BY VICTOR ADAR
Jackson Muli is a typical African man with a humble Christian background having grown up in a small village called Kiumo/Embui in Machakos County. He is a family man, a proud father of two, with wide experience in insurance spanning to over 22 years with a bias in life insurance.
Mr Muli, who is the current Kenya Orient Life Assurance general manager, began his career in insurance through introduction by a relative/friend. He joined the sector with very little knowledge about insurance. However, after entry he developed interest in life insurance specifically in underwriting and claims processes.
Later on, he learned pensions and gladly developed the market growth by playing a key role in practicing and implementing the 2000 RBA regulations, a licensing requirement within the pensions sector. His everyday mantra is, “to be yourself and cultivate integrity and focus on building a profitable business as a key to success”.
He studied Bachelor of Arts – Mathematics, Business studies and Economics – at Kenyatta University and Master’s degree in Strategic Management at Nairobi University. His accounting background, having attained CPA 1 before transitioning to the insurance profession, means Mr Muli is good with numbers. Then he is an Associate with the Insurance Institute of Kenya and a Chartered insurer with the Insurance Institute of Uganda among many other professional accreditations achieved during my career journey.
Mr Muli points out that if you want to protect yourself against the risk of death, you buy life insurance. “The insurance company will pay a lump sum to your dependents if you happen to die. Non-life insurance is used to protect individuals from the financial risk of losing their assets, such as a car or a house. Medical insurance which is used to cater for medical expenses also forms part of non-life insurance,” he explains, adding that Kenya Orient’s flagship product is Orient Smart Educator, which gives birthday gifts to the covered child each year.
According to Muli, the corporate business forms a significant larger business than the individual business. This is due to variety of insurance needs that the corporate sector may have – corporates do purchase insurance to protect their employees and businesses from various risks. He says there is a bigger demand from these clients as they already understand the benefits of insurance. However, the insurer have set strategies to grow the individual life business to take a bigger portion of its business portfolio.
“Our customers are happy, but we want them to access quick service. We have therefore created an online platform where they can access services quickly and better their experience with us,” he says.
He says the company, for example, is focusing on offering customers the best experience through “innovative products and excellent service” to see increased uptake of life assurance products. Through this, the firm is continuously attracting new customers through referrals which is helping it grow its market share.
“By allowing our customers to get a quote of any of our products through our website or communicate with us via our social media platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, we offer speed and convenience, minimum paperwork and transparent process from the comfort of one’s home,” he says.
To ensure that customers fully understand the products they are buying, the company have adopted the use of “tied agents” as the main distribution channel for individual life products. “We are continuously growing this channel to reach more customers. We also focus on distributing our products through the online channels to reduce distribution costs and reach the young population,” Muli continues, saying life insurance is meant to provide financial security to people taking it up.
“It gives a peace of mind and comfort of the breadwinner in the event he/she is not there, life will go on well with his/her dependants. For example, a person who is worried that the education of their kid could be in jeopardy once they die can purchase an endowment policy (locally known as education policies),” he advises.
In the unfortunate event they pass on, Muli says, the proceeds of the policy payable by the insurance company will be used in financing education of the child. Another example is a retiree who has saved a lump sum but worried they might outlive the fund if they withdraw a regular income.
To him, an annuity will come in handy in solving the “death problem” by ensuring that the retiree receives a regular income until death. Apart from providing peace of mind, he says, there are tax benefits of taking up life insurance – individuals can obtain tax relief on the premiums paid and the benefits are not taxable. He points out that life insurance, in most instances, is priced by the age of the customer. So, what is the best age for someone to come on board?
“The younger you are, the better the rates offered. Insurance companies will therefore offer better rates and terms in the age bracket of 20 to 35 years. So, if you purchased insurance at a young age, you will be able to lock the benefits at a more affordable cost,” he said, adding that the rates charged will depend on the benefits payable and the age of the customer.
Other factors such as health status, weight, height, and drug use, are sometimes considered when determining the premium rate to charge during the process of underwriting.
On the corporate business side, Kenya Orient have partnered with brokers and agencies to spearhead distribution of its products namely last expense, group life, group credit, pensions, annuities and mortgage protection covers. The firm have also rigorously approached financial institutions and created partnerships to help in distribution of its products through their bancassurance channels.
Mr Muli’s vision is to continually grow the market share of company, drive life assurance uptake especially among the youth while at the same time grow a profitable business that delivers value to our stakeholders.
“In two or three years, our focus is to place the company within the radar of the top 10 life insurance companies in Kenya by size and shareholders value,” he says.
Despite the feel good stories, challenges abound. The cost of living in the country has been on rise thereby reducing household disposable income. Life insurance in Kenya is “usually sold rather than… bought” as most people do not understand its need. It is getting more and more difficult to sell insurance and grow the business – consumers with existing policies are finding it difficult to keep paying premium and choosing to exit earlier.
According to Muli, the market is still small but with many players. Competition is therefore stiff and based on pricing of the products offered. He says, “for our business we want to adequately price the risk and in some instances we might miss out opportunities because of the terms that we are offering due to our stringent prudent underwriting procedures… we remain hopeful that the economy will rebound once the Russia-Ukraine war is over.”