In this interview with NIKE POPOOLA, the President, Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Mr Eddie Efekoha, who is also the group managing director of Consolidated Hallmark Insurance Plc, speaks on efforts to develop professionalism in the insurance sector, among other issues.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the insurance industry’s training programmes and examinations for those trying to get their certifications and become professionals?
The institute, like other organisations in the world, has been affected by the pandemic. However, this has brought about positive innovations in its service delivery.
While our professional examinations have been put on a temporary hold, we are rigorously exploring digital means of conducting our examinations and training as well as relating with our members.
The foray into virtual training began with the recent CIIN/CIFM webinar, themed ‘Insurance value delivery in the pandemic and beyond: A new reality’, which was aimed at sensitising our members about the need to ensure value delivery in the adoption of technology.
While the planning of digital examinations which is the ultimate is still in progress, we are awaiting a relaxation of restrictions and rules from government to conduct the postponed examinations due in the first diet in year 2020.
The College of Insurance and Financial Management now conducts all its training programmes online, including certification workshops for agents and bancassurance officers together with the diploma programme. One of the exciting opportunities that the pandemic has created is the ability to collaborate with foreign experts in the college, thereby bringing training programmes of global standard to our members at affordable prices.
This is a reflection of the fact that the institute is a very dynamic organisation with tremendous human and capital resources.
How prepared are the chartered insurance professionals for the ‘new normal’ that will be driven by technology?
Permit me to reiterate that the institute is a dynamic organisation that has continuously adapted to past and ongoing global challenges. This is our success factor. Before now, we had embarked on the digitalisation project, which sets us on the path to effectively and efficiently accomplish our statutory functions. Hence, adapting to the new normal has been made easier than it would have been. The vision of the institute is to become a digital organisation using technology to drive value delivery to all stakeholders, both internal and external. As part of CIIN’s activities, the institute takes insurance executives to other insurance industries in developed countries.
Nigerian chartered insurers normally partook in executive programme, which took them to advanced insurance industries with developed economies for exposure. What are the new things being done to boost insurance development in the country?
The executive programme has impacted significantly on the institute in the content and delivery of services to members and conduct of its examinations. Top insurance executives who have been on this programme harness and leverage the experiences of their counterparts in the countries visited. It therefore fits into the institute’s Mandatory Continuous Professional Development programme.
Secondly, knowledge from this programme enables the institute identify global trends in insurance business which is then incorporated into our professional examinations. A good example was the programme’s visit to Malaysia which not only informed the setting up of the CIFM but also birthed the designing of certificate programmes in Takaful, which is the form of insurance acceptable to Muslims.
Are the associates produced by the CIIN able to compete favourably with their counterparts in developed countries?
The institute’s examinations, both in content and delivery, are of global standards because it benchmarked against leading insurance institutes all over the world. Consequently, our associates have continuously excelled in countries where they have the opportunity to practise the profession. Nigerian professionals hold leadership positions in insurance all over the world. Even our females are recognised as trailblazers in Africa as highlighted by the African Insurance Organisation at its annual conference in 2019. These successes were achieved because of the dynamism of our examination process, ensuring that coursebooks are produced and examinations are conducted in emerging areas in the insurance business.
In recognition of this, some other countries within and outside the sub-region have requested that our examinations be conducted in their countries. Similarly, MCPD is required of all associates and this is promoted by both the CIIN and the CIFM to afford insurance professionals the opportunity of continuously upgrading their skills in line with emerging trends in the insurance market. I am delighted to inform you that a lot of the institute’s associates easily pass mandatory insurance practice examinations in other countries – an attestation to the fact that the CIIN examinations is of global standard.
During your investiture as the 49th president of CIIN, you set out to implement some major projects. How far have you gone in the implementation?
First, I owe this honour and privilege to the almighty God and to the governing council of the CIIN for the confidence reposed in me to steer the institute for two years. Though it came with enormous responsibilities, as I initially planned for only one year tenure, but as fate will have it and, as necessitated by the turn of events, I reluctantly accepted to serve for the second year. I have always had passion for training and imparting knowledge as evidenced in prior positions I held in the institute such as chairman of education committee and the CIFM Board.
Similarly, an important aspect of the corporate social responsibility of my organisation, Consolidated Hallmark Insurance, is the annual essay competition for tertiary institutions. Therefore, it was not surprising that this passion influenced the main focus of my presidency as elucidated in my theme of ‘Advancing insurance education and professionalism’.
How has the CIIN continued to ensure its statutory responsibility of building insurance professionals in the country?
The fact that the CIIN had the statutory responsibility of determining the skill and knowledge requirements of insurance practitioners further reinforced that vision in me. Foremost on the agenda was ensuring that professional members of the institute acquired cutting-edge skills that match up with global standards and enables them to compete favourable with their counterparts in other sectors. During my tenure, there was growth and development in the intellectual capacity of members and also the infrastructure of the CIIN; by extension, the CIFM, which is its training arm. The relationship between the institute and the CII UK was strengthened and, among some of the fruits, there were revision of syllabus and the domestication of CII textbooks, which were launched in June 2020. Similarly, the institute’s mentorship programme was actualised with the organisation of an inaugural bootcamp where industry leaders shared experiences with young professionals with the aim of inspiring them to strive for greater achievements.
What are the major developments the CIFM has recorded in recent time?
The college has become the focal point for human capital development for insurance industry in Nigeria. This is evidenced by the partnership between the college and National Insurance Commission which resulted in the first-ever insurance directors’ conference and, recently, in the actuarial development programme. Hence, the institute, more than ever before, effectively delivered on its statutory duties during my tenure. This is not forgetting the tremendous infrastructural development at the college. The college campus now has a standard tennis court, well-furnished accommodation both for students, staff and visitors.
We also recently commenced the construction of a world-class auditorium, a N300m project kicked off with a sod-turning ceremony in November 2019 for which an initial seed fund of N100m was immediately provided. Also, worthy of note during my tenure was the active advocacy for the adoption and implementation of compulsory insurance at various levels of government and which took the institute to various states within the country. In summary, I feel so fulfilled as I end my tenure, having executed all I set out to achieve and much more when I came into office as the president of our great institute.
Insurance is still an upcoming subject in schools. To what extent has the CIIN been able to equip and ensure accreditation of insurance departments in tertiary institutions across the country?
The CIIN, under my tenure, made remarkable progress by building on the work of my predecessors. We donated two complete sets of CIIN course books to seven institutions of higher learning. They are University of Lagos; University of Uyo; Enugu State University of Technology; Ekiti State University; Niger Delta University; Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic; and College of Insurance and Financial Management. In total, 462 course-books were presented to these institutions. In the same vein, the CIIN Insurance Textbook for Senior Secondary School Students was also donated to secondary schools in Delta State in line with the institute’s initiative geared towards promoting insurance as a career choice for secondary school leavers.
What challenges have you faced as president of the CIIN?
Aside the challenge of adapting to the new normal that has been forced on us, I personally was challenged by my desire to achieve the best I could during my tenure. Having had 48 presidents before me who had consistently raised the bar in ensuring the institute remained relevant to the insurance industry, it became imperative that I must continue on the growth pedestal of the institute because that was the only option for me. To the glory of God, we have been able to achieve so much over the past two years and the experience has made long-lasting impressions on me personally.