I was born in Tanzania, East Africa and went to UK at age 12 to attend a boarding school. I am a graduate in Business Studies from Bournemouth University, and also have a post-graduate Diploma in Management Studies from Liverpool University. Following my studies, I joined the British Civil Service and after 5 years decided to pursue a career in life assurance. I held executive positions in major UK Life Assurance Companies, Allied Dunbar, Trident Life and finally Century Life before coming to Pakistan in 1994 to join EFU Life as Chief Executive Officer and MD. I am also a Director of EFU General Insurance and Vice Chairman of Allianz EFU Health and a “Certified Director” from Pakistan Institute of Corporate Governance.
AS THE LEADING LIFE INSURANCE PROVIDER, OUR VISION IS TO TAKE LIFE INSURANCE TO EVERY HOUSEHOLD IN PAKISTAN.
BM: What was the reason behind stepping into this industry, passion or co incidence?
TGS: I believe most people who join life insurance sales do so by accident because at that point in their lives they are in a state of flux! It was no different for me! I was moving from London to Bristol and an acquaintance suggested that before I find a ‘proper” job I can join the life insurance company he was with. That’s how my journey started. It’s only when you have joined that you appreciate the inherent value of my industry and the job satisfaction you derive.
BM: EFU Life recently has won the award for the “Best Insurance Company of Pakistan”, what is the secret behind this success?
TGS: There is no panacea. It’s doing the right things day in day out–perseverance, hard work, commitment and being client-centric in everything you do. Our brand EFU has been in existence since 1932, and has evolved from a company set up in Calcutta, to finding a new home in 1947 in a new country, to becoming the largest life company in Afro-Asian countries (excluding Japan) by 1961, and then going through nationalization and merging into a public entity and then the rebirth again in 1992 after privatization. We started the company from scratch in 1992 with a handful of employees, with a paid capital of only Rs.30 million. Today, we have more than two hundred branches, a field force of around five thousand dedicated and trained people, who are marketing our products throughout the country. The paid up capital has grown to Rs.1billion, the largest in the private sector, and we are the country’s largest asset managers, managing funds in excess of Rs.85 billion. The accolades are a testament to an uncompromising will to provide the best solutions and services supported by product and technological innovations, our growing distribution footprint, and most importantly our human capital, which stands committed and is working tirelessly to set higher benchmarks.
BM: Every successful company has to undergo a lot of challenges, How do you cope with all the criticism & face those challenges?
TGS: My Founding Chairman, MrRoshen Ali Bhimjee told me when I joined “don’t be afraid of making mistakes”! You simply can’t grow an organization without getting things wrong at times! I consider challenges a way to break barriers, to reinvent and transform. When faced with a challenge or criticism, it’s important to keep yourself positive, think long term and to take a step back and realign with the bigger picture.
BM: What is your opinion about the recent trend of competitive advertising?
TGS: The trend of brand wars may gain talkability, especially in today’s digital age, but if it turns negative it is not something I would not endorse. It’s key for a brand to establish its own competitive advantage and have a clear unique sales proposition (USP). Speak about what your brand offers and stands for, rather than putting down the competition. That I feel gains more respect for the brand, and gets you loyal customers that will stay with you over the long term.
BM: What major changes have you seen in the Insurance industry, in last 5 years and how do you see the life insurance industry moving forward?
TGS: The life insurance sector has been in a high-growth mode in the last few years. In 2015, the life insurance total gross premium crossed the Rs. 150 Billion mark, registering a 5 year annualized growth of approximately 25%. One of the primary drivers for this growth momentum has been the Bancassurance distribution channel i.e. partnerships with banks for the distribution of life insurance products. During these last 5 years there has been a lot of emphasis on developing distribution channels and investment in technology. Other than the traditional mediums of servicing clients, companies are looking at expanding their digital and social media presence. Customers are smarter than ever and expect the very best when it comes to financial planning. There has also been a lot of emphasis on awareness about financial planning and life insurance products and the life insurance industry is now seen actively promoting their brand on both ATL and BTL mediums. Although the life insurance penetration is a mere 0.5% of GDP, the double digit growth in insurance premiums is an indicator of the immense growth potential in the Life insurance sector. I expect this growth momentum to continue in the near future. The emphasis on developing existing and new distribution channels together with the investment in technology will continue to fuel growth. The opening up of window Takaful operations during 2015 will give a boost to the marketing of Shariah compliant insurance and this in turn will increase the size of the insurance market.
BM: What is the next big thing we will witness by EFU Life Assurance in future?
TGS: I do not see any one “earth shattering” thing but an amalgamation of different ideas to provide innovative and efficient financial planning solutions that cater to all pockets and segments of our society. Our vision as the leading life insurance provider is to take life insurance to every household in Pakistan. Last year we launched an initiative ‘ChotiRakam Bara Kamal’ which was a step to reaching the rural parts of Pakistan to educate people on the many benefits of life insurance and the financial security that it offers to families. The campaign tagline ‘ChotiRakam Bara Kamal’ is linked with the bigger idea of ‘Life meinkamalkarnazaroorihai’. It signifies the affordability of life insurance to a common man, conveying that with a small amount (ChotiRakam), one can achieve big (Bara Kamal) in life. So far we have covered over 60 cities of rural Sindh, Punjab, and KPK since the launch last year, and we intend to take this rural awareness drive forward. There will also be a lot of emphasis on productivity of existing channels. Focus on IT will continue, especially adopting new trends in technology and the Company will continue to invest in enhancing the technology base for back-end operations and for front end sales and services to clients. Improvements in technology have been at the forefront of all our initiatives. This includes the development of mobility concepts and services. We intend to deliver more value through our services which complement our products that let our clients enjoy peace of mind while financially enabling them to plan for the important milestones in life. Last year, EFU Life became the first company to receive the license and launched its Window Takaful Operations, under the brand name Hemayah. The advent of Hemayah offers financial planning solutions to customers in a Shariah Compliant way. The step is of strategic importance as it opens up a new market segment for the company and serves as a pathway of growth for the industry. The main task that lies ahead for us for future growth is to further expand our network and distribution channels for marketing our new products, and continue to grow our portfolio and our offerings.
BM: What do you plan on doing for the bright future of the Pakistani youth?
TGS: Pakistan is a nation of 200 million people, 65 per cent of whom are less than 25 years of age. It is one of the richest countries of the world in terms of its human as well as material resources. It has full potential of becoming a great economic power, if we get the right leadership, capable of effectively utilizing its enormous resources. Youth has the power to move the country into the next phase of political and economic independence if we are able to channelize their thoughts and their time in productive activities. Given the importance of Youth to Pakistan’s future development, it is necessary to provide the means and environment in which this invaluable human resource attains the optimal growth potential, equipped with the requisite character, strength and motivation to participate in the main stream of life. Developing the youth, creating opportunities for the future leaders of tomorrow is something very close to my heart. One of the ways is through creation of jobs. In EFU Life, the average age of our employees is 32, and we are on a constant search for young talent, to develop them and hone their skills to be future leaders.
BM: EFU Life had recently launched an interesting campaign ‘MeriShaanMera Pakistan’ on Independence Day. Could you tell us about the initiative?
TGS: ‘MeriShaan, Mera Pakistan’ is a CSR initiative by EFU Life to beautify the streets of Karachi through thematic wall art. On this Independence Day, EFU Life extended its support to neighborhoods of Karachi through a beautification project aimed at reclaiming the walls of major public areas of the city and displaying patriotism through art. The campaign celebrates the spirit of patriotism, depicting the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan, the diversity of its people and ultimately the nation’s flag, that brings all its people together. The project is aimed at eradicating wall chalking and highlights not only the heritage & culture of Pakistan, but also encourages citizens to take responsibility for the city. What makes this campaign truly unique is the underlying message of patriotism, and the involvement of the youth, with active participation from the students of different universities to execute the project. The first project was a 2000 square foot wall at Ayesha Manzil. Along with this location, beautification at NCC (National Coaching Center) has also now been completed. The Company is further exploring avenues of executing such projects in other parts of the country.