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No problem with NAICOM promoting insurance agents, Soyewo

Prince Feyisayo Soyemo, Chairman of Prestige Insurance Brokers in this interview with Patience Saghana did not hesitate to state the obvious about the bickering among insurance brokers over federal government accounts. He says the sector need not cry foul on local content percentage when the industry has not exhausted even the 40 per cent or made attempt to come close to it. Soyewo notes that with time NNPC will realise the significant role of insurance brokers and reconsider local brokers in its insurances. Excerpts:

Insurance industry
The Nigerian insurance industry is no doubt moving forward. At the pace we are going now and with the good understanding of the industry, l am very optimistic that we will soon get to a level that all the stakeholders of the industry will be very much proud of.

Market Agreement
However great the challenges may seem to some of us now, l am hopeful that we will surmount them all. The good about it is that we are talking and there is good dialogue for example the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) and the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) are talking and if there is need for dialogue, both will do that. Life is all about give and take. All of us are very optimistic that with the understanding in the insurance industry at present, whatever challenges we may face in any arm of the insurance sector will be resolved.
It is true that NAICOM has rolled out some guidelines which the NCRIB has looked into and has discussed areas of disagreement with the commission. I must say that the regulatory body is responding very positively and both parties are moving forward together.

Compliance level?
Of course, as soon as we agreed on the market agreement, it is proper for every practitioner in the industry to comply. What is most important is that we all agreed on the market rules and it is only right that we all abide by it.

Number of brokers
Well, I cannot say Yes or No on the number of brokers we have in this country. What l believe in, is that we should allow things to take its natural course. If there too many brokers in the industry and if the number must be reduced, let things be done naturally. What l object to, is using the law to extinct the brokers. Brokers that cannot cope with the acceleration of business and the demands can opt for merger rather than being forced to die. The account we have in this country today is large enough to go round all the brokers. I believe that Office of the Head of Service has done its best in that situation if there are some shortcomings or inadequacies in the process, the people working there are only human. No man is perfect. What l will advise is for us to learn from the shortcomings and we should come together and address issues so that the principle of fair play can rule in future. If any broker or underwriter is complaining they should please do it in a civilized manner. The image we had carved for ourselves in time past is what is still battling to correct. I will just appeal that we use civilize method to resolve issues if there are any.

Head of  Service appointed five insurance brokers as advisers, and my company is not one of them so l would not know what criteria was used but whatever criteria uses, l trust that we have enough competent people to select those appointed. If you go through the list, you will agree with me that there are so many capable brokers there. It cannot go round all the brokers. That is not to say if there are areas that the government agencies want the brokers to improve upon, they could go to the insurance brokers’ secretariat, NCRIB, discuss with the body and we will be willing to improve on those areas.

NNPC Account
I think the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) should answer this question on why local brokers are not given opportunity to participate in the account in the last six years. Some of us had handled the NNPC accounts for many years. And suddenly the brokers were out of the account.  I am sure that as soon as we are able to put our house in order properly, we will be able to meet with NNPC and let them know the role that we are capable of playing. I would not know what the problems were but everything depends on time and the industry would have to conduct themselves appropriately, the brokers and underwriters should work in unison as one body because we are the main blocs in the insurance industry. As soon as we have better understanding of ourselves and our situation, getting brokers to come back and play their roles in the NNPC account and any other account that we have been denied, will be easier.

Why brokers are denied the accounts
The NCRIB and more so the current president of the body, Dr Teslim Sanusi is up to the task of achieving result in that regard. He is somebody we repose so much trust and confidence in. May be these are some of issues on the table for him now and l am sure he will take them up. When business is given to one of us, we should not cry over it even when we mean to say that more brokers should be allowed to get involve, fine, we should do that in a civilize way but since the broker that is in the NNPC account is an important member of the NCRIB and a capable hand at that, we just have to support it. That would not stop us from canvassing for more brokers to be accommodated in the account especially if it is such a big accounts that 20 to 38 brokers had handled in the past and can handle.  It would be unfair if NCRIB do anything to kick against its appointment.

Capacity for oil and gas Insurance
Capacity is not stagnant and we build capacity over time.  If you saying the speed is not fast enough, l will agree with you but we moving forward. Increase in share capital should not be a one off thing rather it should be a continuous process. Though the recent capital base has taken us thus far but we can still improve on it. Oil and gas insurance business is going to improve but it can be better.

Why local content percentage not increasing
What point have we reached in the percentage they gave us? We must have exhausted the percentage they gave us before we can boldly say we want an increase. If we are saying that the 40 percent the government gave us is too little, we must have exhausted it or get nearer to it. The law they are trying to codify is good, let them put it in place, let them pass it, and then we can move from there. Where was the Nigerian insurance industry when they started the oil and gas? But we are improving and we are moving. If you go by the statistics, you will agree with me that we are moving. If we can get close to the 40 percent, is good for us and only then can we agitate for more. If what could achieve of the 40 percent is 15 to 20 percent, is not the best. They should wake up from slumber and get others to participate with them and help speed up the percentage. We are optimistic that the law will be pas to serve as an impetus for the industry even the broker do not know where they stand, we were marginalized initially but thank God we are coming on board now.

Compulsory insurances
If NAICOM is promoting the agents, that is fine by me. But NAICOM never said that agents would do it better. May be the commission discovered that the agency system is dying and there is need to revive it, that is fine by me, the agencies have their own part to play. There are some businesses that the brokers may feel is too small which they may not want to go into but allow the agents to handle such. I have no objection to NAICOM promoting insurance agents so that they can take their rightful place. Agents cannot do aviation business because they lack the knowledge yet they have their own market. In fact some places are no go area for major brokers. It is good to promote agents but if there is going to be an overlapping in the roles of brokers and agents; we may have to streamline that and sort that out with the commission. But with the level of understanding between NAICOM and brokers, l do not think there is any room for rancour or bickering. Let the agents take their role and the brokers play their part. There is no war or disagreement between NAICOM and brokers.

Abuja rush
There are not too many industry accounts in Abuja so private accounts are not many especially if a broker is looking for industries to handle. Abuja is developing and with time companies will have no regrets moving their offices to Abuja. Prestige Assurance brokers is making steady progress. We are going into technical partnership with some of our partners in Europe, America and some other part of Africa. South Africa is an emerging big market with great potentials. If quotation is not coming from Europe, you get it from South Africa

Vision for Prestige Insurance brokers
We aim to rank among the best three insurance brokers in Nigeria. Best in all its ramifications:_ performance, size, credibility etc. It is not a difficult task.  With God on our side and our ability to continue to respect the ethics of the profession, we will get there within the next five years. I plan to retire next year and l will do the best l can still do for the company before l retirement. In five years, the company will be 26 years and by the time we will be celebrating 25 years,  l pray that God would have answered that prayer.


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