BY EMEKA EJERE

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a temporary setback to the Nigerian insurance industry, it is speedily helping it to meet the digital demands of the 21st Century, Gbadebo Olamerub, former national president, Association of Registered insurance Agents of Nigeria (ARIAN( has said.

Olamerun, who revealed that ARIAN members are already operating at about 25 percent success in digital insurance marketing, said the association is seriously working towards hitting 50 percent digital performance by the end of 2021.

He said ARIAN, in its proactivity, had started preparing for the new normal even three years before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic by investing in digital capacity building for its members by ways of trainings and seminars, adding that such exercises would continue.

“The pandemic has hit the Nigerian industry hard just like any other industry, but it is also helping it to be where a 21st Century industry should be, as you don’t expect things to remain the way they were in the 20th Century”, Olamerun told Business Hallmark in a telephone interview.

“At ARIAN we saw the new normal coming, though we didn’t know it was going to come so fast as a result of COVID-19

“So we started preparing for it by organising seminars and trainings for our members because we knew that as those who do not necessarily live on salaries, to continue to survive we needed to be ahead of the insurance companies.

“Today I can tell you that about 25 percent of insurance products sales made by our members are through digital and virtual engagements and we are targeting 50 percent digital success before the end of this year.”

He, however, admitted that repositioning the entire insurance industry in line with the new normal leaves a huge responsibility on the tables of the industry regulatory body – the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), ARIAN, the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA) and other bodies in the industry..

On the delay in the ongoing recapitalisation of the industry, the former ARIAN leader explained that it has nothing to do with the pandemic but with insurance practitioners.

He commended the Commissioner for Insurance, Mr. Sunday Thomas, for what he described as his (Thomas’) magnanimity in handling compliance with the recapitalisation guidelines.

NAICOM had in May 2019 released new capital requirements for insurance businesses with a 13-month compliance period for operators to shore up their minimum capital base to the required level.

The minimum paid-up share capital of a life insurance company was increased from N2 billion to N8 billion, non-life insurance from N3 billion to N10 billion, composite insurance from N5 billion to N18 billion while re-insurance companies were directed to raise their capital base from N10 billion to N20 billion.

But the inability to raise their capital base to meet the proposed requirement is a major problem currently facing underwriting businesses in the country.

Although NAICOM has again extended the deadline to September 2021, most underwriters are facing herculean task sourcing funds to meet the new deadline.

The problem of the operators may have been compounded by the huge financial investment required for the innovations of the new normal, with many likely to see merger and acquisitions as the way to go.