Stephen Odhiambo Wandera is one of the coolest insurance MD’s in the market. Mr Wandera is the MD of British American Insurance CompanyKenya, a subsidiary of British American Investment Company. I had a chance to talk to the tall bespectacled MD not in an executive office but in a cocktail atmosphere. You know the drill- drinks flowing, smooth jazzy music in the background and a clutter of the glasses.
And today, I want to focus on this CEO and I will tell you why. The insurance company is a key cog of Britak, the company whose stake you just bought the other day. The monies raised in the IPO will also be used to expand its services across the counties, bringing more clients and hopefully, more cheddar for us as dividends.
He is a 51 year old executive that has been in the industry for 18 years. He joined the company in 1993 and has risen to the post of MD. In addition to that role , he is the chairman of the Association of Kenya Insurers and a governor at KEPSA(yes, those guys were way ahead of the new constitution!).
He is one of the fellas who may change the face of the industry. And it needs change. Kenya for instance has an insurance penetration of less than three percent. Insurance penetration in Uganda remains the lowest in the East African region at only 0.6% when compared to Kenya’s 2.6%, and Tanzania and Rwanda’s 1% respectively. This is compared to South Africa’s 14% or Malaysia’s 10%.
This is despite the number of insurance companies being 44, almost like the number of banks. Access to banking services meanwhile is more than 50% of the bankable population. This low penetration of insurance has been blamed on the negative perception of insurance, its cost and distribution.
Mr Wandera however, views this state of affairs as an opportunity for growth. And during the chit chat, he revealed that British America Insurance is looking at how to expand its distribution through models like bancassurance, where insurance products are offered in banking halls.
It is also exploring how to use technology to cut the cost of acquiring customers, paying premiums and other expenses that make insurance products expensive. Technology like M-Pesa, for instance saves clients the time and expense of walking to a bank or insurance company to pay premiums.
Making telesales is also a cheaper way of attracting customers. With Facebook and Google introducing Video Chat technology, financial advisors can even sell you a product via Facebook and just show up to sign the papers. Insurance needs an Equity Bank, a player that will demystify products and make them a must have for the masses. With its reputation and solid financial background, British American can do that.
This executive, who holds a Masters Of Business Administration, a Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Nairobi and is a fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute, maybe the catalyst to improve the industry’s state of affairs.