By Emmannuel Elebeke & Nnamdi Ojiego
NO matter how insurance is viewed, nobody can take away the important role it plays in economic stability of any nation. And that is why the sector would lead and not play catch-up in any development that can upscale its activities.
However, while the world is improving and transforming every sectoral activity with the opportunities provided by technological advancements, Insurance in Nigeria seems to be distancing self from ICT. A situation industry stakeholders say must not allowed to continue.
To get away from the impending doom not embracing ICT may bring, Chief Executive OfficersÂ other insurance sector practitioners were last week challenged to explore the opportunities provided by the Information and Communications Technology ICT to grow and improve their businesses.
The challenge, forms a sort of communique and general agreement, at the end of a two-day annual Insurance Technology (InTech) expo in Lagos, organised by Private Media Mart, PMM, to examine, advocate and streamline the deployment of ICT tools in the insurance industry.
After several deliberations and thorough assessment of the insurance industry, a general belief was that insurance industry like many other sectors of the economy was in the woods which only ICT can provide a critical rescue mission.
In clear terms, participants were upbeat that ICT can help the insurance sector to achieve more with less resources.
One of the very key presentations at the event, entitled â€œDoing More with Less: Benefit of Feature-Rich Unified Storage,â€ by the country manager for NetApp in Nigeria, Mr. Rex Mafiana, condemned the low interests of some insurance chiefs in engaging ICT for most of their services.
The paper also frowns at laclusture attitudes of many insurance companies from participating and supporting organised workshops like InTech, meant to enhance the ability of their organisations on the use of ICT tools.
Mafiana in his paper, said â€œInformation Technology allows organisations to get jobs done quicker, it improves business agility, reduces complexity, achieves flexibility, and ensures effective documentation of data.â€
For Mafiana, people all over the world were maximizing the numerous benefits of ICT, but in Nigeria, there is low turnout of insurance stakeholders in attending ICT forums and in adopting ICT tools in their organisations.
Mafiana who identified lack of storage facility as the major setback militating against the growth of insurance industry in Nigeria, emphasized the need for the establishment of data storage centres in the country, particularly for the insurance sector to drive high productivity.
Underscoring the importance of technology to theÂ insurance industry, the IT strategistÂ noted that theÂ industry had recorded remarkable growth and stability in recent times, particularly since the application of technology in the insurance sector, saying that only those who apply smart IT strategies would succeed inÂ reducing cost and increase productivity in the industry.
He contented that the industry will experience growth only when the operators in the sector have a clear and competitive IT plan, capable ofÂ supporting their businesses that profit could beÂ guaranteed. He however,Â urged the operators to ensure that only flexible IT infrastructure that will generate growth are deployed in their companies.
He also advised them to ensure that all insurance operations are guided by established law and regulatory framework to enable them achieve more efficiency and profitability at the end of the day.
He predicted that if Nigeria insurance sector continues the way it was going without full deployment of ICT tools, the country will continue to spend higher and get less in return.
In his own presentation entitled â€œE-Commerce and Insurance: Requirements for the Emergence of Advanced Distribution Channels,â€ the accountÂ manager, Microsoft Nigeria, Engr. Sam Adeyemi, said the seminar became necessary since events had overtaken the physical approach system of insurance operation everywhere in the world, and as a matter of fact, Nigeria canâ€™t afford to be left behind in the struggle of embracing electronic commerce.
With electronic commerce, he said that people do no longer need to meet physically before doing a business, but by adopting the electronic system with a functionalÂ website which will serve as a meeting point between the insurance operatorsÂ and their customers.
Some of the advantages of e-commerce according to him include: low transaction cost, increase in volume of transaction and siting physical contacts to virtual sizes among others.
Meanwhile, the group head of IT, Capital Express Insurance, who spoke on the topic â€œachieving flexibility and Professional efficiencyâ€ Mr. Tomowo Omiololu also agreed that at a time when peoplesâ€™ perception about insurance was poor and state ofÂ infrastructure poor, coupled with business pressure on the operators, the only way to grow the industry is by the use of ICT.
He then advisedÂ insurance professionals in the countryÂ to be more focused, and to ensure full deployment of emerging technology tools in addition to staff training and retraining for them to drive growth.