Life Insurance: leading the way in building trust and raising standards

The insurance regulatory regime
Eunice Ntow Gyasi (ACII-UK) is the Head, Underwriting & Reinsurance at StarLife Assurance Company Limited

The insurance regulatory regime in Ghana has seen significant changes primarily aimed at improving penetration, encouraging best practice, promoting ethical culture and boosting public confidence. These improvements have been made possible due to the revision in the legal framework by the National Insurance Commission, in consultation with industry players.

Quite recently the Insurance Act, 2021, (Act 1061) which received presidential assent in February 2021, has come to replace the previous Insurance Act of 2006, and now serves as the legal instrument for the regulation and supervision of the insurance market. It also aims at driving the growth of the insurance industry by making some key policies compulsory, including Workmen’s Compensation, Liability, Professional Indemnity, Insurance of Commercial Buildings and Marine Insurance.

Life insurers are working toward the incorporation of Group Life in the Act. This will afford life insurers the unique opportunity to improve, as a matter of collective effort and healthy competition, the issue of public trust and standards in the domestic insurance industry. The top five life insurers control about 78% of the market and, thus, are expected to deepen their leading roles in assuring trust and demonstrating high standards to the public.

As a leading life insurance company in Ghana, StarLife is currently ranked 3rd in terms of market share in the life insurance sector per the National Insurance Commission’s industry report for 2019, with a gross premium income of GH¢260,937,151 (about US$45.1million).

The company has achieved this feat by focusing on change management and a performance improvement drive over the past decade. Specifically in the area of staff development, investment in I.T. infrastructure, product innovation and the introduction of customer experience metrics have led the transformation agenda. This has ultimately provided improved life insurance value and satisfaction to the insuring public.

Staff development remains a key performance indicator for the growth of the business. StarLife has implemented a system that develops its technical expertise-base and general knowledge in the insurance and business environment. Over the years, the company has invested significantly in the professional training of its staff. This is to increase professionalism and uphold standards in its dealings with partners and clients. Presently, the organisation has 13 ACII members and 18 students who are at various stages of completing their studies.

The company also provides support for other technical areas such as the Actuarial function. Additionally, there is provision for support for other non-technical professional education. For instance, the human resource staff are sponsored to undertake the Chartered Institute of Human Resource Management Professional (CHIRMP) certification courses. The overall aim of these provisions is to ensure that the company maintains a high level professionalism in the discharge of its objectives.

Insurance companies over the years have invested in technology to enhance service delivery and improve their operations while aiming at improving profitability. The company’s technological commitment has seen a surge in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Insurers generally agree that to be effective in client service management and efficiently deliver products and services, the need to upscale their technological investment comes without hesitation.

StarLife has focused on implementing integrated systems which guarantee seamless flow of work from the technical aspects to the financial. In promoting clients’ convenience and satisfaction, various payment options platforms including digital payments have been effectively integrated into the company’s operational software. The effective integration of systems facilitates the processing of all claims and insurance benefits.

Furthermore, online application forms and web portals are available for clients to have access to their policy details, and they are able to carry out various transactions online such as premium payments and placement of benefit requests. Despite these achievements, the company continues to explore other options which guarantee easy access to insurance products and services. In recent times, StarLife has also focused on providing platforms that ensure consistent interactions with clients and deepen the entire customer experience culture via a two-way system which allows for feedback.

Product innovation presents us with the challenge of clearly understanding customer needs and finding the right solutions to those needs This is done within the framework of flexibility and an effective feedback system. It is also important to consider emerging business dynamics in the design of products. In a competitive environment, the need to uniquely identify other non-traditional markets for product dissemination is key. This activity reassures the public of insurers’ creativity and leads to building trust.

In 2020, StarLife demonstrated its leadership in product and distribution innovation when it partnered with the two major premier league clubs in Ghana – Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak – to design and introduce both risk and endowment products to their fan base. This arrangement provides financial security to the sporting fraternity, while serving as an additional source of funding to the clubs through commissions on products sold.

Another significant area within the insurance set-up in boosting public confidence is customer service delivery. Insurers over the years have come to the realisation that a deliberate, efficient and effective customer service approach is critical to the survival of any insurance company. It is important to know your clients, understand their needs, the nature of their businesses and to be able to tailor products and services which will be beneficial to them and in turn, be profitable to the company.

Making good use of valuable customer data will therefore aid in better customer engagements, customer segmentation and product design, better claims management, risk assessment and pricing, identification and the avoidance of fraud. StarLife considers all these factors in harnessing client confidence.

Business is carried out within the required legal frameworks. Compliance with regulatory requirements guarantees long-term sustainability of a company to the extent that all prudent and operational requirements are consistently met. This resultantly builds confidence in the insurance public. Being a market leader, StarLife adheres to regulatory standards set by the National Insurance Commission in the operations and the management of insurance service delivery.

The regulator provides set guidelines which govern the conduct of insurance business. For example, insurance companies are to have a minimum capital requirement, create the needed functional units (e.g. underwriting, claims, finance, etc.) as well as control units (internal audit, compliance, actuarial and risk management) within the organisational set-up for effective running of the organisation.

As an organisation under regulatory control, we have to avail ourselves for monitoring and evaluations, auditing, have retention limits, and treaty arrangements with reinsurers to give us capacity to underwrite businesses beyond our retention limits, among others. Having these as standards required by the regulator for effective operations, StarLife has complied and continues to comply with these standards, thereby ensuring the public’s trust and confidence in the brand and the industry as a whole.

Risk management is an effective value-addition tool in managing any organisation in the world today. Indeed, the set-up of a risk management function is mandatory under the insurance regulation in Ghana. At StarLife the risk management framework is clearly defined across the entire company. This ensures that all areas of operations are aligned to the company’s objectives.

The risk appetite statement has not only been provided by StarLife’s Board of Directors, but it has also been effectively communicated throughout the company, and this provides staff with knowledge on the level of risks accepted by the company. It also serves as a guide in effectively managing exposure, and mitigates the impact of the identified risks, as insurance is a pool that needs to be managed well and insurers have the obligation to ensure that members within the pool are adequately protected and will be indemnified when the need arises.

Having defined this as our basic objective, insurers then need to design the appropriate risk management structure to better manage their exposure and mitigate the impact of some of the threats that may hinder the achievement of this key objective. When this is well-managed and insurers are able to meet their obligation toward their clients, the confidence in the insurance market will greatly improve, and this is what StarLife has been committed to continuously.

The 2019 industry report by the National Insurance Commission (NIC) confirms that the industry’s gross premium grew by 21% from GH¢2.9billion in 2018 to GH¢3.5billion in 2019. Even though, the insurance penetration rate stood at 1%, there is still a clear demonstration of growth of confidence in the sector.

Life insurers across the globe consistently find ways to improve the relationship with clients through the implementation of business transformation tactics. Consequently, customer satisfaction is paramount when indemnity is provided in the wake of an insured peril. Generally, insurers are encouraged to treat customers fairly, and this is one sure way to improve professional standards and build public trust. StarLife appreciates the need to maintain life-long relationships with clients and the insuring public at large. This is attained by being consistent with a strong focus of providing value to the insured.

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