DISRUPTORS HOLD KEY TO INSURANCE INDUSTRY GROWTH

Traditionally, insurance is a hard sell in Kenya where people rely more on traditional social networks and support systems like chamas and welfares rather than take up formal insurance.

In Kenya and in Africa in general, insurance distribution has over the years relied predominantly on insurance sales agents and brokers.

The main advantage of these channels is that they have deep expertise and knowledge of insurance products and how to sell them. However, these distribution channels are geographically limited to the cities and are expensive.

However, overreliance on these traditional distribution channels and lack of innovation in this era of digitization are partly to blame for the low insurance penetration in Kenya and the continent.

Whereas it is a fact that the traditional networks are still the leading players in terms of insurance distribution in Kenya, it is also important to note that insurance companies have been struggling to expand their customer base through these channels.

Times have changed & the insurance industry must comply

The future of the traditional distribution network largely depends to a large extent on the capacity to integrate new technologies to reach a broader customer base and reduce its running costs.

To augment the traditional distribution channels, insuretech companies and tech startups are introducing websites that sell or promote a wide range of insurance product.

These portals, which promise savings by providing the consumers a platform to compare not only price but benefits from different insurance companies are putting pressure on insurance agents and brokers.

With an increasingly demanding customer who is looking for convenience and efficiency, anyone looking to distribute insurance effectively must think Mobile phone and Internet.

The traditional insurance sales agent is ill-equipped to take advantage of emerging technology as they view it as something that will finally render them jobless. However, they should look at it as an opportunity to be more effective and efficient in meeting their customer’s needs.

I have been in the insurance industry for over eight years. Whenever I meet insurance sales agents, I normally ask them the difference between the insurance agent of 30 years ago and the insurance agent of today.

They tell me that, the customer is more knowledgeable about insurance and therefore it’s much easier to sell today as an agent.

But why is insurance penetration still below three percent? Kenya’s current population is 48 million, and about 80% of Kenya’s population is below 35 years. To a very large extent, Kenya’s youth — defined as individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 — will determine the shape of the country’s future.

Interestingly the insurers are busy undercutting each other in terms of prices and therefore making underwriting losses or very low profits instead of focusing on this huge population of young, impatient, tech-savvy and vibrant young people.

This population may not have a lot of disposable income, but they are upward-mobile and the high net worth clients of tomorrow.

The new entrants in the market who can see the opportunities, and have the energy and passion will capture this population and grow with them.

They will focus on friendly, flexible and cost-effective distribution channels and completely disrupt the market. How can an insurance company capture this emerging market?

It is about time the insurance companies go to the young people, work with them to understand them, become like them to develop products and processes that speak to them.

 

Eunice Maina is Managing Partner, Bismart Insurance

LIFE’S SIMPLE PLEASURES, WE ALL WANT THEM…

A rough patch is an understatement of awesome proportions when it comes to the money goods/service providers are owed during this 2017 electioneering season (which is basically the whole year), business has just been bad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for social justice, following the rule of law and, peace and most importantly prosperity, but the reality of the matter is, the longer matters drag on in their present state, the longer we continue being stuck in this rut of despair and unproductiveness.

It is said that bad luck comes in three’s and I was on my way to believing it; the year had not been kind to my business, family and I in a myriad of ways, so far I was broke given the political atmosphere. And to top it all up, I was in the hospital recovering from a grizzly road accident that nearly claimed my life. At this point, I was bracing myself for number three – the hospital bill. But just then I remembered – I have insurance.

Now is that cool or what? And if you know what’s good for you, your answer won’t be the latter.

My life at present and recent past could only be related to a walk in the Sahara Desert at best. Focus on this journey would be, ‘walk’, ‘hot’, ‘hotter’, ‘hottest’. You can’t stop because there’s a possibility you’ll melt into obscurity – economically, socially and everything-cally. Then we haven’t mentioned the mirages, when you think circumstances are handing you a life-line e.g. a deal that has your name all over it and from your due diligence it falls through, or, the first date of the elections was set, it came, we voted and just when we thought things were going to get back to normal, the rug was pulled from underneath us, and the life that was in limbo previously, continued so without skipping a beat. Those are the mirages I speak of.

Learn not to put all your eggs in one basket

 

You’re probably wondering why I’m ranting on about life and its ups and downs while in a hospital bed. I have learned to take and most importantly enjoy the simple pleasures in life; family, friends (the few true ones that I have), delicious cooking, good music, fun times, good health, the resilience of the Kenyan people and yes, insurance. Because here’s the thing, if tomorrow is never guaranteed, then why carry or bear all that risk, the smart thing would be to transfer the risk. I was a scout once upon a time and Captain Sinclair drilled into us the necessity of being prepared, for his class, it wasn’t just a motto, it was a way of life and he taught us well because it has never departed.

Therefore, while still in this expanse of the ‘Sahara Desert’, I’m glad that the hospital bill from my accident is not one of my worries and that my family can be catered for as my dependents for the period that I cannot support them. I can now center my strength on recovery, and since everyone is doing it (besides in hospital there’s nothing more exciting to talk about), let’s also look towards this next ‘date’ that has been set with baited breath. I hope and pray that this time around, the rug will not be pulled from underneath us and I urge you to do the same.

For my parting shot, I shall impress on you not to be a super-hero, learn to spread your risk and if you are a super-hero, just know that even they need side-kicks from time to time; Batman and Robin, there’s the Justice League, so you won’t be the first.

 

By Sam Kiwinda

 

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