Liz Booth spoke to firms in Africa and Asia to examine the Chartered journey of overseas insurers
ZEP-RE is a regional reinsurance company established in 1993 in Nairobi, Kenya with a mandate to support the development of insurance markets within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. With a local presence in seven countries on the continent -- Kenya, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Sudan -- ZEP-RE underwrites more than 4,000 treaties with 500 companies and draws business from 50-plus countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.
Headquartered in Nairobi, ZEP-RE directly employs 72 people and has a programme of learning not just for its own staff but also for the wider insurance profession in east Africa, including for local insurance regulators.
Joseph Nabimanya, the company's HR director, told us: "We are deeply committed to improving the skills of our staff. Our managing director and CEO, Hope Murera, has a clear policy that we find the right person for the job and then ensure they are properly qualified -- they need to be the right fit to join us rather than being highly qualified. We can manage that after they join us.
"Having said that, we have a total staff of 72 people, of which 30 are directly involved in insurance and of those, seven are Chartered insurers. On the underwriting team, uniquely (certainly in this market), everyone is Chartered or working towards becoming Chartered. In the rest of the overall team, we have about half of them with Chartered status in their own disciplines. So, for example, they will be Chartered accountants or Chartered surveyors."
In terms of support, Mr Nabimanya said: "These people are going to be advising our clients, so it's essential they are as well qualified as possible. To help them achieve that goal, we will cover their subscription costs for CII membership and pay for their exams. We also buy the relevant books so they can prepare for those exams."
Beyond that, however, ZEP-RE operates its own training academy. Run by Shipango Muteto, the academy serves to train not just ZEP-RE staff but also insurers and brokers across eastern and southern Africa. In the past year, it has also started training for the national insurance regulators.
Mr Muteto said: "We realise there is often a huge gap in people's understanding of reinsurance, even when they are the very people buying the policies or setting the policies. So, we launched the academy to help bridge the gap. It has been really important to engage with the regulators, identifying the gaps in knowledge across the sector."
These people are going to be advising our clients, so it's essential they are as well qualified as possible. To help them achieve that goal, we will cover their subscription costs for CII membership and pay for their exams.
ZEP-RE has also developed its own reinsurance certification programme, working with the Nairobi-based College of Insurance. Now, Mr Muteto would like to go one stage further.
"We are working with various regulators to see if we can have this certification made compulsory for those working in the reinsurance space," he said.
"It would help drive standards upwards, build capacity (which is part of our mandate), improve resilience within insurance companies and engender greater trust in insurance among consumers -- which is much needed across the region."
And beyond that, Mr Shipango said: "Ideally, we would build a stronger relationship directly with the CII and eventually maybe the certification can be approved so that candidates automatically have some points towards their CII qualifications."
He believes this is very important for emerging markets, where there is an urgent need to upgrade skills but candidates are often struggling to pay the fees. Another challenge, he said, is relevance.
"If the first exams that candidates take are designed locally, they will be more relevant," he explained. One of his co-workers who recently sat her CII exams said the greatest challenge was in understanding the context of the questions.
"I have never been to the UK and don't know the rules of the road, for example. I don't know UK law either and, while it has been very interesting to learn about it, I am unlikely to ever need that information," she said.
IPP is a licensed financial advisory company serving high-net-worth and high-income executives, business owners and entrepreneurs in Singapore and the southeast Asia region. It offers advice in the areas of estate planning, life and health insurance economic life planning, key owner/executive life insurance and business continuation planning, comprehensive financial and investment planning.
Headquartered in Singapore, with an associate office in Hong Kong, the organisation has nearly 600 financial adviser representatives and staff. We spoke to managing director Alan To about the company's growing relationship with the CII.
We have sponsorship for those who can achieve higher qualification in the financial planning field
How long have you been a member of CII Asia?
Although the CII is very experienced and has existed for a long time, the exposure in Hong Kong (HK) is lower than in the UK and still improving. In HK, we often attend events hosted by the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK). However, we have now started asking the CII to host continuing professional development (CPD) courses for our firm.
How many staff hold Chartered status and how many are working towards it?
We do not have anyone that holds Chartered status with the CII currently. But I am planning time to allow for that. The most advanced designation is certified financial planner (CFP). I am a CFP in HK and have the cross-border certification in China, while 15% of our firm are CFP HK holders -- and the number is increasing. I know that the only way to have a lasting career in financial planning is to be more professional. And I am moving my team in this direction.
Do many of your staff hold other qualifications -- for example, Chartered accountant?
As I said, we have about 15% advisers who are CFP HK. In financial planning in HK, the most valued status is CFP. We also have many qualified retirement advisers (another accreditation from IFPHK) in our firm. In addition, many of us studied IFPHK courses so as to become CFP and associate financial planner.
What do you do as an employer to encourage your staff to improve their qualifications?
We have sponsorship for those who can achieve higher qualification in the financial planning field. We allow extra study leave, on top of the number of days' holidays, for our advisers for studying.
Have you/or your staff encountered any challenges in answering questions -- for example, learning UK law?
More than 10 years ago, I learned that the regulators were making changes to an advisory-based career in UK. I got a shock, as I was a senior branch manager in Prudential at the time. That is one of the reasons I moved from a tied agency to IPP.
Would you like local certifications to count towards CII exams and do staff struggle with the cost of the exams?
Of course, if IFPHK's courses can be counted towards CII qualifications, it would be very good. In my firm, exams are not a big issue as most of the advisers we have are graduates. They would not be very resistant to sitting further exams.