Adebowale Banjo is the general manager at AutoGenius, a business strategist and business development expert. He spoke with The Spark team about AutoGenius, a pioneer player in Nigeria’s InsurTech space.
I am Adebowale Banjo, general manager at AutoGenius, a business strategist and business development expert. I am also a husband and father – that’s my 24/7 job.
I was raised with strong Christian values and taught the importance of family, hard work, perseverance and focus by my parents and those lessons are the pillars of my growth.
I grew up and schooled in Ijebu-Ode, a small town with a strong communal texture, everyone was literally responsible for everyone.
I wasn’t one of those kids that knew what they wanted to do with their lives from a young age; I’d say I discovered myself as my path unfolded.
I mean, I studied zoology in school and started my career in banking but now I’m in insurtech having also worked in telecoms, e-commerce/logistics and consulting.
I’ve always been curious and ready to try new things and so far the journey has been interesting- not always smooth but everything has worked out well in the end.
At AutoGenius, I am responsible for the company’s strategic focus and growth. I am happiest when our products and services delight our customers and of course, when the numbers look good. I am also fascinated by data; the clarity that analyzed data provides is just enthralling.
I started my career in the FI department of Bank PHB and subsequently moved to the corporate banking division in the same bank. Those were very important years for me as I was exposed to different business verticals and dynamics.
Each business sector had its intricacies and one needed to understand these distinctions to adequately compete and win market share.
I then had a stint with Xpert Solutions, a consulting firm that worked primarily with FMCGs like Unilever and Promasidor. Again this was another role where each day and each client was different, the briefs were never the same and a lot of creativity was required to succeed.
Subsequently, I joined Mobitel, an internet service provider before moving to Mall for Africa as Head of Business Development to establish strategic partnerships, drive the company’s growth in Nigeria and its expansion into other African countries.
I joined AutoGenius in 2016 and it’s been an intriguing journey so far. We are redefining insurance through technology, improved customer experience and innovative products. We’ve done some great work but there’s still more to come.
AutoGenius was founded in 2014 to accelerate insurance penetration in Nigeria using technology; we removed the traditional bottlenecks, improved consumer experience, provided transparency on the contractual details and made insurance available to Nigerians on the go.
For the first time, Nigerians could compare rates and benefits from leading insurance providers in Nigeria before buying, thereby assuring the best coverage at the lowest rates.
We started out as a comparison platform for auto insurance but we later pivoted to a product engineering company, creating innovative insurance products for specific verticals and the entire retail market with three things in mind: Adequate coverage, easy access to the products and affordability.
One of such products is FlexiCare, an affordable health insurance product that allows monthly payments, 24/7 online access to doctors, roaming across over 400 hospitals, access to surgeries, delivery and maternity care all for N1,600 monthly.
We are currently working on a number of projects that will be unveiled in phases over the next 18-24 months. We will be leveraging technology and data to create bespoke insurance products for individuals based on their unique habits and preferences.
The goal is to replace blanket risk evaluation and impersonalized models with personalized data driven risk profiling that enables us create insurance products for individuals based on their distinctive lifestyles.
Dealing with Consumer Skepticism
With the skepticism, the key for us has been constant education and excellent service delivery. We’ve built trust by consistently delivering on our brand promise to our customers; from policy inception to claim processing, we ensure speed and convenience and our customers are always happy to do business with us and recommend us to others.
Over the years we’ve optimized our processes across all touch points with the customers and today, we can boldly say that we offer the best insurance experience in Nigeria. Currently, claims on our platform, are settled within 24 hours of documentation.
While most transactions in Nigeria are still cash based, there has been some increase in electronic transactions over the years and tech companies have benefited from this growth.
People, understandably, do not want to lose their money to fraudsters and so it is important for companies to build secure platforms and continue to ensure that their platforms stay secure.
Our platform is secure and we are dedicated to keeping it that way.
InsurTech as a Blue Ocean
Yes I do; the Insurtech space in Nigeria is largely untapped and we are nowhere near where the rest of the world is. Today, how many insurance companies in Nigeria have functional websites that customers can successfully complete transactions on? – Just a handful.
Can a woman in Karu, Nasarawa State dial a USSD code to buy health insurance for herself and her baby on her feature phone?
We are not even talking about using block chain technology for smart contracts to eliminate cumbersome KYC processes and identity validation issues or using wearables and telematics to improve risk assessment and pricing based on real time data.
There is so much that technology can transform in the insurance space with regards to underwriting, product distribution and even claims payments.
Imagine an HMO giving out smart bands to its customers and gathering real time data that enables it to measure the lifestyle of its customers and price their risks based on the data collected.
So, a customer who lives an active lifestyle and eats well can pay a lower premium than one who lives a sedentary lifestyle, eats junk food and is overweight.
While this requires significant investments from insurance companies, the benefits outweigh the costs and insurance companies must be willing to make that sacrifice now to have access to a larger pool of customers and deepen insurance penetration.
There is also the issue of regulation which needs to become favourable quickly, if we really want to see tremendous growth in Insurtech like we are seeing in the Fintech space today.
Having said that, we’ve moved the needle a bit and AutoGenius is committed to the growth of Insurtech in Nigeria.
Dear Young Entrepreneur
While money is important, it is not the sole factor for success in building a business. Before approaching investors to take a bet on them, aspiring entrepreneurs need to answer these questions:
- Do I have viable products/services?
- Have I validated these ideas on a small scale?
- Do I have the expertise or proficiency to make this work?
Also, they need to know that people invest in people and not ideas. Having a track record of success and good character makes it easier to secure funds.
In any case, their initial investments will most likely come from people in their immediate cycle that can vouch for their character and it becomes tougher to raise money if one is already lacking in this regard.
Having said that, it’s best to start small, build a valuable network and make your mistakes while the stakes are low. It’s easier for investors to bet on you when you’ve been through the learning process.
Lessons for a Decade
There’s a lot I know now that I didn’t know last year not to mention ten years ago, I am always seeking ways to improve myself so I guess that is expected. However, I’ll say the one thing I know now and I wish I knew ten years ago is how money really works.
A lot of people know how to make money, even more people know how to spend money but very few know how money really works.
Fintech in Nigeria
It’s been interesting; we’ve had brilliant startups with impressive numbers over the past three years. There’s Flutterwave and Paystack in the payment processing space, PiggyVest and Cowrywise in the auto savings and investment space and the likes of Branch and Carbon in the instant lending space.
Fintech companies have received the largest share of investments so far, they have also enjoyed collaboration from the banks and these factors have contributed to the boom that we are experiencing now.
CBN’s drive to improve financial inclusion has opened up more opportunities for Fintech companies to thrive; however, they must create more products that can serve the down market that form a majority of the financially excluded.
With the licensing of Telcos as Payment Service Banks; we might be experiencing further explosion of Fintech products. The Telcos already have access to these markets and are adequately equipped to serve them through their existing infrastructural base.
Hopefully, Insurance companies will leverage this reach to create and distribute insurance products to the down market,
Regardless, Fintech companies have become the poster boys for success in the startup ecosystem and I hope Insurtech companies catch up soon enough.
I spend time with my family. I have an amazing family and the thrills are never ending, Football is my favourite pastime but I also love music, movies and audiobooks.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.