THE Insurance sector has experienced countless challenges and triumphs. While much has been said about the performance of companies in the sector, this week we take a look at the training arm of the insurance professionals, how it has fared and its vision for the future. Our reporter Merlin Garwe (MG) spoke to the Insurance Institute of Zimbabwe (IIZ) general manager George Chikava (GC) and below are excerpts of the interview:
MG: What milestones has the IIZ achieved over the years?
GC: We started a fellowship programme for the Insurance Institute of Zimbabwe, with the first class finishing in May. Then we are going to enrol for the 2021 class. This is the highest level of professional membership. We also have associateship. Up to now we have those who were members but did not contribute anything to the institute, so we are also introducing subscription payments for our associates and our fellows. Once they do that, they become full members of the institute, becoming responsible for development of the institute much more than I think has been in the past. That is how we have been growing our institute.
MG: Take us through the fellowship and tell us the significance of this fellowship to IIZ and to the whole insurance industry.
GC: We started with a class of 12 people, which we feel was reasonable especially with regards to the coming in of Covid-19. If it was not for this much-dreaded pandemic, the class could have been bigger but we are glad that we have started.
The impact is that we are going to have more committed people who are going to develop the institute, grow it and to make it vibrant.
Our intention is to compete with world leaders like CII and IASA and we are on the correct path because we have revamped our qualification to meet those standards. But, like I said, what has delayed us is Covid 19, as has been the case with other sectors of the economy and many other things. There are things which we should have completed by last year which we are hoping we will now be able to finish mid this year for the qualification to start running.
However, we are also pleased that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we have managed to have all the exam sessions taking place. We had two last year and we are going to have two this year. We have also managed to keep our international market.
Lesotho has been one of the most promising because we have managed to agree with the market that our qualifications be regarded statutorily in terms of having the people who serve in the Lesotho insurance industry being unable to practise without the basic qualification. And they have picked IIZ as the basic qualification recognised for compliance purposes.
As I said, Covid-19 did slightly delay the process because the first batch of students who set the exams did not do too well because they had not prepared for the exam due to the lockdown. However, we have encouraged them to take some revision classes with us and when we did that they re-wrote in November and the pass rate has improved.
We are also expanding into Eswatini where they are already writing all our exams from COP up to associateship.
MG: Talking about Covid-19, what can say have been the major for drawbacks for the IIZ?
GC: The biggest problem has been that income generation from insurance companies has been lower than normal and what that means is the number of people who would write exams is significantly reduced.
I think a good example is that of life business where you would have agents moving around writing business. But during the Covid-19 lockdown that was not possible, it reduced business a lot. On the other hand, not necessarily regarding Covid-19, the economy, in general, resulted in less insurance business taking place. Insurance is one of those exchanges which when the economy suffers, they also suffer as numbers begin to drop.
MG: You spoke about expansion earlier, what can you say about your footprint in relation to the vision you have for the institute going into the future?
GC: We want to be the qualification for the region. IASA was ahead, but we are certain we can drive our qualification to be the insurance qualification of the region. We have the advantage as Zimbabwe that our image in terms of education is regarded highly. So we want to capitalise on that and deliver very good products. We still have to have our exams taken to Zambia and Malawi, which are our next targets within the region. We opened Angola last year, so we also want to move to Congo. We believe we are making some very good strides.
MG: How has brain drain affected the insurance industry?
GC: To some extent it has greatly assisted IIZ because those who have gone out of Zimbabwe associate or relate to IIZ in a big way and whenever we want certain initiatives introduced within the region, we get in touch with those people and they are in support of those initiatives.
MG: Going forward, do you have new plans to grow the vision of the IIZ in 2021?
GC: What we have been emphasising is that even during lockdown it is the best time for students to spend their time studying than remaining idle and those who have taken heed have actually come up with some of the best passes we have seen. We would want to encourage employers to ensure that their employees are qualified. We are asking that they promote them by paying for them or making schemes for their education.
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