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‘With more women coming into leadership in insurance, consumer confidence, trust will be restored’

Nike Anani, speaker, author and mentor to NextGens, has been chosen to speak at the forthcoming ‘Dive In Festival’ being organised by Lloyd’s Insurance UK here in Nigeria, to discuss the importance of gender diversity in helping the insurance industry tackle some of the world’s greatest problems. In this interview with MODESTUS ANAESORONYE, she shares her vision in driving NextGens’, how the festival will change leadership mindset for players in the insurance industry among other issues. Excerpts:

We understand you have played major roles in helping the next generation of family businesses. Could you paint a picture of a normal family business in Nigeria and how you have been able to help them in building legacy enterprises?

I am passionate about the potential of family businesses in Nigeria, as they are our economic engine. However, they have been largely overlooked. Historically, only 2 percent of family businesses in Nigeria have survived beyond the founder and critical to ensuring that our family businesses are sustainable is the preparation of the next generation (“NextGen”).

So, I help NextGens with entrepreneurial leadership skills. This entails equipping them with the right entrepreneurial leadership skills to ensure that they can take the family business to greater heights, through establishment of new products/services, entry into new markets and/or identification of new investments. It is important that we are building businesses that will be relevant in our fast-paced disruptive world. I also help NextGens in becoming effective change agents: those that can identify new opportunities and implement them so there is a lasting impact on the business. Lastly, I help them in collaborating with their parents and siblings in co-creating legacy enterprises.

What has been the problem affecting generational transition of family businesses in Africa and particularly Nigeria?

There is a dearth of data in this space, so I cannot speak categorically, but however, I can comment based on my observation. Family Businesses tend to be centered around the founder, where the business operates around his/her convenience, and he/she is surrounded by helpers and not co-labourers. Thus, the business tends to be largely informal as opposed to be professional. So, we tend to see highly centralised structures, minimal corporate governance and minimal formal documented planning. This creates a high key-man risk and so once the founder passes away, it is difficult for the NextGens to pick up where they left off in the absence of a plan and in absence of preparation.

According to a PwC study, only 10 percent of Nigerian family businesses have a succession plan in place, despite 77 percent of them desiring legacy businesses. Lack of succession planning and consequently lack of preparing the NextGens for ownership and leadership of the business is a huge factor. This is why I am dedicated to helping NextGens in being prepared for the roles of ownership and leadership such that we facilitate a generational bridge.

You have been chosen as speaker in the forthcoming ‘Dive In Festival’ being organised by Lloyd’s Insurance UK here in Nigeria, to discuss the importance of gender diversity in helping the insurance industry tackle some of the world’s greatest problems. Could you please, identify some of these problems and how this festival can tackle them?

Women are underrepresented in leadership positions (senior management, executive and board level) in the insurance industry. At entry level, the disparity is not as stark; however, as we look higher up the career ladder, women are underrepresented. Key issues to consider and shine a light upon in the Dive-In include: Social networks for women – both formal and informal, e.g mentoring and coaching of upcoming leaders so that they have sponsors within the organisation, as well as cultivating a community of aspiring female leaders in the industry; engaging highest levels of leadership in the importance of gender diversity in their companies, encouraging them to engage organisations such as The BoardRoom Africa whose mission is to promote exceptional female talent to boards; and companies systematically developing policies to ensure that high-performing women are promoted into roles that ensure that they are given exposure to the business.

How will gender diversity help achieve economic growth and social balance in our society?

Our 21st century Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous (“VUCA”) world has given rise to a need for a new breed of enterprise leaders that possess empathy, humility, influence and resilience. A lot of these qualities come naturally to women. Many studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between female involvement and business performance: For instance, the 2016 “Women Matter Africa” study by McKinsey & Company saw that African firms with highest numbers of female representatives on the company boards had, on average, 20 percent higher levels of profits compared to the industry standard. In addition, women tend to be more inclined towards philantrophy and social enterprises than men. In a country where we have vast inequities, empowering women empowers the nation, as economic development in Africa is hinged on community grassroots activities.

Yes, the insurance industry is still a male-dominated sector; how can a balance be achieved given that some women are held back by cultural background and societal norms?

This has strong parallels with the Black Lives Matter Movement we saw earlier this year in the US, where African Americans were running an unfair race that they could never win due to systemic racism. 2020 was a year of reckoning, where we started having conversations on the importance of those with privilege amplifying the voices and allying with the less-privileged. Similarly, women cannot fight this war alone: they will not be able to strike this balance alone. We will need those with privilege, male allies, to champion the cause, whilst women become more courageous, individually and collectively discover their voices, to negotiate the obstacles that face them in the sector.

The Insurance industry is battling with image and brand problem, caused by loss of confidence and trust of consumers and the insuring public, which can be attributed to an age-long impression about nonpayment of claims. Do you think this event will help address this?

I think the event will help restore the industry as one that cares about women, seeking to develop a solution to a very important social issue. 21st century consumers are not functional consumers, but experiential ones: We have a rise of purposeful consumerism, where consumers are seeking to understand the purpose of brands and the causes that they support prior to making purchasing decisions. Furthermore, women tend to drive the majority of consumer purchasing in households. Being aligned with such an event will help in the restoration of confidence and trust.

What would be your expectation after this event in terms of impact on market and how employment opportunities for the working age are handled in the insurance industry?

I would expect that there would be an increase in awareness of the deep societal conditioning against women in corporations and a willingness to correct that bias. I would expect that insurance companies institute policies to improve the identification and development of female leaders in their companies.

Are there other issues you wish to discuss about this event?

The importance of age diversity in the business sphere: Nigeria’s median age is 18, yet a lot of our leadership, both in the political and business spheres, is dominated by the elder generation. Millennials make up approximately 30 percent of our population. That means approximately 80 percent of the African population is below the age of 38. Projecting ahead, our population is set to double to 2.5billion by 2050.

The implication of this trend is that increasingly, we will see a younger workforce. We may see more incidents of ‘young’ people managing older subordinates.

We need to brace ourselves for this, and encourage young people to have a voice, instead of the dominating culture choking their voices. We need to give room for them to practise their leadership. The challenge we currently face is that we have an elder-dominant culture, whereby the young are not to criticise or challenge authoritative figures in leadership. Therefore, we need to cultivate environments of safety, where young people feel respected, trusted, seen, heard and that their opinions are valued.

What should the audience look out for at the ‘Dive In Nigeria’ 2020?

Dive-In will be enlightening, inspirational and authentic. The audience should be on the look-out for a change in orientation and a mental reset following this event.

Do you think the insurance sector needs more eye-opening events like this?

Yes! I am looking forward to further engagements on diversity and inclusion. Conversations like this need to be had and the more we do it, the faster the growth we seek.

 

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