Equity Assurance Plc., now part of the SUNU Group recently launched the Equity USSD Mobile Insurance *931*11# to deepen market penetration. The mobile platform which allows customers purchase 3rd party insurance on their phone in less than 5 minutes provides cover against bodily injury, death, and 3rd party property damage. Seyi John Salau engaged Moruf Apampa, MD/CEO Equity Assurance plc on the new initiative. He assured that Equity USSD Mobile Insurance platform will ensure customers receive 3rd Party claims benefits within two days. Excerpts:
Equity Assurance’s rebuilding process under the SUNU Group brand name started about a year ago; one year after how has the experience been?
In the last one year we have been on the rebuilding process, putting up the necessary structures in place with the SUNU Group. The SUNU Group actually sees potentials in Nigeria. I think it’s been a very wonderful experience, taking our parent company strategy-we think globally but also act locally; we are mindful of the environment where we do our business. The SUNU Group was set up in 1998. However, the beauty of it is that the company now is in 17 countries. Our vision is to be a pan-African insurance company which is in tandem with the SUNU model. In Nigeria for instance, when we resumed we realized that we need to build capacity, which is what we have done in the last one year. We have done tremendous training for our people both locally and abroad because they are our asset.
Specifically, what are the benefits of the partnership with the SUNU Group?
With the SUNU Group partnership we have worked on our processes to a large extent to rebuild almost everything: the way we work. For us as an institution, adopting the SUNU model, the structure, leveraging technology led to the launch of the first USSD mobile service in the insurance sector. The first in the banking sector was GTB. We are the first in the insurance sector to help simplify insurance and bring insurance services to the doorstep of everybody. In the last one year we have seen tremendous improvement; last year we made a lost but this year we have returned the business to profitability. We are here to make a difference. Our focus is on service and we have been able to differentiate ourselves in terms of service excellence. We are more like a broker now and to a large extent we have repositioned the business. On the rebranding process, we have gotten approval from the board to change our name by the end of the year for full transition into the SUNU brand.
How do you see the acceptance level of the new SUNU brand by the domestic market?
We are very Nigerian, we know the domestic market, we understand the business, and we understand our peculiarities. So we will be wrapping up the basic into the communication plan, we have a holistic plan that will run for at least a year, beginning from January through to December of 2018. Very soon we will be unveiling a very thoughtful well-tailored plan that is going to capture the essence of the brands, so that people can understand what the SUNU/Equity brand represents going forward. For us it’s about a widen value that put the customer at the center of our strategy; everything we do, the decision, process, the employees we hire are hired with the customers in mind, the facilities we acquire, the technology we invest in, everything we do is only for the customers, ultimately only the customer that will be able to verify and affirm the values of the brand. We understand that it is not going to happen overnight, it is not a magic wand but with our concerted effort, with discipline execution on the part of the organization and with focus on meeting customer aspirations and needs, we understand it is only a matter of time that the SUNU brand takes full root and continues to grow in the mind of our people.
The low level of market penetration is usually attributed to level of education, and the negative mindset towards insurance. How can we change that mindset in Nigeria?
It is all about processes. When we came on board, what we did was to establish a survey department, as one of the few challenges faced in insurance is prompt settlement of claims, that was one of the reasons we felt we have to proffer solutions for the market with the USSD mobile solution, and we will continue to come up with more solutions that are market driven. The reason for launching the USSD mobile solution is to see how we can penetrate the market to improve financial inclusion in support of the Federal Government initiative. I give you a case study for instance, the Insurance company with the largest agent has less than 3000 active agents, the population of Nigeria is about 170 million, how many people do you think 3000 people can address: the number of mobile phone users in the country today is about 120 million people, so we felt to address that problem we have to come up with mobile solutions. The task on our part is to see how we can unlock the potentials in the market, and we are poised to do that, because the parent company has done that across Africa in the last 20 years, so we will just leverage on that success to grow the brand in Nigeria.
How then do we maximise the potentials in the insurance industry?
It is very easy, if you go to Marina/Broad street, the first set of high rising building you see were owned by insurance companies, Nicon insurance, Reinsurance, and the likes, guess what happen, I think along the line there was a missing link, there was a gap in the 80s. I will give you a case study, insurance business like any other business is no longer block business, it is now largely driven by technology. In year 2,000, there was a company called Blockbuster, it is a film house. As at that time Blockbuster was doing very well, it has cinemas everywhere in the U.S. Another company was formed that same year in 2,000 called Netflix. Fast-forward to 2010, Blockbuster declared a loss of $1.1 billion, Netflix income rose to $70 billion, what was the difference; Blockbuster was building cinema houses everywhere while Netflix adopted a technology solution: that you can rent and buy your film from the comfort of your room. Netflix was able to address a very large population. The biggest company in this market, like I mentioned has access to 3000 agents, how many people do you think 3,000 agents can reach. The USSD solution we started has access to 120 million mobile phone users, so it’s left for you to now decide. The solution is not just insurance business; there is a scope of evolution for new business solution evolving globally not just in insurance even in the banking sector. Now we are bringing solution to the market, we want to remain a reference point for the insurance industry in this market.