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Tanzania 2018 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Stephen Lokonyo, CEO of Britam Tanzania, on the importance of loaning to SMEs, using technology to boost agriculture-related services, and how public spending on infrastructure should ease the market.

Stephen Lokonyo
BIOGRAPHY
Stephen Lokonyo is the CEO of Britam Tanzania, a position he assumed in November 2015. Prior to his posting to Tanzania, he worked for Britam General Insurance in Kenya as the Broker Relationship Manager. He has over 20 years’ experience in insurance, having worked for leading insurance companies in the region, including Heritage Insurance, UAP, and AIG Kenya. He holds a bachelor’s in commerce from the University of Nairobi and is an Associate of the Insurance Institute of London.

How do you assess Britam's performance over the past year?

In 2016, we focused on finalizing the rebranding of Britam. This included the re-launch of our Arusha branch, which we completed at the end of 2016. Since the start of 2017, we have placed increasing emphasis on driving innovation. We had indicated to the industry that we will lead in terms of product innovation and have lived up to this claim, namely coming up with new products that are better suited for the market. In 2017, we have launched two products: Britam Travel and Prestige Motor Insurance, a product targeted at high-end motor vehicles. We launched Britam Health on May 30, 2017. This is an inpatient-only corporate product targeted at SMEs and corporations with more than 10 employees.

What is Britam doing to harness increasing opportunities among the growing middle class, SMEs, and the manufacturing segment?

In terms of SMEs, we still expect business to grow in spite of a couple of challenges from this year, the last due to liquidity issues in the market. Banks have not been lending as they used to in the past, and that has had a direct impact on the SME sector, which depends on small loans from the banking industry. Banks' reluctance to lend, coupled with the liquidity squeeze in the market, has taken its toll on many small businesses.

How do you use innovation to reach out to Tanzania's large uninsured population?

At the moment, we are working with an external provider to develop a platform that will enable us to sell some of our products online from a smartphone. We have already worked on an application that we will launch shortly. We want to use the app to sell products such as motor insurance, home insurance, and possibly travel insurance. Agriculture is still a key area of focus for us. The lead time required to roll out a product in agriculture is longer than in other sectors, because the right partners are needed in the development of such an offering specifically designed to take care of the concerns of farmers.

How does technology change your product portfolio at Britam?

We basically run our business internally on technology platforms; this is how we manage most of our processes and products. The Britam Group is currently working on a project to upgrade its core systems. This will enable us to improve our interface with partners, be they brokers, agents, or even clients. This has been in the pipeline for the last two years or so, and we have already rolled out the ERP module. We expect to be able to roll out some aspects of this upgrade in the coming months. This will allow clients to access some of our functions, like claims.

What are your targets for 2017, and how do you see these being met?

In terms of the outlook, the year has started fairly well. We have ambitious targets for 2017, particularly because of the expectation that the new regime would have settled in and there would be some infrastructure spending by the government. The private sector also needs to adapt to the style of the new government; however, we believe that is happening now and things are beginning to pick up speed again. This is why our expectations are high for 2017. So far, we have seen the first signs of success. That being said, we are still awaiting more movement on the ground. The government has not yet released funds into the economy in terms of spending and infrastructure. It is taking some time, though we expect this credit squeeze to ease going into the later part of the year.