Ombudsman gives thumbs up to insurance industry but calls for greater awareness

Wednesday, 2 October 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shabiya Ali Ahlam Although low penetration of insurance in Asian countries is linked to the public not trusting the industry, Insurance Ombudsman Dr. Wickrema Weerasooriya asserted the statement is certainly not true for Sri Lanka. Opining that the current issues prevailing in the insurance industry are rather small and can be adjusted, he said: “I am proud to say that our industry is clean. Our insurance professionals are not second hand car salesman. Only a very few executives have done the wrong thing, but when their mistakes are brought to light, the respective companies take corrective measures to rectify the problem. Therefore the statement that there is no penetration because we are not trusted is not true for Sri Lanka.” Dr. Weerasooriya made these comments at the first technical session of the 17th Insurance Congress of Developing Countries titled ‘Low Insurance Penetration in Emerging Economies and the Way Forward’. Holding the position as an ombudsman for over eight years, Dr. Weerasooriya attributed the reasons for low penetration rates in the country to the lack of awareness. “I receive over 500 complaints every year. And over eight years I have addressed over 4,000 complaints. I hear more than what the regulator hears. Regulators look at the statistics to understand the situation of the insurance industry. I look at human beings who are complainants and they tell me why insurance is not better known. The reason is simple. There is no awareness,” explained Dr. Weerasooriya. He stated that the majority of the people are under the impression that insurance is the money of shareholders and are unaware that it is the money of the public. Dr. Weerasooriya also stated that while the education system can be used to increase awareness, this medium has not been tapped into as yet. “We have over 10,000 schools in our country. In my view, we (the industry) must make use of our education system. I have asked the regulator to make insurance and banking a subject in the secondary syllabus. Our students love to learn this and are highly interested in the subject. So why not use it as a medium to increase awareness?” he asserted. Furthermore, he said while women are highly rated in the nation, the insurance industry is not doing enough to cater to this segment. “We have the strength of our women but there isn’t a single product designed that is specific. This is an area where there is great potential,” said Dr. Weerasooriya.