Senor Thomas-Sowe, managing director of International Insurance Company, has said her company is a force to be reckoned with in the insurance industry of The Gambia as it strives hard to meet customer-satisfaction through timely claims settlement as well as maintaining the highest capitalized insurance entity in the country.
|Senor Thomas, shorting after receiving the award|
Mrs Thomas-Sowe, whose company has won the first ever insurance award of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry at its 19th awards ceremony held on June 1 at the Coco Ocean Resort and Spa in Bijilo, has commended the private sector apex body for recognizing the insurance industry of The Gambia.
Timely settlement of claims, corporate social responsibility especially towards agriculture, compliance with taxes and social security contributions, and good customer service ratings have contributed to placing IIC at the forefront of insurance companies in the country, which is why the company has been crowned Insurance Company of the Year.
“I felt great when I was first notified that IIC was one of the companies nominated for the ‘Insurance Company of the Year’ award, because just the nomination alone is an achievement, for the fact that this is the first time the GCCI has awarded the best insurance company,” said Mrs Thomas-Sowe, in an interview with MartketPlace.
“For IIC to be shortlisted for that award means something, and I was very excited and praying that we win. However, I was confident that we will emerge as the winner because looking at the other two nominees, I was sure that we will come out as the winner of the award.”
The IIC was shortlisted alongside Global Security Insurance Company and Takaful Insurance, the only Shariah compliance insurance company in The Gambia and West Africa.
“We have an edge over all these companies because today IIC is the highest capitalised insurance company in The Gambia; that is why we are the only insurance company in The Gambia that can underwrite both life and non-life insurance,” said Mrs Thomas, who became the managing director of IIC in 2003 at a very young age.
The secret behind IIC’s growth and success over the years can be traced to several corporate factors but two stand out prominent: these are the company’s financial strength and its quality of staff.
“I have a very strong team. I can confidently say that in the whole insurance market, the staff I have are the best. They are all young, because if you look at the average age of my staff it is between 25 and 28, but they are all committed and hardworking. This is so because the institution values human resource. We spent huge amount of money on training our staff because we believe that a well trained staff is key for the success of any company. We do also motivate our staff so that they can work hard, and - thank God - today IIC staff are the best in the insurance industry.”
The cultured insurer, who has served as president of the West African Insurance Association, also said: “Another thing that has made us to stand out is the financial strength of the company, thanks to the support of the board of directors.
“Today IIC is the highest capitalised insurance company in The Gambia; that is why we can underwrite both non-life and life [insurance]. This is possible with the support we have from the board of directors who are always there for us, giving us an exceptional support that we need to excel.”
With these values, Mrs Thomas said, despite the intense competition in the insurance industry, IIC is able to stand out as a force to be reckoned with.
Claims settlement is a key criterion of the GCCI for any company to win the insurance award, since insurance companies in the country are frequently accused of dodging the payment of claims.
With respect to IIC, timely payment of all valid claims is a key principle of the company. “We pay claims on time and our customers know us for that; when we receive a claim that is valid, we pay it as soon as possible,” Mrs Thomas, who has also served as president of the Insurance Association of The Gambia, said.
Some people have the “erroneous perception” that insurance companies do not pay claim, but the erudite insurance practitioner said insurance companies do settle claims. “It is just that when we settle claims people don’t know about it and when we don’t that is the time people talk about it,” she says.
“This is sometimes due to the fact that some people do not understand their policies very well. We know that is a challenge for the industry and we are working hard to increase people’s understanding about insurance.”
The Gambia insurance industry is perceived as a small market due to the size of the country but the fact remains that insurance contributes immensely to the economic growth and development of a nation, which is what the GCCI has realised, to ensure the industry is covered this time around in its annual business awards competition.
Mrs Thomas-Sowe again: “I really appreciate what the chamber has done because for the past years they have never given us (insurance companies) award; so this is something that is good for the industry as a whole, not IIC alone. This is because people will now know that insurance is part and parcel of the economy and it plays a huge role in the economic development of a country. So I am saying a big thank-you to the GCCI on behalf of the whole industry, not IIC alone.”
|Mrs Oumie Jah Ndow, head of marketing and business development of IIC|
As regards IIC’s expansion and challenge in the industry, Mrs Thomas said: “We have the biggest branch network. But we also have a big challenge because we have to maintain being on top all the time, which is a challenge, but we will definitely try our best to make sure that we continue to be the best.”
Oumie Jah Ndow, head of marketing and business development at IIC, said the award is dedicated to customers of the 12-year-old company, whose “future is very bright”.
“I want to thank all our customers who have supported us over the years because they have made us what we are today,” she remarked. “So we are dedicating this award to all of them.”