How to grow insurance in Nigeria – Samira Omolola-Nwaturuocha, Chief Risk Officer, AXA Mansard


Samira Omolola Nwaturuocha is Chief Risk Officer and Chief Security Officer at AXA Mansard.

She manages the risk and resilience of security topics across the entire spectrum – be it financial or operational risk, core business, as well as information security. She also oversees physical security, health and safety and resilience monitoring within this framework.

In this interview with Nairametrics, she discusses everything from risk management, crisis management, IT and of course insurance in 2022 and beyond. Extract:

How did you end up in risk management, judging by the fact that you have a scientific background?

As an inquisitive mind, I was interested in many things. After my youth service, it all started when I was just looking for a good job that could help me save money and be able to achieve other personal ambitions that I want to achieve.

I had the opportunity to work with GTBank in marketing. way back in the day. A lot of people fear marketing but for me, all my life, I’ve always sold something so it didn’t seem like a big deal; it was just about me marketing a different product.

After two years in marketing I got married so my husband was here in Lagos and I was going to move to Lagos with my husband (I grew up in Kaduna) and I wanted to challenge myself to do something different and in banking and then we spent three months in training school and one of the subjects that was very difficult for me in training school was trading – treasury bills, bonds. Whenever my clients wanted to buy, I always had to call another one of my colleagues to help me explain to the client.

There was an opportunity for me to work in risk management in this area, it was just a way to challenge myself. This is how I got into financial risk management. I started with interest rate risk management and over time as my knowledge built and grew on it I was always curious to learn something new because there were 4 offices in this group; interest rates, trading, liquidity and market analysis.

What I decided to do then is to get to work very early, sit down with some older colleagues and they teach me, and then I’ll come over very early and do their report and mine. So it was like a way to pay them back.

By the time I was done with financial risk, it sparked my curiosity as I found something new to learn every day. I was then assigned to credit risk in banking, which is also a very interesting area, which has a lot to do with banking in terms of lending, documentation and retail. As I was doing this for a while I thought I didn’t want to stay in one particular area, I wanted to have a holistic view so I looked for an opportunity to move into operational risk where I learned operational, environmental risk, business continuity and digress. And after a while you always want a bigger and new challenge

I had the opportunity to work at AXA in a role that was more like a mid-level role, so I took that opportunity and that’s how I left the bank. In insurance, it’s also very interesting, although a little more difficult than I thought.

How does AXA Mansard convince people to invest in health insurance?

When it comes to insurance in general, there’s a mindset that I’m not going to consume. Take my car for example, if I pay my premium and I don’t have an accident, I don’t risk consuming it. But with health insurance, on the other hand, it’s actually a little easier to sell because people are more likely to consume it and people find it much more relevant because it relates to the health.

I think one of the challenges is the financial capacity to be able to pay “a high premium”. But today, where you can digitize payment, people can pay in smaller installments, which makes it easier.

What are some of your favorite tasks as a risk management specialist?

I like the challenge of brainstorming and solving a problem. This is how I see my role as risk manager. I also appreciate the fact that often when I see a challenge, I am able to identify with who I am talking to.

Sometimes I find that the reason that person hasn’t been able to come up with a solution is actually because they’re not looking at the holistic picture. So you’ve put something in place but it doesn’t work because it doesn’t just depend on you and that for me is always interesting.

What motivates me is to always see the continuous improvement that comes with this process, because the risk management process is, first of all, to identify the risk, then to analyze it and then to mitigate it. . Either you prevent it from happening or you try to manage it in such a way that even if it does happen the impact shouldn’t be too severe and in the end you get a much more process, product improved or experience for a customer.

So many Nigerians still haven’t accepted insurance, what’s the problem?

I think it’s not just about awareness. We cannot separate the problem from the many other challenges facing Nigerians. For example, I have clients who want to purchase a policy because they think an insurance product can help them, but they also have to pay school fees, pay house rent, and do a few other things.

I think it’s not just in awareness. Today, we still largely need customers who pay a premium per year, but we are moving into an era where customers can also pay their premium when they earn their monthly salary because they don’t earn their salary on a annual basis and I think that’s where leveraging digital and technology can really go a long way.

What is your perception of customer feedback as a risk manager?

This is actually important for internal clients and external for risk managers. A practical example would be, a customer files a complaint, I believe customer feedback should be defended and not just defended, but also to give customers multiple channels to be able to give feedback to you and it should be convenient for customers.

If a customer gives you feedback on a product they purchased and they are unhappy with some things they discovered after purchasing the product, to me that could be a reputational risk, because depending on how things go, it could be misconstrued that you wrongly sold to that customer. But even for the growth of the business, it is also a risk because it means that the customer will not return. Customer feedback helps improve the business and risk is about improvement.

Are you managing risks for the business or for customers?

Both. A lot of times in my role you always have to come to some form of compromise and for me, one of the things I really enjoy is working with people, but sometimes also having to influence. And that comes with a lot of conversation and a lot of effort to see the other person’s point of view and also to get them to see your own point of view in a friendly way.

What inspires you?

Knowing that I help make things better literally every day. Over the years we have become more self-aware. For me, I’ve realized that I don’t like routine things that get boring over time. I really found a fulfillment in this role which almost every day is a different challenge, a different problem. You look at Russia and Ukraine and how they influence the budget you already did earlier in the year or the Kaduna-Abuja train incident. It’s just dynamic and interesting.

How do you manage family life with your job?

For me, support is very important. The level of support I get has been very helpful. For my role it can be quiet for two days and then the next two days something happened in Abuja or Kaduna and you’re almost up all day all night trying to fix things so also having this home support helps a lot. But the main thing is to have that support because some days you don’t feel like going on, but you have that person supporting you and standing solidly behind you.

How do you relax?

I love reading. I grew up around a lot of books. all kinds of books from English classes, history, literature, Greece and the kings of Egypt. I lose myself in the world of books; fact fiction. I also like to do research. I don’t know for some reason I found this very relaxing and especially if it’s not work related research. I can like Wikipedia by jumping from one link to another.


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