Dressed in his maroon bow-tie, which seems to be the new management dress code at Sonarwa General Insurance, Soji Emiola, the insurer’s Managing Director has a new vision for insurance in Rwanda.
His appointment to lead the company in January this year came with a few structural changes in the company with new strategies to grow the company and industry going forwards.
He shared a few insights with The ServiceMag on what some of those strategies are and why he felt the insurance sector penetration levels should certainly grow.
TSM: Insurance penetration levels in Rwanda are still low at 1.6 percent. Are there any new products and services that you are planning to introduce to increase this?
Soji: We see a lot of opportunities in Rwanda. The economy and the literacy levels are growing so definitely the penetration will also grow. At Sonarwa, our main focus is in growing our business and the only way to do that is by coming up with new solutions that address the needs of the customer in the market.
We are going to come up with new products that are technologically driven because that is where the world is going right now. Also, we want to develop micro-insurance products that average Rwandans will be able to afford in the market.
We have not actually participated in medical insurance but we believe that by 1st January 2015, we will be able to come up with medical insurance. Competition in the market will heighten penetration.
TSM: Over the past year, farmers have experienced pro-longed droughts and a number of Kigali small and medium businesses have been destroyed by fires. Are you planning to introduce products for those sectors?
Soji: Our focus is on business growth and we need to come up with new products. We are looking at various sectors of the economy. In Rwanda, more than 60 percent of the population are farmers. So we intend to create micro insurance products for them.
We are also coming up with fire insurance products that will be exciting to the public. We will soon have what we call estate fire insurance which will allow people to pay for fire insurance cover on a group arrangement.
These, in addition to faster claims settlement periods for clients will solve the challenges in the sectors.
TSM: How are you going to ensure that these products reach everyone?
Soji: In terms of distribution, we have intentions of creating a minimum of five channels of distribution next year.
We are going to use technology because that is the cheapest and fastest way. First of all, we are working on our website in order to enable people buy our products online. We are also looking at mobile phones; clients should be able buy simple products and pay premiums on phone.
Secondly, we want to create alliances. For instance, we shall be distributing our motor insurance products through car sellers because they come in contact with the buyers of vehicles. We shall work with banks as well in selling insurance through Bancassurance.
Thirdly, we want to get young Rwandans to act as insurance agents whom we will call financial planners to distribute for us. We will continue with the agency arrangement and distributing though brokers.
Lastly, we intend to increase our branch and agency network. So far, we have over 20 outlets which we intend to increase and structure in more effective way.
TSM: How are you working to increase insurance awareness in the country?
Soji: There are quite a number of initiatives that we are planning on coming up with to address this beginning with next year. The first one is through publicity on the different media platforms. The second initiative is through our corporate social responsibility initiatives. We will be going to secondary schools and universities to educate the young Rwandans on the benefits of insurance. We believe that those are the things we need to develop the market for the benefit of the players and the country.
TSM: What are some of the corporate social responsibility activities Sonarwa is currently engaged in?
Soji: The first one that we have been doing consistently is called Ibuka. Last year we donated 10 Friesian cows to genocide survivors. We also have a partnership with Imbuto Foundation and have been sponsoring orphans since 2011. We also intend to provide water to communities and from end this year; we want to be participating as a corporate body in the monthly Umuganda, moving from one district to another.
TSM: Sonarwa’s market share has dwindled over the past few years probably due to increased competition in the market or dissatisfaction of clients on the quality of service delivery at the company. How are you going to reposition the company to where it used to be?
Soji: Overtime, we have lost market share as a result of competition. We have addressed this by creating products that meet clients’ needs.
We have also realised that we need to improve massively on our service delivery so we are also focusing on service excellence and because of that, we have come up with a number of strategic initiatives. The first thing we did is train our staff by bringing consultants during the first quarter of the year to train all of our staff on good customer care because we want a company that is customer driven. Apart from that, we are looking at giving them necessary skills that will enable them serve customers better.
We now have a fully fledged customer care department and are doing quite a lot to focus on that area. Apart from that we are also focusing on our processes. At the beginning of the year we set up a committee that looked at all our core processes and we are now re-engineering all of them to make the services speedy and also to be able to remove all the bottlenecks in the system.
We now have a kind of linked system so that we can serve our customers in a speedy way. Another area we are focusing on is technology.
We want to contribute massively to the industry using technology. As we speak, we are implementing a new technology which we call IES online. It is software which more than 10 big insurers in Nigeria are already deploying and we believe that it will give us a competitive edge if we succeed in implementing it here. It will allow us to serve our clients better through the use of technology.