Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Takaful to improve its model, hit the market with ground-breaking initiatives

By Lamin Jahateh, The Gambian Banker, Banjul
Takaful Gambia Limited is poised to further improve on its operations and introduce innovative and ground-breaking initiatives after a-two member delegation of the company returned from Sudan, the father of Islamic insurance in the world, where they were exposed to improved ways of Islamic insurance.
Pic: (Left to Right) Takaful MD Mr Joof, and Head of Operations Mr Marong in Shiekan Insurance Life section
The Managing Director and Head of Operations of Takaful, Mr. Momodou Joof, and Mr. Adama Marong respectively recently returned to Banjul after a two week working visit to Shiekan Insurance and Reinsurance Company Limited in Sudan.  The aim of the visit, among other things, was to familiarize themselves with the operations of the company and to learn best practices from them so as to replicate it in The Gambia in order to take Takaful’s operations a notch-higher.
“We had learnt a great deal of weight to improve on our model and we promised our participants and the whole country at large that we are coming to apply a little bit of changes into our model to make it more transparent, more viable and more profitable,” the Managing Director said.  “I cannot reveal everything to you at this point but I can tell you we are looking at a possibility where even the board of the company will include representative of the clients, the participants who gave us their money, so that they know how much we are making, what we are doing, and also to know our mission and vision.”
He continued:  “Again as part of the changes to the model, we are saying not only those who do not suffer accident in the year will benefit from the profit of the company.  As Islamic insurance belongs to the policyholders, those who insured with us, when that is the case if there is any profit generated it must reach everybody whether you suffered an accident or not in the year, because it was not self designed for you to get involved in an accident.  Thus, profit generated by the company in 2011 will be distributed to all our policyholders even those who suffered losses during the period will still be invited to participate to the profit that we generated.”
Mr Joof said his three-year old company is coming up in a greater grand style to prove to “this nation that Islam has it all” and that the beauty can only be found best in it.
Products to roll out
The two-week visit to Sudan, which was fully funded by Shiekan Insurance and Reinsurance Company Limited - there host in Sudan, serves as a morale booster for Takaful as the management has revealed plans to inject new policies in addition to the existing ones “in order to make sure that we cover more people”.
Takaful MD said:  “Among the things that we had learnt from that ‘mature market’ is that if we limited our self to providing the usual classes of insurance like motor insurance, general accident, fire insurance etc, we are only addressing the wealthy members of the society, those that are rich enough to think of insurance.  So we have to think of ways to actually consider how to operate in such a way that we accommodate SMEs, those poor members of the society who are doing business but at a very low scale, how to reduce our premium and give them cover that will benefit them.
Now we are coming with policies that will make it possible for us to cover every cadre of the society including the poor members.  So now we are not only leaving it to that traditional system where only the rich can afford insurance, we want to bring it as low as covering the poor members of the society.”
He disclosed that they are also looking at the possibility of coming up with an agricultural insurance policy.  Agriculture has been a key issue of attention to the government, but unfortunately there is no insurance policy to back it up, now Takaful Gambia is looking into the possibility of coming with a policy on agricultural insurance in order to make farming a more sustainable and lucrative venture.
Mr. Joof, who recently served as a facilitator to the ‘regional course on rudiments of Islamic banking’ organized by West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management and held Lagos, Nigeria, said: “We will not also relent in our endeavor to make sure that we are not limited to Gambia, this is the first Islamic insurance company to register in West Africa and we must make sure that we give the market all that they need.  We are even looking at the establishment of a live section, where we will cover live insurance.  We are also looking into the possibility of expanding out of our national territory; these are all part of our plans.”
More profit to distribute
Takaful is the first insurance company in The Gambia to pioneer the process of profit sharing at the end of the term.  At the end of 2008 there was no profit for the company to distribute, as promised, to its clients, due to obvious reason that they started operations in that year and had many establishment expenses.  In 2009 the company distributed over D2 million to its policyholders.  “So we are very happy to say that we had delivered in 2009.  Since inception, we promised the people, we promised the market that this concept of Islamic insurance is a very fair concept whereby returns or profits generated by the company belongs to those who provided the capital, the insures,” said Mr. Joof, adding that apart from the D2 million distributed to the policyholders, the company also distributed ‘Zakat’, alms, between 8 high schools as part of its corporate social responsibility.  He said: “Though we are yet to distribute the profit for 2010, I can certainly tell you that it will be higher than the D2 million and we are working hard to pay it earlier this year.”
Commenting on their trip, Adama Marong, Head of Operations, said Sudan is where Islamic insurance started in the whole world, “so we feel it necessary that if you want to do what is correct you have to go to the root that is why we visited Sudan”.  “Upon our arrival there we found out that Islamic insurance is doing well there in fact the whole system there is Islamic financing.  We visited many places there including their refinery, and the national insurance company that is owned by the government,” he said.
He said the visit to Sudan has further enhanced and deepen their knowledge of Islamic insurance.  “We had copied best practices from them, in terms of their operations, policies and the like, that we are going to replicate in the Gambia.  You know the practice of insurance is such that it’s not static, it should be flexible.  We have come with policies from Sudan that we will modify to suit the need of the society in The Gambia and this is what we will embark on in not distant future,” Mr. Marong explained.
He added:  “We are going to roll out many innovative products that will really suit our customers and there are many things in the offing all for the benefit of the customers so all that want to say is that let people come to Takaful and they will really enjoy the value for money.”


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