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Covid-19 pandemic has brought about positive innovations in insurance service delivery – Efekoha

After two years in the saddle as the President and Chairman of Council of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN), Eddie Efekoha is fulfilled that he achieved all that he set out to achieve. Efekoha in this interview to mark the end of his tenure tells Modestus Anaesoronye his journey in the last two years. Excerpt:

 

At your Investiture as the 49th President of the CIIN, a number of laudable projects were outlined. To what extent were you able to accomplish these?

 First, I owe this honour and privilege to Almighty God and to the Governing Council of the CIIN for the confidence reposed in me to steer the Institute for two years. Though it came with enormous responsibilities as I initially planned for only one year tenure but as fate will have it and also as necessitated by the turn of events, I reluctantly accepted to serve for the second year.

I have always had passion for training and imparting knowledge as evidenced in prior positions I held in the Institute such as Chairman of Education Committee and the College of Insurance and Financial Management Board. Similarly, an important aspect of the CSR of my organisation, Consolidated Hallmark Insurance is the Annual Essay Competition for Tertiary Institutions.

Therefore, it was not surprising that this passion influenced the main focus of my presidency as elucidated in my theme of Advancing Insurance Education and Professionalism. The fact that the CIIN had the statutory responsibility of determining the skill and knowledge requirements of insurance practitioners further reinforced that vision in me.

Foremost on the agenda was ensuring that our professional members of the Institute acquired cutting edge skills that match up with global standards and enables them to compete favourably with their counterparts in other sectors. During my tenure, there was growth and development in the intellectual capacity of members and also the infrastructure of the CIIN; by extension, the CIFM which is its training arm.

The relationship between the Institute and the CII UK was strengthened and among some of the fruits therefrom were revision of syllabus and the domestication of CII textbooks which were launched in June 2020.

Similarly, the Institute’s Mentorship Programme was actualized with the organisation of an inaugural bootcamp where industry leaders shared experiences with young professionals with the aim of inspiring them to strive for greater achievements. The event also had Niyi Adesanya, a renowned life coach deliver a very impactful paper on leadership.

Furthermore, the College has become the focal point for human capital development for insurance industry in Nigeria. This is evidenced by the partnership between the College and National Insurance Commission which resulted in the first ever Insurance Directors Conference and recently in the Actuarial Development Programme. Hence, the Institute more than ever before effectively delivered on its statutory duties during my tenure.

This is not forgetting the tremendous infrastructural development at the College. The College campus now has a standard tennis court, well-furnished accommodation both for students, staff and visitors. We also recently commenced the construction of a world class auditorium, a N300m project kicked off with a sud-turning ceremony in November 2019 for which an initial seed fund of N100m was immediately provided.

Also worthy of note during my tenure was the active advocacy for the adoption and implementation of compulsory insurance at various levels of Government and which took institute to various states within the country.

In summary I feel as fulfilled as I end my tenure, having executed all I set out to achieve and much more when I came into office as the President of our great institute.

 

Specifically, one of the projects in your presidency’s agenda was equipping accredited Insurance Departments of tertiary institutions across the country. How successful were you in this regard?

The CIIN under my tenure made remarkable progress by building on the work of my predecessors. We donated two complete sets of CIIN course books to seven (7) institutions of higher learning namely: University of Lagos, University of Uyo, Enugu State University of Technology, Ekiti State University, Niger Delta University, Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, and College of Insurance and Financial Management.

In total, 462 course-books were presented to these institutions. In the same vein, the CIIN Insurance Textbook for Senior Secondary School Students was also donated to secondary schools in Delta State in line with the Institute’s initiative geared towards promoting insurance as a career choice for secondary school leavers.

 

Making CIIN Examinations affordable and accessible was part of your mandate, how well did you achieve that?

I must say that this was successfully achieved regardless of rising inflation and costs in the country; the fees for the CIIN Professional Examinations have not been increased and remain the most affordable when compared with what similar professional bodies charge. The CIIN has also continuously advocated for insurance organisations’ support for staff writing professional examinations. This has accounted partly for the increase in enrolment rate for the examinations.

Secondly, under my tenure, the CIIN instituted scholarships for best students in insurance in various tertiary institutions while we have preserved the discounts offered to students in tertiary institutions writing the Institute’s examinations.

 

How confident are you about CIIN Associates’ ability to compete favourably with counterparts from all over the world considering the structure of the CIIN Examinations today?

The Institute’s examinations both in content and delivery are of global standards because it benchmarked against leading insurance institutes all over the world. Consequently, our Associates have continuously excelled in countries where they have been opportuned to practice the profession. Nigerian professionals hold leadership positions in insurance all over the world. Even our female are recognised as trailblazers in Africa as highlighted by the African Insurance Organisation at its annual conference in 2019.

These successes were achieved because of the dynamism of our examination process, ensuring that course books are produced and examinations are conducted in emerging areas in the insurance business. In recognition of this some other countries within and outside the sub region have requested that the our examinations be conducted in their countries.

Similarly, Mandatory Continuous Professional Development (MCPD) is required of all Associates and this is promoted by both the CIIN and CIFM to afford insurance professionals the opportunity of continuously upgrading their skills in line with emerging trends in the insurance market.

I am delighted to inform you that a lot of the Institute’s Associates easily pass mandatory insurance practice examinations in other countries; an attestation to the fact that the CIIN Examinations is of global standard

 

What is the impact of Covid-19 on activities of the Institute?

The Institute like other organisations in the world has been affected by the pandemic however; this has brought about positive innovations in its service delivery. While our professional examinations have been put on a temporary hold, we are rigorously exploring digital means of conducting our examinations and training including relating with our members.

The foray into virtual training began with the recent CIIN/CIFM Webinar themed ‘Insurance Value Delivery in the Pandemic and Beyond: A New Reality’ which was aimed at sensitising our members about the need to ensure value delivery in the adoption of technology.

While the planning of digital examinations which is the ultimate is still in progress, we are awaiting a relaxation of restrictions and rules from government to conduct the postponed examinationsdue in the first diet in year 2020. The CIFM on the other hand now conducts all its training programmes online including certification workshops i.e. agents and bancassurance officers together with the Diploma Programme. One of the exciting opportunities that the pandemic has created is the ability to collaborate with foreign experts in the College thereby bringing training programs of global standard to our members at affordable prices.

This is a reflection of the fact that the Institute is a very dynamic organisation with tremendous human and capital resources.

 

Going forward, how prepared is the Institute for new normal?

Permit me to reiterate that the Institute is a dynamic organisation that has continuously adapted to past and ongoing global challenges. This is our success factor.

Before now, we had embarked on the digitalisation project which sets us on the path to effectively and efficiently accomplish our statutory functions. Hence, adapting to the new normal has been made easier than it would have been.

The vision of the Institute is to become a digital organisation using technology to drive value delivery to all stakeholders both internal and external.

 

The CIIN through its Executive Program has taken insurance industry leadersto the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and United States of America. Of what impact is this program to the core objectives of the Institute?

The Executive Program has impacted significantly on the Institute in the content and delivery of services to members and conduct of its examinations. Top insurance executives who have been on this programme harness and leverage on the experiences of their counterparts in the countries visited. It therefore fits into the Institute’s MCPD program.

Secondly, knowledge from this program enables the Institute identify global trends in insurance business which is then incorporated into our professional examinations. A good example was the program’s visit to Malaysia which not only informed the setting up of the CIFM but also birthed the designing of certificate programmes in Takaful which is the form of insurance acceptable to Muslims.

 

What in your opinion is CIIN ranking amongst other Professional bodies in Nigeria?

The CIIN like other professional bodies in Nigeria has regulations which impose responsibilities such as conducting professional examinations, promoting professionalism and ethical behaviour amongst members amongst others.

Without any iota of doubt, the CIIN is at par with other professional bodies with regards to its statutory obligations which it has continuously pursued with success.

The CIIN has been the rallying point for all insurance professionals and is a globally recognised organisation in insurance profession just like other professional bodies in Nigeria.

While some other bodies have break out organisations setting up parallel professional bodies, for the insurance profession in Nigeria, the CIIN remains the single professional body conducting insurance professional examinations in Nigeria for the various arms of the insurance industry.

In 35 years of your insurance practice, in what other ways have you contributed to the growth of the industry?

My professional life has been dedicated to personal and industry growth. I have tirelessly pursued the development of the industry through education and enlightenment. I accepted responsibilities to serve in various capacities in the CIIN in response to my personal desire to see the industry grow. I have also served as the Chairman of the NIA and still retain a seat on the Governing Council of the Association. At the time of my Chairmanship I initiated and concluded work on charting a course for industry culminating in a strategy document (Industry Roadmap – Vision 2027) that the Association is working with to grow the industry. This is in addition to ensuring the commencement of the construction of an edifice for the Association among other things.

I have been privileged to set up insurance institutions and today, to the glory of God, I am the Group Managing Director of Consolidated Hallmark Plc, an organization that employs over 300 staff nationwide.

At every opportunity to serve, I have strived to leave a legacy that will engender the growth and acceptance of insurance as a profession and as a service.

Having received mentorship from various industry giants such as Amos Adeyeye of Hogg Robinson, where I started my incursion into the profession, I have in turn served as mentors to a lot of practitioners some of which have become heads of insurance institutions. I have been able to inculcate the success factors of the insurance profession that have worked for me which are professionalism, hard work and integrity.

 

What were the challenges you faced as the 49th President of the CIIN?

Aside the challenge of adapting to the new normal which has been forced on us, I personally was challenged by my desire to achieve the best I could during my tenure. Having had forty-eight presidents before me who had consistently raised the bar in ensuring the Institute remained relevant to the insurance industry, it became imperative that I must continue on the growth pedestal of the Institute because that was the only option for me.

To the glory of God, we have been able to achieve so much over the past two years and the experience has made long lasting impressions on me personally.

 

Can you share your most memorable moments as the President with us?

There were lots of memorable moments during my tenure but that which stood out most was the 60th anniversary celebration of the Institute.  Coincidentally, the Institute and I share the same year and birth month, August 1959. It was pretty exciting to be President and co-celebrant with the Institute. The weeklong event which culminated in a Gala night where Olola Olabode Ogunlana was honoured with the title of Doyen of the Insurance Industry. The highlight of the event was the launching of a 60th anniversary compendium chronicling the Institute’s achievements over the past six decades. It afforded me the opportunity to look back at my life especially my years in the industry and the humble contributions made by many like myself to bring the Institute to the enviable position it now occupies. It was nostalgic for me and I would forever be grateful to God for this rear privilege and divine coincidence of being the president at this point in time.

 

How was it possible to be the Chairman of NIA and President of CIIN consecutively?

This is another evidence of God’s grace upon my life. I did not plan or envisage that it would happen that way, but it was the doing of Almighty God. Like the words of the bible, ‘This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our sight’

 

What is next for Eddie Efekoha?

I am still the Group Managing Director of Consolidated Hallmark Insurance Plc and continue to serve on the Governing Councils of the NIA and CIIN as provided in the constitution and law of both institutions respectively. Therefore, I am still in the service of the insurance industry and my prayer is that God would continue to bless me with good health and sound mind in this regard. More importantly, my wife and daughters faithfully supported me in the last four years that I had to serve the NIA and CIIN back to back. Therefore, paramount amongst my next plans is to spend more time with them and make up for those years

I would not want to conclude this interview without acknowledging the support of Governing Council of the Institute together with those of current and immediate past Commissioner for Insurance, Sunday Thomas and Alhaji Mohammed Kari. I am most grateful to the National Insurance Commission for impactful collaborations with the Institute and the College during my presidency.

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