Awakening an Industry
Offering first-class, modern, bespoke indemnity products, Linkage Assurance is tapping into the vast potential of Nigeria’s insurance market
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Sam Love
Africa’s insurance market has been described as a sleeping giant for the majority of the 21st century. In more recent times, however, indications have begun to arise which suggest that the true potential of the industry is starting to stir.
A relatively stable economic environment, rising disposable incomes, a young population and an expanding middle class are all factors contributing towards the rising uptake of insurance in Africa. And while there is still a long way to go, it is undoubted that a wave of confidence is sweeping across the sector, evidenced by a closer look at Nigeria.
“I am quite optimistic about the direction of the Nigerian insurance industry,” states Daniel Braie, the Managing Director and CEO of Linkage Assurance.
“Indeed, the penetration level of Nigerian insurance is still below one percent, and when compared with other markets it is a far cry of the potentials that are abound, especially in the retail market.
“Yet there are a number of country-wide efforts geared towards increasing uptake in the form of strategic global partnerships, active public-private collaboration, the introduction of compulsory classes, and other plans which seek to improve the knowledge gap.”
The retail roadmap
A company that has been an ever-present provider in Nigerian insurance since its inception in 1991, Linkage Assurance has established a truly extensive portfolio of bespoke products.
These range from conventional insurance products to special package retail insurance solutions, spanning the automotive, property, general accident, bonds, oil and gas, marine, aviation and engineering verticals.
In addition, against the optimistic backdrop of more recent years, the firm has introduced a range of innovative retail insurance products as part of its five-year strategic roadmap. From motor plans and comprehensive cover for shops to real estate and SME insurance, these solutions have enabled Linkage Assurance to capitalise on new opportunities as the market continues to flourish.
“The future of the Nigerian insurance industry lies with the retail sector,” explains Braie. “Unlike the corporate sector of the insurance business, which is heavily saturated, the retail market is still largely untapped with a huge potential for securing a large volume of sales.
“Nigeria is home to over 180 million people, the majority of whom are medium and lower income earners, unaware of the benefits of insurance. Thus, the potential for growth is enormous and the opportunity is massive within the retail segment.”
This emphasis has not only helped to further the company’s overriding, forward-thinking mission of consistently exceeding customer expectations through the deliverance of world-class services, but it has also led to external recognition.
Braie reveals: “In 2018 we were the recipient of the Pearl Sectorial Leadership award in the insurance industry on corporate excellence in the Nigerian capital market, and I was named one of the top 25 CEOs whose companies had positively impacted investors on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.”
These recognitions speak to the early impact Linkage Assurance is making under the leadership of Daniel Braie. Recognised with the Business Day/Nigerian Stock Exchange award as one of the top 25 CEOs of listed companies on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Braie’s strives are particularly impressive given the struggles that insurance stocks have historically had.
Innovation combined with continuity
Despite Linkage Assurance’s willingness to both transition and adapt in line with market movements in order to remain ahead of the curve, equally the firm’s core principles have remained imbedded within its modus operandi throughout its illustrious history.
“Over the years we have maintained our principles of integrity, customer focus, teamwork, innovation, professionalism and merit,” states Braie. “We believe in walking the talk and keeping promises to all our stakeholders with honesty, transparency and the highest of ethical standards.”
This outlook has been crucial to the development of an adept, prompt, fair and satisfactory insurance solutions portfolio provided by the company’s marketing, technical underwriting, claims and customer service teams.
As such, Linkage Assurance now manages shareholder funds in excess of N20 billion ($66 million) and is renowned as one of the most financially solvent insurance companies in Nigeria, supporting large businesses across a multitude of sectors.
“Agusto & Co, a local rating agency, assigned A- status to Linkage Assurance last year as a reflection of our good financial condition and strong capacity to meet obligations as and when they fall due,” Braie reveals.
“Further, in addition to our very strong financial position, we also leverage on relationships with our local and foreign reinsurance counterparts, such as Continental Re, Swiss Re, Hannover Re, Africa Re, WAICA Re and PTA Re, to efficiently manage risks for our clients.”
Ambitious yet grounded
Insurance is a global business, given the important principle of “spreading the risk”. It is important that an insurance company, particularly those in emerging markets, have unfettered access to the international market so that it can continue to be able to have competence, capability and capacity to support the local economy and deliver contemporary insurance products for its customers.
Readily opening itself up to meaningful discussions and new relationships with global insurance players, collaboration is a core part of Linkage Assurance’s forward-thinking approach.
“We want to achieve a dual strategy – a blend of local knowledge and expertise with esteemed market players from the world over to deepen insurance penetration in Nigeria through alternative channels,” adds Braie.
And while the company undoubtedly has global ambitions, it equally maintains an active role in furthering Nigeria’s strives for socioeconomic development.
To this end, Linkage Assurance has developed an extensive human resources strategy that both seeks to attract and retain the most talented individuals, and recognises the importance of career progression, facilitating this for its people.
“In fact, we have just reviewed our training plans and structure to include mentoring and knowledge management,” the CEO reveals, “and we continue to hire locally wherever possible.”
Similar attitudes are translated into the firm’s wider CSR initiatives, practices that again are held in high esteem by Linkage Assurance and its CEO.
Braie continues: “In terms of our corporate social investment, we have supported a down syndrome foundation, a cancer foundation, orphanages and beautification programmes within our immediate community. The local environment, local people and our local partners are integral to us – they are part of our success story.”
An upward trajectory
From these grassroots CSR initiatives to its buoyant reputation, sound financial status and global outlook, the future looks bright for Linkage Assurance.
“Looking ahead?” Braie responds, asked about the company’s priorities for the coming year. “We are aiming to increase our gross premium income through aggressive revenue growth, enhanced brand visibility and a bolstered position in the market that will also yield greater returns on shareholders’ funds through consistent dividend pay-outs.”
It won’t be entirely plain sailing, however, the company having to overcome headwinds from unfavourable tax policies, potential reductions in consumer purchasing power, aggressive competition and pre-existing social norms such as a lack of market awareness.
Yet Braie remains optimistic that Linkage Assurance’s current upward trajectory will continue throughout 2019 and beyond.
He concludes, pointing to the contrasting tailwinds: “With a drive coming from regulators for the industry to comply with international best practices, there is no doubt that the future of insurance in Nigeria looks promising.
“I forecast that we will begin to witness real growth and see the industry come to play a key role in the economy.”