The East African Standard (Nairobi) – via AllAfrica.com
18 December 2007
Posted to the web 23 December 2007
By Emmanuel Mwendwa
NAZIR Juma’s career in the corporate world has been illustrious, and somewhat chequered. His visionary business and entrepreneurship acumen seems to pervade various sectors in East Africa.
He is not only the chairman of Jubilee Holdings but also chairs the boards of more than 20 companies.
Jubilee Holdings is the parent firm of leading insurance companies that are listed at the Nairobi Stock Exchange, Uganda Securities Exchange and Dar-es-Salaam Stock Exchange.
“I have been an industrialist all my life,” the economist FS. As early as 1968 when Juma was 24, he was the managing director Adidas Teamsports, a position he still holds.
Besides being a board member at Diamond Trust Bank, Juma also sits on the World Business Academy’s board in San Francisco, US, as a founding trustee and vice-president for Africa.
Prior to his appointment at Jubilee, he served as chairman of Aga Khan Health Services for seven years, where he was instrumental in turning fortunes of Aga Khan hospitals in the country.
He joined Jubilee during in 2004 after group’s insurance companies began making inroads in Uganda and Tanzania. “We also have offices in Mauritius but we are in process of getting out of the island due to the small market that can’t sustain operations,” notes Juma.
Jubilee Holdings has been in business for 70 years and has developed a strong financial base and captured a good share of the market.
For the six months ending June 30, Jubilee Holdings posted a pre-tax profit of Sh233 million. This representsed a 15.5 per cent growth in comparison to last year’s Sh201.7 million recorded over a similar period.
“In the last four years, our philosophy has changed. Our marketing strategies are more aggressive and tandem with the renewed spirit to invest in new ventures,” he explains.
The new strategies contributed to the increased turnover, which grew from Sh2.4 billion in 2003 to Sh4.4 billion last year.
“Profit went up from Sh313 million in 2003 to Sh665 million last year. The growth makes Jubilee one of the leading insurers in East Africa, on the strength of good performance of life and non-life products.”
He attributes the performance to enhanced relations with clients, introduction of innovative customised products and a vibrant economic environment. “We have revamped delivery of quality products and services to ensure improved relations with our brokers and clients.”
Medical insurance remains the main thrust for profitability, earning the company a market leader’s status.
“We have a 25 per cent market share in medical insurance segment. Our association with Aga Khan hospital’s network, boosts our credibility hence we are looking into expansion in both Uganda and Tanzania,” he says.
Juma is quick to point out that in the last three years, the group drew a line between financial management and investment affiliates from the core insurance business.
“The separation has consequently granted the board a leeway to explore new investment options. We are especially targeting enterprises in foreign markets”.
In the region, life insurance penetration is still low, at one per cent. “We should be unhappy about this but as a company we are making major strides to rope in more people, ” asserts Juma.
“The HIV/Aids scare saw most companies become reluctant to concentrate on life insurance. But our philosophy is that since we are in risk business, it is our job to re-evaluate perceptions on HIV/Aids vis-‡-vis insuring infected clients”.
But even as Jubilee’s life insurance department takes on an aggressive approach, the company is in process of implementing numerous schemes unveiled last year in a plan to roll out innovative products in the market.
“We got the approval from the Commissioner of Insurance to sell traders’ comprehensive insurance policy,” notes Juma.
The policy will cover small and medium scale entrepreneurs against risks, including fire, loss of goods in transit and cash liabilities. “Our goal is inclined towards adding value to our clients as well as exploring segments neglected by other insurers and not to duplicate products existing in the market”.
He adds: “We are looking at existing vacuums and desperate needs, for instance by introducing an affordable funeral insurance policy as every household faces a major expenses when death occurs. Agriculture insurance is an untapped segment that can cushion farmers who lose their livestock or crop.
Juma laments that the local insurance market is saturated with too many companies offering similar products. As at the last count, there were 43 registered companies and over 200 intermediaries.
This in his view is too large a field hence it is crucial to look into growth aspects to keep shareholders happy. In developed economies eight to 10 insurance companies are considered adequate.
Juma hails the directive to increase shareholding requirement as a positive move. As a consequence of the proviso, smaller firms are expected to merge.
According to Juma, the group is keen on geographical expansion and is planning a foray into West Africa.
The expansion programme intends to integrate existing networks such as the IPS group, of which Juma is also chairman. IPS is present in Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali.
Serena Hotels, which are an affiliate of Jubilee’s network, benefited from the expansion strategy, with recent construction of two new establishments in Rwanda’s Kigali and Kivu regions.
“We are also looking for partnerships to spur on growth. As an Aga Khan Development Network policy, we do not drink all the waters of profitability by ourselves. Where we are successful, we share the fruits with the people of the respective countries and ensure our companies are listed in the stock markets,” says Juma.
Noting that Jubilee was the first incorporated insurance company in Kenya and East Africa in 1936, in the wake of economic recession, Juma concedes the company has undergone ups and downs.
A University of Wales – Cardiff graduate during, Juma cuts the image of an achiever and go-getter who thrives on hard work and diligence. His typical day begins as early as 4 am.
“I’m an early riser and normally I start work by 6.45 am in my private study. I spend a couple of hours reading and responding to official emails”, he says.
Juma works from three different offices and engages the individual CEOs in charge of Jubilee Holdings group in daily briefings to address pending issues.
“I will be lucky if I can leave the office by 6.30 pm . At times I even have to work on Saturdays,” says Juma.
The chairman also travels a great deal, for five to six months every year he is on the road to far flung existing and prospective operations in Africa and affiliate’s corporate interests scattered across Europe, Asia, Americas and Africa.
“I lead a busy lifestyle, but it is all well planned. I start early in the morning and end up with a long day but I cannot say I get stressed out. What I do is part of my life and I enjoy it,” he says.
His parting shot: “We have to maintain our status as market leaders in the insurance services sectors”.