sell insurance can start the discussion but would not scale it, or even sustain it.
The Hard Nut
Today, at the gate of the market where individual insurance policies are sold and bought, there are claimants shouting for their claims to be paid and insurers screaming for their products to be bought, and I have wondered how digitization can address this. Do insurers think that no one is seeing or hearing these claimants? Or how do they tell those they are trying to convince that their stories will not be similar? Many of those I spoke with randomly especially if they had been working for 10 years and above regarding the question of "Will you buy insurance today?" simply dismissed the idea and pointed to the excruciating state of the economy whilst acknowledging the stories around unpaid claims by a few well-known insurers.
I strongly think the new breed of insurers need to do less of trying to convince individuals to buy insurance but train their agents and executives on how to explain the process of reporting claims and what transpires thereafter, so that people can appreciate why some claims are denied or not settled in time.
Claims would seem difficult to discuss when you are not involved or affected coupled with reported cases of fraudulent claims however the earlier the process is made open and transparent, in the sight of the policyholders, the faster the insurers would be on their way to achieving the unimaginable levels of insurance adoption as we deem possible in Nigeria. Just get the noisy claimants away from the gate by paying their unpaid claims!
If the size of the uninsured individuals in Nigeria does not excite the regulators and operators to take bold steps to seize the points of services where insurance can be readily sold, clear all unpaid claims in line with the laws guiding insurance claims and promote insurance as problem solver, then I wonder how we can be even satisfied to push ourselves out for another day of finding someone to buy insurance.
Let us seek to sell insurance excellently well rather than invest efforts at making people buy. They will buy when we sell!