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Abimbola: An insurance broker’s 37 yrs of selling peace of mind

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Frontline entreprenure, Chief Managing Director/Executive Officer, Peakthrust Insurance Brokers Limited, Mrs. Abimbola Onakomiaya, has taken the insurance industry by storm. Omobola Tolu-Kusimo looks at the exploits of the insurance broker.

Within the insurance segment of Nigeria’s financial services industry where she holds sway as Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director, Peakthrust Insurance Brokers Limited, Mrs. Abimbola Onakomiaya, needs no introduction. With a hugely rewarding career spanning 37 years, the frontline entrepreneur and chartered insurer, who, by dint of hard work and strategic positioning, has carved a niche for herself in the entrepreneurial space, is arguably, one of Nigeria’s most sought-after insurance brokers.

Established in 2003, Peakthrust Insurance Brokers Ltd, a company registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), has its head office in Lagos. It also has branches in Ibadan, Oyo State; Benin, Edo State; Port Harcourt, Rivers State as well as Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where it provides top notch services to its growing clientele.

“I qualified as a chartered insurer over 25 years ago. I have taken the helm of affairs of my company. I go about and market it. I market insurance the best way I know possible,” Bimbo declared, exuding so much confidence. She, however, pointed out that the issue about marketing insurance is to think of the value one is adding to the person (the insured), the service he or she is giving such that when they think of a challenge, they think insurance.

“The value that I provide as an insurance broker is what puts me at the door of any organisation,” she stated.

Armed with B.Sc in Economics from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, Osun State, and MSc. Management & Technology, University of Wales Institute of Science & Technology, Wales, UK, Abimbola stormed the local insurance industry with a passion for value addition. Recalling how she came into the business, she said when she finished, it occurred to her that with her background in economic and management, she could either go into banking, accountancy or insurance, knowing fully well that she was not going to settle in the UK. Eventually she settled for insurance.

“I chose insurance quite honestly so that I would be able to manage my home with it. By virtue of the fact that I started insurance in Nigeria in a government establishment where we close from the office at 4:30pm, I was able to close early to get home and take care of the children. Maybe because the number of children was not too many, I was able to manage the family priorities and career development at the same time,” Abimbola said.

Upon coming back to Nigeria, she joined a major insurance company, NICON Insurance. “I stayed there until I became pensionable and left to join Anderson Consulting, which eventually changed their name to Accenture. I opened up their insurance desk for them and then eventually went into private insurance to join Unique Insurance Plc and subsequently commenced insurance broking,” she said.

She added that altogether, she was engaged with insurance underwriting for 20 years and as an insurance broker, owning her own business, Peakthrust Insurance Brokers Limited for 17 years.

For Bimbo, the uniqueness of insurance business is an encouraging factor. According to her, insurance covers a whole gamut of people’s lives. She said ordinarily, insurance should not be an industry that is a back bencher, but one in the fore-front because there’s absolutely no aspect of one’s life that insurance does not cover, whether from the point one sleeps or to the point he wakes up.

“We are not God, but we sell peace of mind. You should be able to go to bed knowing fully well that your vehicle is covered, your house is covered, your children’s school fees, work, life are all covered par adventure anything happens and God calls you home.

“You should have some form of money to give the beneficiary. Even though this will not necessarily wake a person up from death, but it will help to cushion it. So, because insurance covers a whole gamut of life, it is an industry that should be second to none in this country and I thank God that things are getting better in the insurance industry as we speak,” she said.

This must be why Abimbola threw her weight behind the ongoing recapitalization in the insurance industry. Describing recapitalization as “Very positive,” she said it will ensure that the insuring public will have more peace of mind when they know that the insurance company that they are placing their risk with can pay their claims at any point in time.

To buttress her point, Bimbo said: “Recently, a Helicopter fell off the skies so to speak. If there is no insurance, the owner of the Helicopter will be out of business. About three weeks ago, a bank caught fire, but its insurance that will bear the brunt.

“For insurance claims to be efficiently paid, insurance companies need to beef up their capital. So the recapitalisation is a step in the right direction because then the insurance companies will become more robust and claims payment becomes easier.

“Also, the amounts of money that insurance companies get as profit will enable them do more marketing, such that insurance penetration will improve and we will no longer be the second junior cousins to the banking industry. Insurance is always on top of the banks in other climes.”

Leveraging digitalisation to succeed

While businesses in virtually all the sectors are groaning over the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bimbo said the economic slowdown caused by the crisis did not catch her and her company off-guard because of the deployment of digital technology. “I would say that because we had an inclination towards being digital for at least a minimum of about two years before COVID-19 struck, it didn’t hit us below the belt,” she said.

Bimbo said she had the list and contacts of all her clients, which she submitted to the industry supervisor, National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), and stored digitally. “So, it was easy for us to work from home. The only difference for us was that our data usage increased. But at the same time transportation fares reduced and the amount of time we spend on the road was completely cut off. For me, it (COVID-19) didn’t affect my business adversely. As far as my company is concerned, I will say we got more business during the COVID-19 period,” she said.

Bimbo enjoys the backing of some insurance companies. “As brokers, we don’t carry the risk and so when we take a risk off a client, we pass it on to insurance companies and they were able to carry it to a very large extent. I don’t know how they did it, but I think it’s probably because they have been trying to digitalise,” she explained.

She also shared her thoughts on some current and multi-faceted trends in the market that will likely impact her business and those of other players in the coming years. She listed some of them to include the Compulsory Insurance Act and the law that says that any building that is a minimum of two storeys should be insured.

Her words: “If you take a look at Lagos State or Abuja alone or just focus on the capitals of states in the country and have a register of all the buildings that is a storey building. What does this do? It will create funds even for the estate valuers because they have to value each building and in addition to that insurance would be made compulsory for every one of them and backed up by the government.

“If all these buildings were insured, can you begin to imagine the trillions of naira that would be coming in for government? Another aspect is the motor vehicle insurance. The Nigeria Insurer Association (NIA) especially, as well as NAICOM is still trying their best to ensure that there is no fake vehicle insurance. The eradication of this would also assist in bringing a lot of funds into the insurance industry.”

Bimbo also said insurance was going digital which is a good trend. According to her, this is helping with agric insurance. “Ordinarily, when you want to inspect your farm, you have to physically go there, but now with digitalisation, insurance companies are employing drones to go and inspect farms. This makes for a lot of speed and a high level of response.

“When you respond to your client positively and speedily, there is no way you won’t get the attention of your client and also help to beef up your income. Agric insurance is now permeating the space with companies like Royal Exchange, AIICO Insurance, Leadway Assurance, NAIC and a few others,” she stated.

The Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC), a Federal Government insurance company, is also backing agric business up, with Bimbo noting that invariably, agric insurance is going to beef up the income of the industry.

She also said aside from agric, oil in itself is not gone. “We are still doing oil and energy insurance, marine insurance. We are still doing aviation insurance, because of the peculiarity of our nation. Most importantly, I see prospects in compulsory insurance products. I believe that in the next five years, the industry would have grown tremendously,” she told The Nation.

 

The challenges

Despite the insurance industry’s promising prospects, there are challenges. Bimbo said, for instance, that doing business in Nigeria as an entrepreneur is no tea party. “There are so many things that you need to be able to do in Nigeria by yourself. You need to be able to provide some basic amenities for yourself and staff so that they will be committed to the business,” she said.

According to her, when an entrepreneur wants to relate this to other climes, there are some things you do take for granted. “You get into your house abroad; you just switch on the light. You are not thinking of diesel, electricity supply, security and other ancillary services which ordinarily one would expect the government to provide.

“There is an ease of doing business over there. There is an ease of being an entrepreneur over there that doesn’t necessarily fit here. Here you have to try and ensure that probably everything works well together for you by yourself,” she said.

The chartered insurer, however, admitted that there has been a major attempt by the government to make it easy to do business in the country, which, for those of them who are entrepreneurs, they are getting the benefit. She, however, added that despite the challenges, her spirit of excellence and enterprise has kept her soaring.

An accomplished entrepreneur, Abimbola is a member of several professional bodies, including Fellow of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB), Member, Institute of Directors of Nigeria (MIoD), Fellow, Association of Corporate Governance Professionals of Nigeria       (ACGPN), Fellow, Chartered Insurance Institute, London, UK (FCII), Associate Chartered Insurance Institute, London, UK (ACII).

Bimbola, whio is blessed with three children, still finds time off her busy schedule to swim.

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