Sonali Life to meet diverse demands of customers: Rashed Aman

Published : 09 Jul 2021 09:11 PM | Updated : 12 Jul 2021 01:15 AM

"The contribution of insurance industry is massive to the GDP. The present government has given much attention to the insurance sector. However, I think the insurance industry still needs even more attention and utmost priority in next year's budget." said Mir Rashed Bin Aman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sonali LIfe Insurance Co. Ltd.

In an exclusive interview with daily Bangladesh Post, Rashed said “The industry is on the right track, if all the concerned individuals and organizations move forward together in the same direction, the sector has the scope to develop exponentially.” 

He mentioned that his company- Sonali Life Insurance (SLI)- wanted to create a life insurance company for customers with our 100% commitment on payment of claims in 7 days supported by 24 hour customer service by mainly focusing on IT. SLI is trying to change all the negative aspects of the industry into a positive one. 

Mir Rashed Bin Aman is a charismatic, smart and dynamic leader, leading his company towards the targeted destinations with due worthiness. 

He made spontaneous replies to a set of queries made by Bangladesh Post in regard to the problems, prospects and future potentials of the country's insurance industry as well as of his company- SLI.

The excerpts of his interview are below: 

Bangladesh Post: Sonali Life Insurance (SLI) has appeared as a leading, promising and modern insurance company that has been able to initiate a change in terms of image of the industry and bringing changes in the way of people’s thinking pattern. Where did you get the inspiration to initiate this change?

Mir Rashed Bin Aman: Since the inception of the company, the main vision was to build a company which can change the future of the insurance industry in totality. Compared to the insurance sectors around the world, we felt Bangladesh having the potential of growth in the sector seemed to have fallen behind in its due course due to unhealthy market practices. We have been trying and have achieved success to a certain extent. Honestly speaking, we had this clear vision of creating a company that will earn the trust of its clients only by complete clarity in the business operations and services. Therefore incorporating ERP at the most initial stage of the company was a crucial and an essential part of the framework of the company. This vision has been given from our founder Mostafa Golam Quddus, the main architect of building a transparent 100 percent commitment based company called Sonali Life insurance. 

Our main objective was to eliminate the negative aspects of life insurance. Due to the negativity prevailing in the market even after so many years, the marketing penetration has not increased according to the expectations. Better Market penetration is possible, only if we can shift the mindset of our clients towards the positive from the negative. It was only a matter of reliance and trust which many companies failed to keep and we therefore  secured a strong place in the sector, simply by holding strong to our commitments. That was our main concern and we understood people’s trust revolved around receiving money and better customer service. 

Our intention was clear from the very beginning. 

Hence, By focusing on IT we tried to turn all the negative aspects into positive. The law regarding life insurance says that settlement has to be done within 90 days of submitting documents. We have received 10,000 claims so far in the last seven years and all of them have been settled within seven days! That was a remarkable game changer for us! As everything is done in a transparent manner through IT, claims were settled on time and all claims can be tracked from our website. 

Bangladesh Post: The main problem regarding insurance companies in Bangladesh is trust. In the developed countries, insurance is involved in every step of life. But we are not being able to establish that in our country due to lack of trustworthiness, modernization, ICT etc. Do you believe that you are moving forward addressing all these issues? What kind of barriers are you facing?

Mir Rashed Bin Aman: Yes, I do believe that we are addressing these issues. Our Performance speaks louder than words. We don’t have huge Billboards or expensive TV ads. We have been getting business mainly by the positive feedback we have received from our current customers. Word of mouth is an essential key of our marketing strategy. Our strategies are pre planned and focused. 

We have been creating customer awareness face to face by educating them about how they can benefit from our system and how they can check their bonus, receipt, premium certificate, online payment etc. Even during this crisis period of Covid-19 we saw 70 percent growth year on year. The gross premium that was 81 crore in 2019 increased to 135 crore in 2020.We are gaining the trust of our customers due to timely claim settlements. It was only possible because our clients trust us, our employees and our business policy. 

To reach this far, We had to face many challenges as Sonali Life Insurance has been different from other companies from the very beginning in terms of intention, objective, commitment, system and service. 

We are the first insurance company that launched e-KYC, e-receipt and customer care. We also launched a co-branded debit card with MTB. We verify all the information beforehand from our customers to avert any kind of misunderstanding. 

We have successfully overcome all the barriers faced for being new and different. 

Our online collection has increased significantly. Earlier the online collection was nominal compared to the bank deposits but now 80 percent of the collection is received from online. That is an amazing figure considering Bangladesh as a developing country! 

Bangladesh Post: There are some stigmas prevalent regarding the employees associated with life insurance companies. What are your views on ensuring job security, providing different facilities and benefits to the employees?

Mir Rashed Bin Aman: This was definitely another huge challenge for us. We have tried to provide the same service and clarity to our employees that we provide to our customers. We have always tried to think from the perspective of our employees. Most of our employees are fresh graduates. We have tried to create a learning space for employees so that they can learn and earn. The satisfaction that they receive from constant training and upgrade in the changing market trends really helps them to combat market negativity and work pressure. 

The working environment has been created and modified according to their needs and interests in terms of benefit, insurance and provident fund. Their increment depends on their performance. Although people are reluctant to join this industry, people have shown keen interest in working with our company as they know for sure, if they strive they will definitely be recognised and rewarded. 

Bangladesh Post: What do you have to say about the proposals made regarding the insurance industry in the current year's national budget? Mir Rashed Bin Aman: The present government has given much attention to the insurance sector. However, I think the insurance industry can be given much more attention in the proposed budget as I believe the insurance sector can contribute far better  to the economy. There is room for improvement and I absolutely feel the scope is immense. We are hoping for the best in the next budget. 

Bangladesh Post: What are your views regarding the position of our insurance industry in comparison to developed countries?

Mir Rashed Bin Aman: In my opinion, our country is far behind in comparison to developed countries in this matter. We have to cover this gap by utilising our resources, the Human Resources of our country. Our insurance company can definitely bring down the unemployment rate of Bangladesh as the insurance industry is growing and huge recruitment is necessary for its growth as we predict the market penetration can be much higher. So we have started an initiative; hopefully others will also come forward and we will be able to reduce the gap. Insurance is absolutely necessary in developed nations. Therefore, their insurance industry’s contribution is massive to the GDP. We are on that track. If all the concerned people and organizations and authority boards move forward together in the same direction, this sector will develop eventually. That is my strong belief! 

Bangladesh Post: Now please tell us about the branch network, asset base and overall situation of Sonali Life Insurance? 

Mir Rashed Bin Aman: In the upcoming months we will be completing 8 years of our perseverant journey. We started our journey in 2013. We have been successfully and confidently moving forward with the vision and mission with which we started. The number of our employees has crossed the 500 mark. We have more than 15000 Agents all over the country Alhamdulillah. Our overall cost of the company was only 48 percent last year. 

Meanwhile, Our IPO subscription has also been completed and was over subscribed by more than 36.5 times. We have over 103 branches across the country. We hope that the number of branches will surpass 130 this year. In Shaa Allah. Our total asset base has already crossed 200 crore. Our gross premium target for this year is Tk300 crore. We have already achieved Tk 120 crore of our target. The renewal base of our company is one of the highest in the industry. The renewal percentage is 82 % at present, which proves that the customers are relying on us more and more everyday. This is the evidence. 

Bangladesh Post: How the management authority of your company is extending all the support to implement all these innovative ideas?

Mir Rashed Bin Aman: The paid-up capital of our company with which we started is still intact. Therefore, you can understand how much the board has supported us. It would not have been possible without the support from the honourable board members. Their faith and confidence in us has helped the company to move forward and position ourselves as one of the market leaders in the sector.  The company’s will-power, good- will and performance depends on our supportive board. 

We have a mission to carry on because of the direction of the board. Our company is working relentlessly towards bringing back the faith that was once envisioned by the Father of our Nation and being strongly followed up by the Honourable Prime Minister herself, about this industry. Therefore this industry has the potential of creating a significant mark in the global insurance scenario.