“Since the advent of Covid-19 pandemic, the way and manner in which businesses are conducted have significantly changed; with the major focus now on use of technology to ease activities.”
This is the succinct description of the current face of business by the Commissioner of Insurance, Sunday. O. Thomas at the Professionals Forum of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria recently. Coming to terms that its either businesses ‘innovate or perish,’ and the second option, the inadvertent route created by the innovators and disruptors.
Thomas said NAICOM has chosen to innovate, and the Commission has “been working to boost access to insurance through effective deployment of technology. The Commission’s portal has been launched and effectively deployed.
“Innovation will be the key to sustenance of the industry and make insurance services seamless by leveraging technology which drives applications like Insurtech, Fintech, Blockchain, Data analytics IoTs, etc,” he stated.
The immediate past chairman, Nigerian Insurers Association, Ganiyu Musa, collaborates the view of the CFI, reiterating that Covid-19 has changed everything, not just the Nigerian insurance industry. “We believe some of the changes will probably be irreversible. As traumatic and sad as it was because it involved loss of lives and livelihood, there were some very interesting and positive learning and takeaways.”
First, Musa said the future of office work “has been redefined permanently. One of the issues a number of insurance companies are dealing with now is questioning the need for people to be physically present for work to be done. It is a situation that has taken the centre stage and has implication for the future of work and staff.”
He said the changing times meant that physical availability does not count as people are now taken up jobs in Nigeria and they reside in UK. “They come in once a quarter or as the assignment demands. He noted that it has its good and bad though, it has democratised employment. On its bad side, he said because Nigeria is a net exporter of skills, it has made it a lot more difficult for us to attract and or retain skills. On the local scene he said all the sectors, banks, manufacturers, telcos are competing to recruit same skilled staff and this has been made more difficult because because “we are competing against Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK. Canada, US and other countries.”
His take on the fall out from the pandemic, is the paradigm shift, “That is for me one of the greatest shifts. It also demonstrated that technology is the key going forward.” Joined to this Musa noted, is that it has impacted significantly the wording of insurance policies and the way the global insurance industry price and underwrite epidemics and pandemics. Besides, he stated that supply chain chains are disrupted with consequences for all.
Another dimension with far reaching changes he held, is the surge of Insurtech firms to fill the void created by Covid-19. However, he said insurance operators as are currently known may not remain “depending on how we respond.” He said the industry reaction to the turbo charged new face of business is either to see it as a threat, or see it as an opportunity. According to him there are a number of projects in the market that qualify in the space of Insurtech. These include the industry marine platform, NIID project and the growing use of technology to aid business of insurance.
Looking into the Insurtech horizon, Musa said its very wide. “What we have now that seem to be developing faster than the other is the access to customers, the democratisation of insurance intermediation and the price quoting system; some are focusing on claims management, some are focusing on fraud investigation. It will take a bit of time to fully evolve. Pointing to other option which no operator should contemplate, which is the option to ‘perish,’ Musa advised operators. “If you don’t jump on the train, then you are going to be left behind on the station and, it will be too late.”
For the Commissioner for Insurance, O. S. Thomas, his way forward is, ‘work together’ and engage in optimism. “We must all work together to explore all possible means to take insurance to a new level that will enhance our competition to the nation’s economy.”