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Nigeria: ‘Today almost every insurance company has a digital platform,’ says CEO of Venia Group

By Ruth Olurounbi
Posted on Thursday, 29 April 2021 17:23

Blockchain payments are made digitally AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Adebowale Banjo, CEO of Venia Group, talks to The Africa Report about the increasing digital innovation within the Nigerian insurance industry.

The arrival of the pandemic in 2020 has been credited with jump-starting the rapid unrolling of digital technology, whether in health, banking or insurance.

Adebowale Banjo, the CEO of Venia Group, which developed AutoGenius back in 2014, was years ahead of the big push towards digitisation. He talks to The Africa Report about the growing trend and why it’s important, particularly in the insurance industry.

The Africa Report: Since you launched AutoGenius back in 2014, have you experienced or seen Nigerians beginning to embrace digital innovation within the insurance industry?

Adebowale Banjo: Nigerians are open to innovation and yes, they are embracing the digital switch, however, the industry hasn’t offered enough to Nigerians and that is where the problem truly lies. There has been some growth particularly in the last year in areas like telemedicine and digital access to products, but overall, we are still light years behind.

Wearable devices, IoT, Blockchain and AI are not fully integrated into our insurance offerings yet and those are the things pushing the frontiers of insurance globally. Like I said we have grown but there is still so much to be done.

This year marks AutoGenius’ 6th anniversary. How has the auto insurance space changed in this time?

Prior to the launch of AutoGenius, it was impossible to buy Auto Insurance online, the buyers’ journey was cumbersome and there was little or no transparency.

We blazed the trail and today almost every insurance company has a digital platform – the problem of access is being addressed but there is still the need to rethink the product offerings. Today the consumer has brand options and can make an informed decision and that will help the industry grow.

Nevertheless, there needs to be more product options for the customer and that is our focus right now, we’ve been working on a few things and some of them will be unveiled in the coming months.

Also, claims processing is better now across the industry, what used to take months now happens in a week or two. However, at AutoGenius, our claims are settled within 24 hours; our entire process is built to ensure that our customers are back to their normal lives as quickly as possible.

AutoGenius is Nigeria’s first auto tech insurance. Has it recently introduced anything new?

Last year we launched Nigeria’s first fully integrated WhatsApp insurance BOT and we piloted with FlexiCare, our retail health insurance product. Nigerians love to talk and share information and a lot of that communication happens on WhatsApp, so we decided to make buying insurance as simple as sending a message.

Today, Nigerians can buy and renew their health insurance policies via WhatsApp and receive their HMO cards as a WhatsApp image. They can also speak with doctors or our customer care representatives via the same platform.

This has really shortened our purchase and renewal process and a lot of our customers prefer to use the WhatsApp platform as it is quicker and fits more into their everyday lives. We will be rolling out more products on this platform and our customers can look forward to a thrilling ride.

Do you see any digital technologies as continuing to disrupt the insurance market in the coming years?

I believe that telemedicine will continue to grow, more players will come in, service quality will improve and eventually, it will be more affordable. With telemedicine, Nigerians, even those in remote parts of the country, can get consultative access to doctors and this will ensure proper diagnosis and reduce exposure to the risks of self-medication which is a big issue here in Nigeria.

Furthermore, I look forward to the deployment of blockchain solutions particularly with smart contracts; these will provide more transparency, reduce administrative costs and consequently premiums and also speed up the claims process.

Finally, machine learning and AI will help with post-loss assessment, fraud detection and predicting customer behaviour. These are the things we are looking at in AutoGenius and we believe they are vital to the growth of the insurance industry.

How would you access the Nigerian insurance sector? And, what future growth do you see the industry experiencing over the next few years?

Insurance penetration (premium as a percentage of GDP) in Nigeria is about 1%, this is low particularly when you compare it to a penetration rate of 13.4% in South Africa and a global average of 7.23% as at 2019.

While the industry has continued to experience some form of growth, it is largely nominal as increasing inflation has continued to deprive the industry of real growth.

Awareness has improved but the industry still suffers from a number of issues which range from lack of trust in the system, to inadequate coverage, poor access or distribution, poor product fit and laxity on the government’s part in enforcing mandatory policies.

To fix this, we have to be deliberate about educating people, creating products that are innovative and affordable while leveraging technology to increase access and improve our processes to deliver greater value to our customers.

The government must strengthen its institutions and create an enabling environment for tech entrepreneurs to disrupt the insurance industry the same way they have disrupted banking and payments.

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