Insurance - Good Product, Served Poorly

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Thursday, November 21, 2019  / 12:57 PM / OpEd By Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon / Header Image Credit: Army University Press


Looking around us, whether here or elsewhere, online or offline and by whatever categorization we adopt, the ultimate aim of DOING is to IMPROVE! The desire to improve our lives, living conditions and standards as well as our relationships, and succeeding at these make working meaningful. 


Why do something that does not cause improvements in diverse ways and areas of our lives?


This simple question has continued to inspire creativity and innovation, sometimes, beyond our imaginations. 


Too often, I have wondered how those merchants viewed their lives, confronted by the risks of losing their goods on the high sea, then decided to collectively and jointly relieve the one amongst them that would face the anguish and pain of such loss. They did this on their own for several years, indeed decades, before governments saw that what they had was GOOD and decided to make it a law!


Insurance became probably the first GOOD law by governments across the world, clearly intended to ensure protection of our wealth and improvement in our lifestyle despite the risks we face. 


From tsunami to hurricanes and health/financial disasters, relief continue to be served through insurance, albeit with little or no publicity. Often, high emotional outpouring reigns when the unfortunate and unexpected events occur and the media "celebrates" but after all have simmered down for insurance to take its course, only a few hear and note it.


Who would not want a relief after an unexpected incident? If insurance is such a GOOD relief (product), why is it rejected in many climes?


What Governments Saw...

For many decades after the merchants had been helping themselves to recover from losses through insurance, other actors in different areas of the economy adopted their approach and it had become a good system that relieved individuals and enterprises in the event of losses. Indeed, the culture remains till date amongst the non-elitist groups in our communities.


As it happens till today, whenever governments see organised groups of people with focus and potential for success, they move to take control of them and their activities. So it was then, governments saw insurance merely as an opportunity to control and once the laws were made, it was back to the people to make it work. Sadly, the people have continued to wait for governments that are, elsewhere, trying to take control. Government only saw an opportunity to control the people and groups using the laws.


What Entrepreneurs Did..

Early insurance companies that emerged after the governments had made insurance laws, anywhere in the world, were founded by entrepreneurs with background in merchandise. Even when governments tried to own and operate insurance companies, they readily discovered that entrepreneurs were best suited to operationalize insurance.


Entrepreneurs, naturally, took the risks to set up insurance companies as one of the opportunities they met and brought their skills in selling, customer profiling, relationship management, communication and emotional support to bear on the business. As with entrepreneurs, they looked beyond the profits and keenly kept faith to ensure policyholders had good experiences. 


However, with the entrance of business schoolers into insurance, the entrepreneurs steadily took their GOOD nature and intentions elsewhere. Little wonder, today, there are less entrepreneurs in insurance operation in Nigeria, hence the relatively poor state of service.


Less than ten (10) of the fifty-seven (57) insurance companies operating in Nigeria earn good rating for excellent customer service!


What The Customers Needed..

The foundation of insurance, having shifted from what the merchants created for themselves (no thanks to governments) left the policyholders with hope and not the ASSURANCE they used to enjoy. In fact, such assurance still exists at the level where people do "Esusu", which incidentally has no control of governments. 


Customers of early insurance companies needed ASSURANCE and that is what today's potential and existing policyholders still need yet insurance companies including brokers and agents continue to serve them poorly.


What Today Demands

Firstly, with all that we have seen and heard as per increasing risks, even from changes in climate and human behaviour, it is necessary for insurance stakeholders to understand, firstly the intention of governments - to control and not grow the insurance industry!


Secondly, entrepreneurs must take back ownership of the insurance industry especially in Nigeria and Africa where the battle against poverty, hunger and diseases must be won by those who do not want them anymore. Insurance professionals need to listen more to entrepreneurs and build systems that truly protects them and they will pay for the management of the risks they face.


Thirdly, the customers today just need avenues to express themselves and share their experiences. If insurance can be sold or bought via mobile phones or online platforms, that would be a bonus; no one gets an ASSURANCE speedily or conveniently except from a source that the code is shared.


Customers of insurance need to be engaged in the process that will serve them. That is what they will TRUST. Our experiences determine our expectations!


We are waiting for the wow effect. 


About the Author

Ekerete Olawoye Gam-Ikon, MNIM, CPP is a management consultant with specialization in Strategy and Insurance. He can be reached via telephone on +234-806-648-1111 and +234-802-585-0344 or by e-mail vide 


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