Insurance: Losing the Gains of COVID-19?
By Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon
Earlier in the year, as the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic raged on, individuals and businesses were seemingly settling down to accept the option of insurance as one of the ways to address the issue and restore confidence in the relationships between employers and employees. Even striking workers wanted their insurance packages to be in place as part of the conditions for returning to work.
Insurance had become the next critical discourse after the vaccine in many places, and some Nigerians, rather than sit back and say “Insurance doesn’t work in Nigeria”, were looking for the insurance operators that make it work; just as the regulator, National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) was getting more enquiries about the conditions for effecting insurance contracts.
For example, a couple of top business executives inquired about taking out Individual Life Insurance Policies in foreign denominated currencies; a situation that challenged, not only the capacity of the local insurers but also one that revealed how the exchange rate was stiffening the opportunities for insurance growth. Being in a position to pay the claims that arose from Dollar-denominated insurance policies is one of the challenges that exist for some insurers today.
Yet, the enquiries and opportunities have heightened as more people have listened to the workability of insurance and better understood its role in our lives and those of businesses and our economy.
The word out there is resilience and insurance has remained the single most critical factor for economies to attain it.
Lessons from COVID-19
Individuals, businesses and governments across the world, following the damning effect of the pandemic, came to appreciate that there was need to prepare, and indeed budget, for the unexpected. Then beyond that, also considered recovery management when the unfortunate events take place and leave ugly pictures in our minds.
Whilst many would not see the relief actions of governments and businesses as insurance, the conversations have continued to reveal the relevance of insurance as the most potent risk management mechanism for addressing both the planning and responses when crises hit us.
The old and persistent approach of announcing relief packages by governments when disasters and crises occur should be phased out while the insurance sector steps in to provide succour in a faster and more sustainable manner, as we have seen elsewhere.
Today, it has become easier to predict even natural disasters like the California bushfire and hurricanes to the extent that the damages they will cause to people’s homes and properties are determinable, and the compensations through insurance are defined and duly paid.
Getting our Insurers Ready
Winning the trust of people begins with showing up to hear their questions and comments, and responding to them, then doing what you promise per time.
Engaging Nigerians who have survived the ugly experiences of COVID-19 pandemic towards embracing insurance requires a totally different approach by insurers.
It might seem to be in the nature of the Nigerian to doubt everything including the thing that will keep him/her alive or provide access to the much desired wealth. However when you have won the hearts of some, their words become so loud that the traffic to your end, whether physical or virtual, would tend to be uncontrollable.
Winning hearts must become the core strategy for insurance operators in Nigeria as we live through COVID-19 pandemic and its variants.
As the campaign for Nigerians to take the vaccines intensifies, insurance operators should be in the frontline encouraging people, possibly by offering their premises as centres.
Our insurance operators should be seen to be offering Life Protection solutions through different insurance products in this season where our fears have not ebbed even with the arrival of vaccines.
The opportunity to engage people are rife and real but insurance operators seem to be relaxing back to the old ways in this new season and the outcomes of such approach are predictable.
Leading the New Engagement
It will probably take similar ingenuity demonstrated by NAICOM in April 2020 to earn the Presidential appreciation after the donation of the insurance industry to the fight against COVID-19, for the gains not to be lost.
The Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA) has equally demonstrated that it can lead such public engagement towards winning hearts, however, it continues to struggle with the imbalance amongst its members when meeting financial obligations is discussed. Notwithstanding, extending a hand of friendship to other sectors as part of the Association’s monthly activities could drive effective steps towards winning hearts.
For example, it is expected that the leadership of the insurance industry will interact with that of the real estate developers to reset the environment that would ease the process of insuring buildings under construction and avoiding any future repeat of the issues linked to the “uninsured” 21st storey building that collapsed in Ikoyi.
The National Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) has strengthened its position as “the voice for insurance professionals in the marketplace” yet a lot more is expected from them regarding the engagement of the insurance buyers. Adding a monthly engagement for insurance consumers by sector to the popular monthly meetings with insurance companies could enhance the efforts towards winning hearts.
Every other stakeholder in the insurance industry including Loss Adjusters and Agents should find a role in the efforts at winning hearts into the sector after COVID-19 pandemic had opened the door.
Nigerians should wake up and see more adverts online and receive more invitations through their phones from insurance operators because since COVID-19, more people rely on these media for information and updates.
Our lives are not returning to the days before COVID-19, so whatever did not work then, will not work now and only changes in adaptive ways will convince the kind of persons the insurance sector is looking to win.
Different actions beget different people and the time for the insurance sector to win some, is NOW!