For her visionary leadership and tireless efforts to work for the betterment of women in Bangladesh, she has recently been recognised as a Local SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Pioneer by the UN Global Compact at the Global Leaders’ Summit in UN Headquarters, New York.
Bangladesh saw its terrorist attack recently. What do you think it would have an impact on the country’s insurance sector?
Yes, I think the entire country is still reeling from the terror attack. As a consequence, businesses are going through a rough patch and this scenario is probably going to continue for a while. The current situation reminds us of the great floods during the 70’s and 90’s as well as the Rana Plaza tragedy couple of years back. Despite all the adversaries, the country has always come out stronger and this time around I am sure Bangladesh will cope with this situation well and prosper.
How will you evaluate the present situation in the Bangladesh insurance sector?
The insurance sector still remains largely untapped in Bangladesh. With only less than 3% insurance penetration in the country, the industry is in a growing stage. This offers huge scope for the insurance companies to expand their businesses. That is the reason many foreign insurance companies like the LIC – largest are now looking to invest in the Bangladesh insurance market.
As you are heading the largest non-life insurance company in Bangladesh, how do you foster innovation in terms of your products?
Nowadays in every business innovation plays a vital part in the ever increasing competitive market. GDIC being in the insurance sector, always thrives to introduce innovative products that differentiates us from the rest of the pack. Some of our innovative initiatives are:
As the entire country is gearing for “Digital Bangladesh” by 2021, we are also trying to do our part to digitalise the insurance sector.
We have already launched online payment system for our valued clients who can now pay their insurance premiums online from the comfort of their own home without having to physically come to our offices and banks and thus making it more convenient for them.
When I become the CEO, I found out that there wasn’t any specific insurance product for women, who comprises more than 52% of the population. So we have designed and introduced the first comprehensive insurance scheme for women in South Asia called Nibedita. This was a game changer in our insurance industry and recently I have been recognised as a Local SDG Pioneer by the United Nations for Nibedita.
We strongly believe that in order to create mass awareness on insurance, the students should be well-versed on insurance. Keeping this in mind, we have launched a special product for them – PPA (People’s Personal Accident). In this scheme, students can be insured for a minimum coverage of Tk1 lakh with annual premium of Tk74 only. We are also working with some universities to incorporate insurance courses in the regular curricula.
As the climate change is a buzz word now, GDIC is also working hard to contribute in mitigating the adverse impact of climate change. We give special priority in insuring those businesses that are environment friendly and in case of industrial structures, those with less or no carbon emission.
We believe that innovation is the key driver for business success, increased productivity and sustainability. In order to succeed, business should not think of innovation as a cost burden, it is rather a catalyst for enhanced bottom line.
What do you think of the rules and regulations brought by Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority (IDRA)?
IDRA has done a fantastic job in regularising the insurance industry. They have taken numerous steps to reduce the prevailing malpractices in the industry. I whole-heartedly appreciate their efforts and hope that they will continue to work for the improvement of the sector.
However, there are few things that the insurance companies are worried about. Recently there was a lot of talk on the excess management expenses of the companies. We, the insurance industry as a whole, believe that few aspects of the regulations should be amended.
For example, the management expense is still referred by the Insurance Act 1958. In reality, it makes little sense as lot of the factors have changed significantly over the past six decades e.g. inflation, operating costs, addition of value added taxes and so on. Moreover, the management expense should be decided based on the solvency margin of the respective companies.
We hope that IDRA will take into account of the changed market conditions and amend the regulations accordingly. The entire insurance industry will benefit from such actions and subsequently contribute to the economic development of the country.
What is the solvency margin?
Solvency margin is an indicator to measure an insurance company’s ability to meet short and long term debt and other liabilities by taking into account the net cash flow. Ideally a company’s solvency ratio should have a value of greater than 1 to be profitable. The greater the solvency margin of a company, the higher the financial strength of that company, meaning that they are in a good position to make all meet all its liabilities.
In the insurance sector, solvency margin indicates whether the company is financially solvent after fulfilling the shareholders’ liabilities and taking care of the customers’ claims.
Most of the people in our country perceive life insurance when they hear the term insurance. What’s your take on it?
Well, it is true to some extent that most people think of insurance as life insurance. It is mainly because of the aggressive marketing of some of the life insurance companies for more than past 40 years. But now the scenario is changing and the insurance awareness is increasing gradually. We are relentlessly trying to create mass awareness among the public through our innovative products and customer-centric marketing and promotional campaigns.
Do you agree with the statement that the insurance companies are not investing enough on research and development?
At Green Delta we have always given high importance on having a strong Research and Development department. This is evident from the fact that we have pioneered numerous innovative products for women, garment workers, rural poor, migrant workers, students and other customer segments.
GDIC has always invested heavily in attracting, recruiting, retaining, training, and developing skilled workforce for R&D. I think all the insurance companies would also come forward to create a strong R&D team at their respective organisations.