One of the joys of working as a consultant is that you get to see the market through a wide-angled lens. In my case I have also had the privilege of working for many years with clients in different countries. One of my current clients is a global company with a presence in many markets, including a number of African countries. Last week I visited Nigeria for the first time. Wow, what a place!
Home to 170 million people, 75% of which are under 30, this is a vibrant place and complex environment. It is also an interesting place to navigate for a slightly wary Englishman with stories and anecdotes about the dangers that exist ringing in my ears. Luckily my client had the security aspects covered but as with other African Countries I have visited, my lasting impression is one of hope and aspiration, rather than fear and intimidation.
They have an immature Life Assurance market with huge potential. Some of the big Global and Multinational players are seriously turning their attention to what could be a powerhouse of growth for the West African region, through acquisition, partnership and interesting distribution arrangements.
My visit was set up to work with the local teams to establish some core knowledge around customer experience best practice, but inevitably the meetings and discussions covered a multitude of areas, not least of which, the lessons learned in the UK Life Market and how to use that knowledge. A subject for much discussion.
On the face of it, the conditions for growth, in common with other African countries look good. Growing political stability and improved governance, a growing population with strong consumer demand, more workers entering the formal economy for the first time and an emerging middle class keen to protect their wealth and assets. There is also a strong domestic GDP growth. Bancassurance is key retail channel, alongside brokers and agents and Digital adoption is good, mainly via mobile. Life expectancy is circa 53, therefore there is a clear inherent need for life cover.
Life penetration is at about 1%. Plenty of Potential. So what constrains growth and what advice can we give based on UK experience?
I was told that one of the biggest issues is that the products on offer historically are not designed in a way that really meets the peculiarities of the market and that whilst there is clearly a logical need to buy protection, consumers often struggle to engage with it because the need is hard to articulate. Sound Familiar?
What advice would you offer? Hire great people? Build a solid Brand that resonates with people? Clearly articulate the need for Protection? Create really compelling customer value propositions that meet the needs of clearly identified customer segments? Deliver a great customer and intermediary experience? Establish Great distribution presence to allow access for as wide a range of customers as possible?
Same advice as you would give any life assurance provider anywhere.
We have some fancy words for things nowadays. I used to call the above marketing. My conclusion is that in addition to the underwriters, claims people and the actuaries, Nigeria needs great marketing minds to identify and satisfy customer needs with very clear benefits and messaging. Nigeria is not alone in this regard.