Malawi Stock Exchange-listed conglomerate Press Corporation plc recently invested in a new insurance holding company called LifeCo Holdings Limited, which has three subsidiaries, namely LifeCo Life Insurance Company Limited, LifeCo Pension Services Limited and LifeCo Asset Managers Limited. LifeCo Life Insurance Company entered the market a few months ago and is set to bring competition, which will in the end benefit the customer. Nation Publications Limited journalist CHIKONDI CHIYEMBEKEZA caught up with LifeCo Life Insurance Company Limited chief executive officer Osman Karim to expound more on the new kid on the bloc. Excerpts
Is the Malawi market ready for another life insurance company?
Research shows that the market requires another serious player that can refresh the choice of service providers. The annual pension contributions and life insurance premiums continue to grow and can sustain another player. We are not only aiming to share the existing cake, but we have strategies to grow the cake too. We would like to take insurance to the people who otherwise are excluded now by using modern information and communications technology [ICT] platforms, the power of partnerships and collaborations. We also have enhanced offerings that are more responsive to the clients’ particular needs with regards to their pension funds administration, investments and life cover.
What has been the reception on the market?
It is very exciting and we are happy we have been received well by the market. As at August 2021, we had over 20 clients registered with us. This is just in about four months of trading! That is not bad at all. To us this is a sign of welcome and of confidence in our brand promise. There is a pipeline of prospects awaiting to join us at their next renewal date. We are optimistic that by the end of year, our market share will increase.
What lessons have you drawn by entering the market at a time the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the economy?
When we reflect on the past, we recall how HIV and Aids once scared the world and the insurance industry in the early 1980s, but the lessons were drawn and now this is not a problem. Similarly, the pandemic has instilled some fear in the public, but we understand that this is the time clients need life insurance. LifeCo is not risk-averse and we are here to provide affordable life insurance delivered with an empathetic heart. In fact, I can dare say that we will beat the price you are currently paying for your insurance. We invite people to take up the challenge.
Reserve Bank of Malawi reports show that one of insurance customers’ complaints is on the delay to pay out benefits to clients. How will LifeCo address this issue?
We studied the market before we started our operations and noted that delays are mainly due to ICT challenges some insurers have. Payment of benefits at the right time is the main promise in the insurance contract and that is what the client expects. LifeCo has implemented a computer system that manages data accurately and rapidly which, combined with our empathetic attitude, will ensure LifeCo will service clients better. What we say here at LifeCo is that claim payment is a time when the insurer must prove his promise. We will go out of our way to find the reasons to pay your claim. That is what we are here for.
There have been complaints about huge pension fund arrears and non-compliance by some employers in Malawi. What is your take on this?
We have noted too the significant amount in arrears. Most of the clients who are in arrears did not plan the situation to be like that. We believe they would like to be compliant with the Pension Act and ensure their staff benefits grow.
But government can assist companies to comply with the law by ensuring that the suppliers’ invoices are honoured on time and the backlog of payments cleared. This will start a chain reaction to get rid of indebtedness in the system.
What assurance can you give to customers and those intending to do business with you?
We have seen that people feel LifeCo being new lacks experience to manage pension or life services. We are only new in name, but we have over 40 years of experience in life and pension if we combine the experiences of our staff. We are a fresh alternative for financial services and we look forward to engaging clients to demonstrate our different business model and how we can take them a step ahead of life.