THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EFFECTIVE CLAIMS MANAGEMENT AND THE GROWTH OF NIGERIAN INSURANCE INDUSTRY
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The history of insurance industry in Nigeria according to Augustine and Bamidele (2013) could be traced to the British colonial trading companies that established agency offices in Nigeria, on behalf of insurance companies in UK. After the Nigerian political independence of 1960, indigenously owned insurance companies sprang up, which as a result of inadequacy of capital, were unable to pay claims as at when due. This inadequacy of capital coupled with lack of technical and managerial skill, poor insurance regulatory framework, brought confidence crisis and strong apathy to insurance purchase in Nigeria (Augustine and Bamidele, 2013).
Insurance industry has been recognized globally as a driver of economic growth and development. The industry provides financial security to policy holders, through the pooling and investment of premiums out of which those who suffer unexpected losses are indemnified (Unachukwu, Afolabi, Alabi, 2015). A claim payment is the defining moment in the relationship between an insurance company and its customer. It is the chance to show that the years spent paying premiums were worth the expense. From a commercial point of view, claims payment represents the largest single cost to insurers and 80 percent of all premiums are spent on claims payment and associated handling charges (Butler and Francis, 2010 cited in Yusuf and Dansu, 2014).
An effective and prompt claims settlement by insurance companies has been identified as a tool that has the potential to enhance the growth of the industry (Unachukwu, Afolabi, Alabi, 2015). Hence, Parsons (2005) asserted that one of the principal functions of insurance is the settlement of claims. Claims settlement is the monetary compensation that is paid to the policyholder in the event of a loss. If a company does not effectively handle its claims service, it can tarnish its image and hence affect the sales and marketing of its insurance products. Insurance company’s attitude to claims settlement has in the past provoked a lot of public criticism and even attracted the attention of governments (Harry, 2012).
Claims management needs to be balanced with cost effective processes, for which effective data management systems are crucial for leveraging claims data in order to improve products and services (Rendek, Holtz and Fonseca, 2014). Moreover, since insurance is usually an intangible product for clients until they receive a payment for an insured loss, the claims experience can therefore significantly influence the clients understanding of and satisfaction with insurance. A positive claims experience may result in a long-term client and champion of the insurance programme. A negative experience, on the other hand, can lead to mistrust and policy termination. Claims management is therefore an integral part of an insurer’s effort to provide good customer service and to retain clients (Barry, 2011).
Claims management includes all managerial decisions and processes concerning the settlement and payment of claims in accordance with the terms of insurance contract (Redja, 2008). However, strengthening of claims departments, according to OECD (2004), involves effective claim procedures or operations which include claims reporting, claims assessment, claim processing, fraud detection and complaints and dispute settlements. But despite the above, claim settlement has never been without some hiccups for most insurance companies in Nigeria. Moreover, a company which fails to effectively settle claims to the satisfaction of customers, would definitely attract less business, as it is likely to discourage such clients from continuing to insure with the company. Such clients might even advise their friends, colleagues and relations not to patronize such a company (Onosede, 2013). Hence, this study explores the relationship between effective claims management and the growth of Nigerian insurance industry.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The significance of claims management to the growth of the insurance industry in Nigeria cannot be overstated, but despite the role played by the insurance industry to individuals, businesses and economic development of the nation at large, it is saddening to note that the insurance industry in Nigeria is still largely underdeveloped. Sequel to this unwholesome development, Omar (2005) identifies lack of trust and confidence in insurance institution, poor claims management, lack of reliable actuarial data for research and underdeveloped financial market as some of the bottlenecks to the growth of the insurance industry in Nigeria.
Managing claims effectively is a complex task. Despite its many steps and variations in each process, most Nigerian insurance companies struggle to consistently improve claims operations. This may not be unconnected with the poor claims process and non-recognition given to the staff of the claims department in the industry. An insurance company is basically set up like other profit-oriented industry for financial gains while rendering essential services to their clients. But in recent times poor handling of claims has been a major drawback to performance of insurance companies. The menace has been so prevalent that many policyholders in Nigeria often contemplate terminating their policies in the face of the insurance companies not indemnifying them on account of losses suffered.
The basic challenges to claims management and its attendant effect on insurance growth in Nigeria ranges from; inefficient and ineffective claims assessment and processing, poor claims settlement procedure looking at the claims paid and its effects on overall profit made by insurance companies, inability of insurance companies to remain solvent in order to settle claims as at when due, and dispute settlements that leave customers largely unsatisfied. Hence for the insurance industry to be well patronized and contribute its expected objective of mobilizing monetary assets from the surplus economic agents and channeling the same to areas of deficit and efficient uses in the modern business economy of Nigeria, effective claims management becomes sacrosanct. It is against this backdrop that this study seeks to examine the relationship between effective claims management and the growth of the insurance industry in Nigeria.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between effective claims management and the growth of the insurance industry in Nigeria. Other salient objectives are:
a.To explore the relationship between claims management and insurance companies’ underwriting.
b.To examine the effect of claims settlement on demand for insurance.
1.4 Research Questions
The study will be guided by the following research questions:
1.Is claims settlement a significant predictor of insurance companies’ underwriting?
2.What is the correlation between claims settlement and demand for insurance?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
In the course of the study, the researcher will test the following hypotheses:
Ho: Prompt claims settlement is not a significant predictor of insurance companies’ underwriting.
Hi: Prompt claims settlement is a significant predictor of insurance companies’ underwriting.
Ho: There is no significant relationship between claims settlement and demand for insurance.
Hi: There is a significant relationship between claims settlement and demand for insurance.