WAICA Re is committed to exceptional service delivery —Ekundayo

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abiola-newMr  Abiola E. Ekundayo, Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of WAICA Reinsurance Corporation Plc is a quintessential insurance practitioner. Since his appointment as the helmsman of the WAICA Re in 2007, he has propelled the company to maintain its core values in terms of commitment to professionalism, speed, team spirit and integrity. He speaks to The African Economy on the impact of the institution on Sierra Leone’s economy and its commitment to exceptional service delivery. Excerpts:

To what extent has WAICA Reinsurance helped toward the growth of the Insurance market in Sierra Leone?

The discipline of Insurance is a pillar of strength which economic structures need to lean on for growth and sustainable development. Even prior to the inception of WAICA Re in Sierra Leone, the managers of country’s economy had recognised the profound importance of being risk-averse through the establishment and operationalisation of a few insurance companies which altogether form the local insurance industry over which resides a national regulatory body that provides statutory oversight.

Immediately after our birth in Sierra Leone in late 2011, we started conducting reinsurance business transactions with insurance companies in Sierra Leone amongst other regions, thereby indirectly insuring local risks emanating from individuals, small-to-medium sized entrepreneurial ventures, multi-national corporations, large private-sector corporations, non-Governmental Organisations and Government departments. Our operations have strengthened the capacity of the local insurance firms, enabling them to accept bigger risks from the insuring public with the confidence of being immune to catastrophic claims owing to our financially sound footing. Consequently, we have contributed to the significant increase in premium income flowing into the coffers of the nation’s insurance companies, helping to foster sustainable business prosperity in the industry and to stem down capital flight as more premiums are being retained in the economy.

Furthermore, our corporation’s human resource recruitment strategy is such that we source the overwhelming majority of our human capital from Sierra Leone. Our business has employed many Sierra Leoneans who have been and are still being duly trained in all aspects of Reinsurance, Insurance and related disciplines. WAICA Re believes that through our current employment strategy, we are helping to enhance manpower development in the insurance industry as well as supporting the incumbent government in its quest to plunge unemployment figures. As part of our drive to enhance professional advancement in the insurance sector, we also conduct annual training programs for our clients’ employees, constituting a good number of Sierra Leoneans amongst other nationals.

The companies now have confidence in WAICA Re for exceptional service delivery especially professionalism and prompt claim payment ability. In 2014, WAICA Re paid about US$12,000 to the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank as a fire claim. It even assisted the bank to adjust the claim free of charge. Recently, WAICA Re also paid a claim of Le 225,000,000 to the National Insurance Company on Marine Hull, a loss which also occurred late in 2014.

On a final note, our participation in international conferences and insurance fora exposes the advancements of the Sierra Leone Insurance sector to a global audience while positively boosting the country’s image overseas.

What measures have you adopted to address the low penetration of insurance in Sierra Leone and the West African sub-region?

Indeed, it is a well-known fact that the penetration of Insurance is very low in Sierra Leone as well as other West African economies. WAICA Re recognises this situation and understands that the key principle that has inhibited the growth of the insurance sector in Sierra Leone and the sub-region is the lack of nationwide awareness and education on the principal principles and benefits of insurance, without which the potential of the West African Insurance market will never be fully harnessed.

It is the view of our Corporation that the Government of Sierra Leone and its Insurance Industry must cooperate assiduously and relentlessly in order to facilitate programmes that will step up Insurance education in Sierra Leone, leading to a marked increase in Insurance and Reinsurance premium in the economy. Both of the aforementioned parties have to work in a non-mutually exclusive manner in a bid to reap much-coveted growth of the Insurance sector in Sierra Leone in the coming years. This proposed model of Public-Private Partnership for the advancement of Insurance education should also serve as a framework to be adopted by other West African countries that are entrenched in the same challenges.

We have also helped to narrow the skills gap with respect to professional Insurance education in the West African sub-region. WAICA Re has placed premium on the empowerment of our numerous Cedants through our International training programmes which have been facilitated four times over the past five years. During these intense training sessions, Insurance and Reinsurance experts and seasoned Insurance and Management practitioners lead the process of knowledge transfer to galvanise the human capital of the sub-regional Insurance industry.

Given that the Government of Sierra Leone and the Insurance Regulatory Commission also have key roles to play to increase the Insurance penetration in the country, WAICA Re has been trying to encourage such stakeholders to be involved in the intensive dissemination of insurance education at all levels via a countrywide insurance sensitisation campaign, to ensure that the public is well educated on the yields of insurance as well as the risks of avoiding insurance coverage.

What are the special products and services you offer your clientele in Sierra Leone and the sub-regional financial sector?

We offer two main types of Reinsurance products – Treaty and Facultative – to our numerous clients based both locally and internationally. We do not deal with the public directly or face-to-face, but the consequences of our business transactions serve to protect the economic interests of all members of the insuring public in the various countries and regions from which we accept businesses.

Our services meet the needs of almost all sectors of both the Sierra Leonean economy and beyond. We provide coverage for industries such as energy, transport, aviation, agriculture and mining. We are very prudent in the manner in which we do our underwriting and manage our risks to ensure that our business is sustainable to protect our numerous clients in the case of any eventuality.

Furthermore, in 2015, we commenced operations with our Life Reassurance portfolio which is based here at the Headquarters in Freetown. We provide coverage for Group and Individual Life businesses which emanate from our cedants and brokers in Sierra Leone, the sub-region and other territories. Thus, in view of our participation in both Non-Life and Life Insurance businesses, I believe it is safe to say that WAICA Re has become a holistic Reinsurance Service provider in the West African Insurance industry and in the African continent as a whole.

How is WAICA Re maintaining its core values in terms of commitment to professionalism, speed, team spirit and integrity?

Since inception, we have held firm to our five core values which have served to guide all our business activities and decision-making, as we seek to incorporate a customer-focused approach in all our undertakings. Without a shadow of a doubt, the WAICA Re ship wouldn’t have cruised this far in five years without being anchored to our foundational cornerstones of Commitment, Professionalism, Speed, Team Spirit and Integrity. We intend to continue operating in alignment with our five core values internally and externally for the satisfaction of our valued and cherished employees, customers, partners and shareholders.

Our Corporation has also been very focused on the speedy and effective responses to Reinsurance Business offers and other correspondences via electronic mail. We understand the importance of time in the sphere of Reinsurance and thus utilise advanced technologies in conjunction with proficient underwriting practices to deliver professional services to our cedants and brokers.

We also view the prompt settlement of claims as a lucrative incentive that would retain existing clients and lure prospective clients to our customer base. The business of Insurance is about utmost good faith thus our corporation strives to settle all valid claims as expeditiously as possible in a bid to maintain trust and integrity in our relationships with clients founded on a customer-focused approach.

Finally, we are committed to keep observing sound financial management practices and investment strategies in order to bolster our financial bottom line and maximise our net profit and dividend for the satisfaction of our valued shareholders.

Recently, WAICA Re opened its office in Cote D’Ivoire. What is your vision for the West African market?

Francophone West Africa is a very large market with huge prospects, comprising thriving businesses and rapidly growing economies. As part of our expansion strategy, we established and inaugurated our off shore contact office in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 2015. The key mandate of this office is to penetrate the French-speaking markets not only in West Africa, but right across the continent and beyond. It is our intention to progressively develop our market share in the Francophone Insurance industry over the coming years by applying our usual superior Customer Service and Professionalism in all business transactions.

The Vision of our Corporation is “to develop a diversified insurance sector in the sub-region providing greater reinsurance capacity with a view to widening economic and financial development of West Africa”.

 

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