Recently, the SONARWA Holdings (Societe Nouvelle D’assurance du Rwanda), an insurance franchise, was advised by the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), to break up into two to increase efficiency. Allen Karungi Gatete, the SONARWA General Insurance Company corporate communications manager, explained to Business Times’ Ben Gasore why the move is for the better:
Question: SONARWA has undergone structural transformations, can you tell us what all this means.
Answer: SONARWA has been broken down into two companies; we now have SONARWA Life Assurance and SONARWA General Insurance Company Limited. The two firms are managed independently and each will soon occupy its own offices. They were also registered as two different firms at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
What is the difference between life assurance and general insurance?
General insurance covers non-life category involving motor insurance, estate comprehensive insurance, lease care policy, estate fire insurance scheme, personal liability insurance, product liability insurance, fidelity guarantee insurance, workman compensation cover, money insurance, personal or group accident, professional indemnity, goods-in-transit insurance and theft, burglary and fire insurance.
The company focuses on understanding each individual client’s peculiar needs to assess the risks the client is exposed to and offer tailor-made insurance solutions.
SONARWA provides all classes of non-life insurance cover with emphasis on the under-explored hi-tech areas of aviation, engineering, marine and livestock insurance, which is a new product we introduced last year. SONARWA Life Assurance handles life-related cover like loan protection assurance, family protection plan, pension plans, education endowment plan and provident fund or gratuity schemes.
Did you have to split the company to offer these services?
The regulator, which is central bank, wanted us to have two different companies to separate life and non-life insurance products. Because the two companies do different things, it was better that we separate them after BNR suggestion.
General Insurance is now headed by Jacob Erhabor as the acting managing director, while the acting boss for Life Assurance is Tony Twahirwa.
Does the separation affect your clients, and is the company operating like it used to before?
Actually, now we are operating better because they are two separate firms. I should say, people who are handling life know their clientele.
Besides, we have tried to inform customers through the media that we now have two different companies.
It was recently reported in the media that SONARWA failed to pay claims and was sued, and was subsequently ordered by the court to pay the money. Should we say that you have failed to compensate clients?
SONARWA is the leading insurer in Rwanda today and, to emphasise that, in 2012 we paid out over Rwf2b in claims. No other insurance company in this country has been able to pay such a big sum.
According to a report by the Rwanda Governance Board, people testified that they were satisfied with our services.
Besides, we pay our claims in time. If you want to make a claim, it will only take you five working days if you submitted a complete file.
Have you solved all your cases in court?
Being in court doesn’t mean that we are failing to pay. We pay our claims as and when they come in. That is why the business is growing and we have dominated the insurance sector for long. I will give you an example, where the Guarantee Fund took us to court. It was fair. The latter got Rwf69m and it was fair. Everyone got 50-50.
What are you doing to improve your services?
We are planning to open up branches across the country that will be operating for long hours daily. So far, we have over 40 branches countrywide. We are also ensuring that our customer care service is good by training our staff regularly, especially those who deal with clients directly.
Rwanda is growing very fast, are you planning to unveil new products to take advantage of the growth?
We are planning to launch new products soon. Like last year, we launched livestock insurance, so this year, too, we are planning to bring something new.
Are you going to rebrand now that you have split the company?
The two firms are all under SONARWA Holdings, which comprises of other investments like hotels and apartments.