Reliable and stable, reinsurance giant now eyes more market share globally, as it rolls out innovative and highly attractive products
By George Gichuki
The resilience of a strong brand is not just demonstrated by the returns it generates, but also by the period of time it has been in existence in the market. It is by serving customers for a long period of time that a brand becomes versatile and grows the muscles to conquer more market share. Many are the organizations which go under after only a few years in operation, because of a variety of challenges some of them being harsh business terrains, failure to adapt to change as well as weak leadership and management. It is in that regard that Kenya Reinsurance Corporation (popularly known as Kenya Re) which has been in the market since 1970 should be celebrated.
A home grown brand, Kenya Re has a footprint in Africa, Middle and Eastern Asia and in its early days, it was known as the State Reinsurance Company. It was wholly owned by the Kenyan government. In 1971, Kenya Re became a limited liability company while in 2007, the government offloaded 40% of the company’s shares through an initial public offering ( IPO). It generates 58% of its premiums from Kenya, while 42% is from the markets in other parts of the world.
Kenya Re has developed a five year strategic plan which gives the company a vision on how to carry out its business within that period. It is structured to cover all areas of business in terms of pillars. “These pillars are: finance, market development, risk management and people,” shares Mr. Jadiah Mwarania, the managing director. In that respect, the company is able to make financial projections within a span of five years, plan where it shall have a presence, organize the risk management mechanisms it should put in place besides having a road map on the skills its staff members should have and the training programmes that they should be exposed to. By and large, these strategic goals have been instrumental in the company’s substantial growth and expansion over the years.
There are nine reinsurance companies operating in the Kenyan market including : Munich Re, Africa Re, Continental Re, East Africa Re, Zep Re and Swiss Re. To stand out from the competition, Kenya Re offers exemplary customer service (especially by settling claims efficiently), on top of developing innovative products. “We tweak all our products in order to make sure that they are able to answer to a specific need of our customers,” affirms Mr. Mwarania.
Kenya Re has also stood out because of enhancing its internal efficiency so as to make its turnaround time less. Consequently in 2015, the company developed an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to integrate the different aspects of its business. Before that, it had eight computer systems dealing with different lines of business including: finance, mortgage and human resource. The ERP has tremendously improved the integrity of the company’s data.
Kenya Re is a composite reinsurer- it offers life (individual and group life business) and non-life products (property classes of business including contractors’ and engineering risks as well as public liability, professional indemnity and credit risk). The company also offers political violence and terrorism products under the non-life category.
The leading reinsurer has developed Retakaful, a product which is Sharia compliant and targets the Muslim customers since they have needs which cannot be satisfied by the conventional insurance products. “This is one of our fastest growing lines of business and it has been well received by the Muslim population, generating premiums worth Kshs. 430 million in the first half of this year,” says Mr. Mwarania. “We have put more structures in place to make the product more attractive to our customers, some of them being incorporating a Sharia board comprising of respected Islamic leaders and scholars,” he adds. The main objective of introducing Retakaful in its product offering was to enable Kenya Re to tap more business in the markets which are predominantly Muslim like West Africa and the Middle East. The product was first developed in Sudan way back in 1979, before being perfected in Malaysia and spreading to India and the Middle East.
It is important to note that under Retakaful, the company offers both life and nonlife products (for instance fire, marine and motor) but they are tailor made to meet the needs of the Muslim customers. Some of the unique aspects of Retakaful include