Dr. Balla Swamy is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Prestige Assurance Plc. In this exclusive interview with ZAKA KHALIQ, he spoke on current issues in insurance industry and the plan of his firm to be a dominant player in insurance sector in the nearest future.
Rate cutting remains a deadly menace that keeps drawing back the growth of the industry and this is also contributing to the inability of underwriters to pay claims as at when due. How will Prestige Assurance help the industry to put a stop to this menace?
Rate-cutting is not good for insurance system anywhere in the world. And Nigeria is not isolated from this. You see, there is the need for a mechanism where the premium and claim will synchronise. When you are into rate-cutting, you are not going to make profit, apart from the fact that it is unethical And normally, no insurance company can be in business when making losses. If you are into insurance business and you encourage rate cutting, in future, it is going to impair your balance sheet, hence making the operating environment uncomfortable for you However, if this could be addressed, in a long run, we envisage a stable insurance market that will be established with scientific underwriting and risk inspections, thus, making insurance companies stable. Similarly, the customers will get better premium rate that will be able to cover their risks, which can also be referred to as better premium risks measures.
What prospects are you seeing in the Nigeria market?
The entire world insurance industry is growing. In Nigeria also, insurance industry will grow because the economy is growing. I am sure Nigeria will have great prospects because lots of development is taking place here and since insurance industry is part of the growing economy, I expect the industry and the banking sector to emerge stronger. When economy grows, people will see the need to insure and gradually the rate of insurance acceptance will increase. This is good for the insurance industry.
How do you think Prestige Assurance will help deepen insurance business in Nigeria?
Prestige Assurance Plc is a strong insurance company backed up by the government of India. This is a proof that it can do well, though not with spreading of wings (branches) everywhere, but with vast expertise of people in the company and the strong per capital that we have, we are going to help the industry deepen the business.
With your company’s years of experience in India, what do you think Nigeria insurance industry ought to do so as to match the rest of the world?
Insurance industry in every country is slowly growing and as every country grows, the insurance business in each country also grows, especially, with the world now a global village. The Nigeria industry is now aspiring to meet India’s standard in all aspects. The industry is performing well, although there is more to be done to catch up with the pace of other developed and developing economies of the world. One of the areas I think the country should improve on is in the area of health insurance.
If it can introduce health insurance to more people, it would be better, because the cost health treatment in Nigeria is too high and the people need to know the true benefits in health insurance product.
What new thing is Prestige Assurance Plc bringing to the Nigeria that will make it envy for other operators?
Prestige Assurance Plc is a stable company with standard of best insurance practices all over the world and it is an AM Best rated company. The same practice AM Best follows, we also follow. We follow ethical practices so that the customers will be happy. In case any claim arises, there is a transparent mechanism in settling the claims should an insured risk occurs and this makes customers comfortable. When customers are comfortable, they will build confidence in the operation of such firm and we have realised that our customers are already building confidence in our services. The rates are reasonable in Prestige Assurance plc.
For how long has Prestige Assurance being in Nigeria?
We have been in Nigeria insurance business for the past 63 years.
So, what is the strength of Prestige Assurance?
Prestige Assurance Plc is a stable company; we have been committed to settling claims and customers are happy and friendly in their approach.
Although there is a sentiment that Prestige Assurance Plc is an Indian insurance company, this is not true. This misconception has not allowed the company explores its full potentials. The firm is a public listed company like every other company in the country and we are making effort to promote our services by letting people, especially the brokers realise that we are public limited company. Through this, people can subscribe to our service, while the brokers can also assist us in selling the products of the company, in our bid to deepen insurance penetration.
In the area of claim settlement, how do you assure your customers that within a short period of an event, their claims will be settled?
We already have a mechanism in place to tackle that. Whenever there is an eventuality, we have our own team of surveyor from office which will have to go on inspection to access the loss that may have occurred. We have professional surveyors who will go and monitor on a daily basis to ensure that the claims is settled on time without any delay. We have a robust Information Technology (IT) system in place to checkmate if there is any delay in settling the claims A sum of N1.9 billion was paid in the year ended 2014 as claims for 900 cases.
What is the mission and vision of the insurance firm?