The Managing Director, Man-Mountain and Company Limited, an insurance and reinsurance broking firm, Mr. Ayodapo Shoderu, who doubles as President, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, tells NIKE POPOOLA the way forward for the industry.
As the 17th president of NCRIB, what opportunity does this new position offer you?
It is an opportunity that I have longed for, for many years, to make my contributions to the development of the NCRIB and the progress of my fellow brokers as well as the insurance industry as a whole. Therefore, I will leave no stone unturned to make my mark and leave my footsteps on the sand of time, that people will remember me as one of the greatest presidents of NCRIB that ever lived.
What is your main agenda as the insurance brokers’ boss?
Professionalism will be the theme of my plan. I want to continue from where my predecessor stopped, which is cleansing our industry of bad image caused by people that have nothing to do with insurance at all, and yet play roles which are spoiling the name of brokers and the insurance industry. We will search and get rid of them to make sure that this industry contains only people who are serious minded, those who are professionals, those who are ready to practise the business as it should be.
What is the relevance of brokers in the insurance industry?
First of all, it is important that we get government’s recognition. We should let the government recognise insurance brokers as being professional advisers. We are the professional arm of the industry. Insurance companies are business concerns; we are the ones that recommend the type of policy to be taken up by somebody who wants to buy insurance. We must get government’s recognition and I will try in many ways to do that. The government is the biggest buyer of insurance policies in the country, if we get them to recognise us, definitely, the public will also get to know about insurance brokers. Bankers do not have to go and beg for business, accountants do not have to go and beg for business from the government or anybody, but insurance brokers have to go and lobby for their position in any business, which should not be the case. We will let them recognise that we are as equally important as bankers and that we have a very important role to play in the economy of Nigeria. We also have a role to play in improving the foreign exchange earnings of the country. If we succeed in doing that, which I am going to use all my efforts to pursue, I know that getting public recognition would come automatically.
What is the role of the broker under the Market Development and Restructuring Initiative?
The MDRI is to sell insurance, it is market penetration but brokers are not geographically spread. If you look at the distribution of brokers, you will see that they are concentrated mainly in the South, and a growing number of them are now in Abuja. But we need to go to other parts of the country. What the MDRI has also done is to encourage agents to also sell insurance. But they need to have a control of the activities of the agents. Agents cannot be left alone with their activities; they have to be attached, either to insurance companies or insurance brokers; otherwise, the performance of these agents will not be properly monitored. Unless they are properly monitored, the bad name which we are running from will still come to hunt us.
What are the major challenges confronting brokers in the country?
The greatest challenge of the brokers is with the economy. There is not much to go round; the economy has to develop. Insurance brokers also have to be given their rightful place. We still have some businesses of the government, which are being placed directly while the brokers are not allowed to do their part. For instance, this year is the first time that brokers are allowed to participate effectively in the business of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. If we are allowed to do that, of course, it will help brokers a lot, and as the market grows, and the economy grows, definitely, brokers and the insurance industry as a whole will benefit.
How do you monitor professionals and check quacks among your members?
When we are registering insurance brokers, we go to a great length to ask for more sources of documentation and make sure that they are credible people. We ensure that they have professional and qualified managing directors. We also go through their registration papers to make sure that they have a viable establishment. We do all that before we register a new broker. There is also the area of getting a licence from the National Insurance Commission, which also requires its own procedure. We now have in force the issue of ‘no premium no cover,’ which is one of the things brokers were found to have held in their practices. This is to ensure that brokers do not hold money for more than 30 days. It also ensures that brokers do not buy a cover on credit. There is also the issue of International Financial Reporting Standard, which emphasises accounting standard, all of that is to regulate the brokers and make sure that only the people that are ready to comply and with the wherewithal that come into the broking industry. These are the ways to make sure that anybody that is capable of fulfilling all these rules will ultimately practise the profession properly. We also have a disciplinary committee that monitors the activities of the brokers.
How have you managed to grow your company, Man-Mountain?
That company has always given me joy anytime I look back because it is a company I have nurtured for 29 years, going to 30 years now. The going has not been easy, but I have done it through honesty, professionalism and determination. All the underwriters know that Man-Mountain is professionalised. Before the advent of no premium no cover, we were collecting premium and paying immediately to the underwriters. We advise our clients properly, and as long as we continue to do that, we will get the recommendation and commendation of underwriters. All this also makes the public to identify with us, it is a good recommendation for us, we will continue to do things as they should be done and practise the profession as it should be. I have worked all my life, I have sacrificed a lot of things, I have suffered a great deal, I have sustained a lot of losses, in bringing the company to a standard, I am happy that in the face of all tribulations, the company remains firm, and I am also glad now that with my engagement at the NCRIB, I have in place capable, energetic and committed management to hold the forth for me at Man-Mountain, while I face the job of NCRIB squarely.
What should established firms know about developing a good succession plan?
I have always advised some of my colleagues to start thinking of a succession plan. Not necessarily that they must bring their relations or children to their business, but they should try to offer shares to some of the senior and dedicated members of staff. They should be able to get their commitment in so many ways such as giving them equity shares in the business; definitely, you will be able to sleep with your eyes closed because they will take the business as if it was their own. I am fortunate, however, that my daughter studied insurance in the United Kingdom, so she is one of the management team. But nevertheless, I still have a general manager, technical; I have a chief operating officer, and I have other experienced people who are in the management team that I know have been in the industry for several years and with their vibrant experience, I will be able to carry on. So, people should look at their businesses, what would happen after they might have gone.
What other things should the public know on insurance matters?
Insurance protection is the bedrock of any society. There is no doubt that there could be some arguments, but that should not distract people from insuring. When you don’t insure and anything happens, you are left on your own. I have seen businesses that totally went into extinction because the company/factory was destroyed by fire and there was no insurance. I have seen people reduced to catching buses when their vehicles were stolen or destroyed. Unfortunately, the medical situation in our country is very bad. It is not that Nigerian doctors are not good, but unfortunately, the infrastructure here does not make their practice to be very good. People die avoidable deaths in the country because in terms of infrastructure, we are not there, operations may be going on and there will be a power failure, water that is being supplied is not clean, the atmosphere is not clean, therefore, people cannot really depend on the medical facilities that we have here. Market traders should insure, many big markets have been completely razed by fire. You know you will get your claims, especially if you go through a broker. Insurance companies may want to reduce their losses, but brokers will ensure that you are well compensated. Under my tenure, I will do a lot to increase the awareness on the need for people to do insurance, as well as the need to go through brokers.