• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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On insurance and other financial intelligence, RASHIDAT ADEBISI has got you covered

On insurance and other financial intelligence, RASHIDAT ADEBISI has got you covered

Rashidat Adebisi is a seasoned professional in the financial services industry, currently holding the position of Chief Client Officer and board member at AXA Mansard Insurance Plc. With a wealth of experience spanning over two decades, she has occupied several significant roles within the organisation. Prior to this role, Rashidat served as the Chief Distribution Officer, leading the retail solutions division, and playing a pivotal role in devising and executing strategies for retail distribution.

Rashidat joined AXA Mansard’s Finance Division in 2005 and steadily progressed within the organisation, she went on to become the Chief Financial Officer, overseeing essential areas such as accounting practices, budgetary control, financial reporting and taxation, human resources, and compliance.

In 2022, Rashidat was appointed as the Representative of AXA Hearts in Action for Africa, In this capacity, she spearheads efforts to foster positive societal and environmental effects through employee volunteering throughout Africa.

Rashidat holds a degree in Business Accounting from the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside and is a Fellow Chartered Certified Accountant of the UK (FCCA). She is an Associate Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ACA) and a Chartered Member of the Chartered Insurance Institute UK and an Associate member of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigerian (CIIN). Additionally, she has completed a Diploma in Financial Strategy from Said Business School, University of Oxford, and a Senior Management Programme at the reputable Lagos Business School.

What changes have you witnessed in the Nigerian insurance sector over the past two decades?

The Nigerian insurance sector has significantly transformed in the past two decades and is still changing rapidly. Although there is still a long way to go, the profile of employees in the sector has improved, the process of claims settlement has improved where paying claims is now the norm and the adoption of insurance by individuals which is gradually becoming mainstream, especially with the emergence and growth of Insurtech companies who continue to work with institutions like us to simplify the process and make it affordable.

The sector’s regulatory framework has also evolved to protect the interests of both the insurer and the insuring public more to foster improved trust between both parties. We have also seen an increased level of focus on customers, with greater emphasis placed on tailored solutions to meet the increasingly diverse and changing needs of the country’s different socio-economic classes. There is an increasing focus on inclusive insurance – the protection of economically vulnerable populations as well as those that have been traditionally excluded. The introduction of the microinsurance guidelines by the regulator in 2018 has accelerated this drive and we currently have three registered insurers focused exclusively on this space.

Health insurance is also increasing in prominence, a few life and general insurance companies have made forays into this space buoyed by the opportunities as well as the successes that AXA Mansard has recorded in the health insurance industry.

How has the digital revolution impacted the way insurance companies operate in Nigeria?

Like everything else, digital has revolutionised insurance in Nigeria and globally. Today, it is now possible to complete the purchase of some insurance products end-to-end via digital channels with no or minimal human interactions. This has enhanced efficiency in the process, improved accessibility for customers, and allowed for innovative product development.

For us at AXA Mansard, we have significantly leveraged digital to increase access to our solutions. We are big on inclusive insurance, and digital technology has been a primary driver for our ambition to ensure that Nigerians, notwithstanding their socio-economic class, have access to insurance.

Today, you can buy insurance via USSD from AXA just as you buy airtime from any of the major telecommunication companies because we have partnered with them. We have also made health insurance into scratch cards, which are now sold at every corner shop in your neighborhood.

What challenges do insurance companies in Nigeria face in terms of customer acquisition and retention?

The challenges of acquisition differ from those of retention. The biggest challenge for customer acquisition is awareness, education, and trust.

58% of Nigerian adults trust in informal groups such as community associations, market cooperatives, and so on, than they trust insurance providers. Furthermore, only about 13% of Nigerian adults know about insurance, but even of that low figure, only 5% use insurance.

So, we have a challenge to find new customers because only a few know about insurance, and of the few, a smaller number of people trust it enough to use it.

For retention, it’s always about how to keep demonstrating value. The value of insurance is obvious when risk arises. Before then, people always considered insurance as a cost; so the industry must look for ways to show value especially during good times where there is no claim. The inability to do this well has led to churning, and unfortunately when customers want to reduce cost, they cut down on their insurance commitment.

How has the regulatory landscape evolved during your tenure, and what impact has it had on the insurance industry?

The regulatory landscape of our industry continues to evolve. New realities are emerging in the world, and business and regulatory frameworks must put these realities in perspective.

Across our businesses in insurance, health, and investment, we continue to work with our regulators to ensure stricter compliance measures are put in place to protect the customers and ensure our industry’s stability.

One such regulation is the unification of the motor insurance rates. This is helping significantly to address the issue of fake motor insurance because now that all motor insurance rates are the same, there is no longer an incentive to purchase motor insurance from just any unauthorised insurance dealer. We believe this can help build trust in insurance because there will be less fake insurance out there and more importantly, people will really benefit when accidents happen.

The regulator has also shown the willingness to strengthen the insurance sector by increasing the minimum capital requirements for insurance companies in 2019. In the health insurance segment as well, a new health insurance act was signed into law in 2022. Overall, we are excited by the evolution we see in the regulatory space, and we are positive that a more robust insurance industry is being built.

Can you share your thoughts on the current trends and future outlook of insurance products in Nigeria?

As education and awareness of insurance grow and more Nigerians access and benefit from insurance, trust will increase as the populace see the benefit of insurance in action in their daily lives, and we hope to see an increased penetration of insurance in Nigeria and the consequent contribution of the sector to Nigeria’s GDP. As with other financial services like savings and investment, digital technology will accelerate access and inclusion of more Nigerians. Embedded insurance will also get a boost with the increase and adoption of more digital products across sectors such as hospitality, transportation, agriculture, and so on.

Looking ahead, the industry’s future lies in sustainable and inclusive products that address the evolving needs of Nigerians. Products will need to be more personalised and customised so people can protect what matters to them when they want to protect them. If I am traveling, for example, I might protect just my luggage and not flight delays. So, customers will want to pay for just what they desire and expect insurance to give them the autonomy to choose.

What strategies have you implemented to effectively manage client relationships and ensure customer satisfaction?

For us, AXA Mansard, customers are at the heart of what we do. Customer centricity is the first on the list of our core values. What that means is that we begin and end everything around the ways it will benefit our customers. Everything we have done since inception is about better serving our customers. Our investment in technology has always been about simplifying the insurance process for our customers. The products we create are about looking at different customer segments, anticipating their needs, and creating products that will meet their needs. We currently have embedded insurance with three of the leading telecommunication providers in Nigeria. The whole idea for us is how to get more people covered for their health, and we felt a substantial number of Nigerians are already on the telecoms network. So, we approached the networks for collaboration. Today, on MTN, Airtel, or 9mobile, you can get health insurance by just loading some data packages.

The customers have driven all our innovation, from selling insurance via scratch cards to creating health insurance products as low as 400 naira, to incentivizing people to insure their car, and we give them free home insurance and loads of others. It’s always about ensuring that more Nigerians are covered against risks that can manifest at different points in their lives.

What role does innovation play in the success of insurance companies, and how do you foster a culture of innovation within your organisation?

Innovation is the only way to success in the insurance industry today. We must tell ourselves the right version of the truth that we are in a sector that is prejudiced by years of cultural misrepresentation. Insurance is the least adopted financial service in Nigeria today. So, to continue the same trajectory is like pressing a self-destruct button. So, innovation will play a huge role in the success of insurance in Nigeria.

For us at AXA Mansard, we foster a culture of innovation by empowering our teams, encouraging creativity, investing in technology, and promoting a forward-thinking mindset. This approach ensures we stay at the forefront of industry advancements. We are also partner focused, and via our innovation exchange and similar initiatives, we are collaborating with external innovators to improve the customer journey positively and key parts of the insurance value chain, we have some exciting service evolutions that will launch shortly, so watch this space.

How does your company approach risk assessment and underwriting in a diverse and dynamic market like Nigeria?

We all know that Nigeria is a dynamic market, so our approach to risk assessment involves a thorough understanding of market nuances. That is where our investment in technology gives us an edge because we leverage data analytics and technology to tailor underwriting strategies and ensure our products are well-suited to the needs of our diverse customer base.

We build our portfolio monitoring dashboards with the use of internal risk assessment tools, historical data points, actuarial methodologies & projections, risk assessors, local and global market information and news and emerging risk reports to price our policies. Insurance requires a lot of probability assessments to come up with a fair price which can then be adjusted as the experience develops.

In your opinion, what are the key factors that set your insurance company apart from competitors in Nigeria?

The first factor is our people. We have created a methodology to identify and develop the right talent. Our people are at the heart of everything that we do and have achieved since our renaissance in 2004.

Second is our purpose – it is the essence of every innovation and initiative that has placed us in the leadership position today. Our purpose is to act for human progress by protecting what matters. So, our products, solutions, and innovations have that underlying truth. So, by default, our thinking is – does this contribute to human progress? So, if it’s not for human progress, it is for the others, not AXA.

The third is our mission, moving from being a payer to a partner. What this means to us is that we cannot just be a transactional company that pays claims. We are a partner to our clients, acting and thinking about their progress in every step of their journey.

A combination of these three factors is what sets us apart.

Can you talk about any initiatives or programmes your company has undertaken to contribute to the growth and development of the Nigerian insurance sector?

Across our insurance, health, and investment businesses, we have been actively contributing to the growth of the Nigerian insurance sector through initiatives that have transformed the industries.

For example, in health insurance, we introduced the first chip-based card, simplified pre-booking, were the first to pay the claim within two weeks, made roaming easy, and digitised enrolment, claim, and authorization – end-to-end. And when the pandemic hit, we were the first HMO to launch the first responder and telemedicine. These are all things other HMO companies have started to do, and they are now considered norms in the industry.

In insurance, we have taken a significant lead in driving insurance penetration. Last year, for example, we launched the first nationwide insurance promotion scheme to ensure that people have more reasons to buy insurance. We have developed a whole new segment called inclusive insurance to ensure more people are protected.

Tell us about your inclusive plans within AXA Mansard

AXA is a deliberately inclusive organisation, so recently, we introduced the “We Care” programme which is one of AXA’s key milestones for the 2024 – 2026 strategic plan. We Care is a programme designed to provide support to AXA’s workforce at different life stages and during moments that matter.

As part of this programme in Nigeria, we have increased paternity leave to 10 days, introduced menstrual leave for women, IVF programmes, and a lot more.

On a personal note, being recognised as one of the top 50 women in insurance under the African Insurance Association recognition event in 2022 alongside some amazing role models in Nigeria and across Africa was exciting and have seen many more women growing into leadership roles in the industry.

You grew at a trajectory that has seen you elevate to the level you are at AXA today. How important is it for companies to embrace staff growth?

Embracing staff growth is paramount for us at AXA and should be for every progressive organisation. It fosters a culture of loyalty and dedication, leading to improved productivity and innovation. Investing in professional development ensures employees are equipped to tackle evolving challenges, contributing to both individual and organisational success.

I have been a beneficiary of a rewarding and growth-enabling organisation like AXA, and it’s one thing that I work with my colleagues at the executive committee level to ensure that our people grow and find fulfillment in the solutions they bring to our customers every day.

Share with us on AXA Hearts in Action for Africa, your involvement, role, and results

As the Representative of AXA Hearts in Action for Africa, my role involves spearheading efforts to drive positive societal and environmental change through employee volunteering across the continent. As noted earlier, our purpose at AXA is to act for human progress, and we believe that if we instill that sense of responsibility in every employee of AXA, we can accelerate progress for many people. That’s the objective of AXA Hearts in Action.

The initiative focuses on two pillars: first, climate change and biodiversity which covers activities which aim to protect the environment, reduce risks of natural disasters, and preserve biodiversity. We have gotten employees to work with the company to volunteer in activities like tree planting, awareness creation/education on climate change and so on. Secondly, Inclusive protection which aims to protect vulnerable populations and focuses on health and disease prevention, social inclusion, and risk prevention.

As a tech enthusiast, in what way/s do you believe that innovation via tech solutions will help democratise protection for a significant part of the African population?

As I have stated earlier, technology is the key to increasing insurance penetration in Nigeria. We have seen what tech has done for financial inclusion. A 2023 report on financial inclusion by EFInA showed that formal financial inclusion in Nigeria has grown significantly from 56% in 2020 to 64% in 2023. The report furthered that agency banking played a significant role in this growth. But that wouldn’t have been possible without technology.

So, I believe tech solutions will also democratise protection by increasing accessibility and affordability. We have been piloting some of these solutions under the programme we call the Innovation Exchange Programme; so, on the scale, we are already thinking of innovations such as mobile-based insurance platforms that can reach a significant part of the Nigerian population and provide them with essential insurance products.

Do Nigerians take insurance seriously enough? What needs to change?

The perception of insurance as a cost, not a financial service, needs to change. Because of the futuristic nature of the solution, people tend to procrastinate about it or hedge their risk in savings and investment and, at other times, in their religious beliefs.

But the truth is that insurance is there, so you don’t have to deplete your savings when life happens. It’s another type of financial portfolio. So, as you are thinking of diversifying your asset portfolio, insurance should be on the list of considerations. It can easily be your first line of defense. For example, if you have health insurance, the worst that could happen is that you will pay some aspect of what’s not covered. If you have car insurance and it is stolen, you can be sure of getting the value of your car back. But imagine if you have to buy your vehicle back and pay a huge medical bill. That’s going to be a huge expense that could be prevented with a small known amount.

I feel that when people start to see insurance as another type of financial service, we will have made incredibly substantial progress as a country in protecting ourselves.

In what ways have you embraced mentorship, especially for women?

Mentorship is a cornerstone of my professional journey. I have benefited from many amazing male and female mentors, and I believe in it. So, personally, I actively engage in mentoring young individuals, with a particular focus on empowering women.

As an organisation, we have ensured that it is also a staple part of the employee growth program, and we have that for all cadre of employees, we also invest in training senior members of our staff to become mentors.

Technology has also ensured we can inspire others in a more remote way as one could have access to great mentors from around the world from the comfort of our homes or on our digital devices. Thus, I can inspire people across the world by the actions I take and success I achieve and be inspired by others as well.

For me, mentorship is one way I strive to inspire confidence, ambition, and resilience in aspiring female and young leaders.

Are there enough women on boards? What can be done to increase the numbers? What do you see as the challenges of women on boards?

There is a need for increased representation of women on boards. Initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion, mentorship programmes, and creating an inclusive workplace culture can contribute to overcoming challenges and ensuring more women occupy leadership roles.

Many more companies need to implement better structured processes as well as consider diverse individuals especially women during their board recruitment process and board succession planning process to improve the number of women on their boards and interestingly, we have data that says that boards with better gender and diversity combinations deliver higher performing outcomes.

Concluding words

In conclusion, my journey in the financial services industry has been marked by dedication, continuous learning, and a passion for positive impact. I remain committed to empowering women and young people, fostering innovation, and contributing to Nigeria’s insurance sector’s growth. The future holds exciting opportunities, and I look forward to further collaboration and achievements in pursuing excellence and societal well-being.