By Bassey Udo
The Nigerian Insurance market substantial structural and regulatory reforms in the last decade through various development initiatives, the Commissioner for Insurance, Olorundare Thomas, has said.
The Commissioner said at the two-day retreat for Financial journalists in Uyo on Friday that the implementation of these initiatives characterized by digital transformation helped in evolutionising the country’s financial sector in the last decade.
He listed the various initiatives introduced to lift the insurance sector to a global standard to include the Risk-based Supervision Framework; encouraging investments in digital capabilities and automation, like launching of the NAICOM Portal and the Bimalab Project, and enforcement of the compulsory insurance products in Nigeria through partnership with agencies and states.
Other initiatives included capacity development programmes like actuarial, competency framework; sensitisation of various stakeholders, including micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) on benefits of insurance, Ministries, Departments and agencies (MDAs) Insurance Desk Officers, and introduction of regulatory reforms and policies, like issuance of web aggregators’ guidelines.
Apart from the initiatives, Thomas said the Commission was trying to open up the market across the geo-political zones by reaching out to the states where insurance penetration is perceived to be very low.
“We expect the industry to respond to these efforts by bridging the supply gap and ensure they followed up on the Commission’s move to create awareness among high ranking policy makers in order to prove that the industry is ready for the booming opportunities awaiting them across the country,” he said.
In this connection, he said the introduction of the culture of insurance through the ‘Takaful’ project with the Kano State Government was a litmus test for the industry.
He stressed the importance of insurance post-COVID19 and the aftermath of ENDSARS protest, saying the marginal increase in the uptake of policies boosting the retail market and the annuity component cannot be overemphasized.
Besides, the Commissioner said the recently released industry statistics by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics has shown significant growth in the sector.
The NBS figures, he said, has shown that the sector recorded positive increase in almost all parameters, boosting the sector’s rating as one of the fastest growing sectors in economic activities during the global crisis period.
Despite the growth, the Commissioner said there was still need for the Commission to do much better, considering the huge potentials available in the sector.
He said the Commission’s efforts towards the development of the market was an all inclusive one, from the creation of avenues to deepen insurance penetration to increasing access to insurance products via digital platforms and increasing visibility of insurance across the country.
As part of the efforts, he said the Commission recently partnered with Financial Sector Deepening Africa to launch the Bimalab Nigeria, a programme aimed at accelerating the insurance technology innovation.
He said the Commission would soon unveil its sandbox to give room for innovative expansion of insurance reach out, adding that the web aggregators’ guideline was also aimed at opening access to insurance and creating a convenient market for insurance.
At the moment, he said the Commission was focusing on using technology to boost access to insurance.
“We are exploring ways to take insurance to where the other financial sectors are or even surpass that mark. Financial transactions are more of a one-stop shop for everything and is either we key in or we lose the business to more innovative outlets that will seize it from us,” the NAICOM boss said.
He identified claims payment as one aspect of the industry the Commission was determined to balance, saying they cannot claim ignorance that the industry was paying huge claims to policy holders despite the negative activities of some operators.
Before now, the Commissioner said the industry agreed to start ranking companies on the number of claims received and settled on annual basis, adding that the Commission plans to publish such rankings for the insurance consumers.
The Commission, he assured, was doing everything within its capacity to see that the non-settlement of claims, which has put the entire industry on the edge, was brought to its barest minimum in the sector.
The theme for this year’s retreat was “Improving Insurance Access through Market Development and Innovation in 2022 and beyond”.
The organisers said the retreat was specially packaged to consolidate on the Commission’s cardinal agenda of developing the market and deepening penetration.