WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION

Journal of Economics & Finance (JEF)

...
WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION

in Africa occupying the 7th position g...
WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION

affected by the persistent poor public...
WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION

countries. A good example is Malaysia ...
WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION

adjusters will pay a fair amount for a...
WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION

Findings of the study were organized a...
WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION

Associate Publishers.
Faida Securities...
WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION

Economic Studies, 32(2): 137-150.Chica...
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An insight of strategies for improving

  1. 1. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION Journal of Economics & Finance (JEF) JULY 2013 VOL.1, No.5 An Insight of Strategies for improving Public Perception on Life Insurance Policies in Kenya: A case study of Nakuru Municipality Cheruto Roselyne Transnational Bank, City Hall Way Transnational Building 2nd floor P.O BOX 34353 - 00100 Nairobi, Kenya Accepted 6 July, 2013 Abstract Insurance companies registered in Kenya have provided a wide range of insurance covers to enable Kenyan’s have financial control of personal risk. However life insurance in Kenya continues to experience various challenges, key among them poor public perception, which is attributed highly to low penetration levels, therefore there is need to explore ways to curb these challenges and exploit the benefits of life insurance in the economy. The study was meant to investigate possible strategies that can be used to improve public perception on life insurance in Kenya. The specific objectives included: to determine the communication strategies that can help improve public perception on life insurance in Kenya; to establish the ethical practices that can help boost the public perception on life insurance in Kenya and to determine community involvement strategies that can help raise the public perception on life insurance in Kenya. The key variables of the study were communication strategies, ethical practices and community involvement strategies. The study thus adopted a descriptive survey technique where life insurance sales agents and secondary school teachers from Nakuru municipality were selected to represent the public. Stratified random sampling method was used to select the elements of the study sample. The target population for the study comprised of 82 sales agents and 303 teachers in public secondary schools. From the target population, a sample size of 120 was selected comprising of 45 sales agents and 75 secondary school teachers. Data was collected by use of questionnaires designed by the researcher and based on the study objectives. The data was then analyzed using descriptive statistics such as percentages, frequencies, mean and chi-square analysis. The study revealed that the public perception of life insurance companies remained low based on opinions from both agents and the teachers. Further, there existed a significant relationship between the communication strategies adopted, ethical practices and level of involvement in community activities and the public perception of life insurance companies. These could therefore be used as strategies for effectively changing the public perception by life insurance companies in Kenya, which would also change the public perception. However further studies should be done on factors contributing to the ethical practices in life insurance companies and also to determine the choice and application of communication strategies for life insurance companies. Keywords: Communication Strategies, Community involvement, Ethical practices, Public perception and life insurance. 1. Introduction Insurance in Kenya is closely related to the historical emancipation of Kenya as a nation (Throup, 1998). With the conquest of Kenya as a British colony, settlers initiated various economic activities which required insurance cover. In the forty years after independence, Kenya’s insurance industry had flourished and by the year 2003, check recent statistics e.g. 2010, the country had 41 registered insurers: 15 transacting general insurance business, 2 transacting life insurance business while 24 were composite insurers transacting both life and general insurances (Rand,2004). By world’s standards, the Kenya insurance market is very small in terms of premium income. However, it is one of the leading markets 119
  2. 2. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION in Africa occupying the 7th position going by the 2003 statistics published in sigma. It ranked fourth in terms of insurance penetration after South Africa, Mauritius and Zimbabwe with a rate of 0.81 % (life insurance and 2.28 % non-life insurance (Olotch, 2006). Insurance companies registered in Kenya have provided a wide range of insurance covers to enable Kenyan’s have financial control of personal risk. Nevertheless, only a small percentage of Kenyans have personal insurance covers and the insurance premiums contribute only 3 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) instead of the ideal 7 percent (Kimura, 2000). Consumers’ ignorance has contributed significantly to the negative attitude towards insurance (Kieti, 1998). Kowour (nd) posits that in the more advanced economies characterized by consumer awareness and sophistication amongst other positive socio-economic indicators, virtually everyone is insured against all insurable risk. In the 3rd world countries majority of the people lack financial resources and the little they have is for basic needs. In many developing countries, the population is divided into rich and poor, with the rich having plenty of financial power while the poor are struggling to meet their basic needs. In the developing countries, education is very low and hence many people lack knowledge of health care and life insurance policies (Bert, 2009). The lack of education and basic needs to be met, as well as governments’ efforts in other national areas make these countries infertile territory for life insurance companies In Kenya, issues with insurance companies abound. A great challenge for insurers is the lack of information that the population has about insurance products and the trust issues due to the same lack of information. There are also issues of fraudulent companies and scams, as well as issues of not paying claims and mismanagement of insurance companies. This and other issues have hampered insurance companies in the Country and there are other government issues and license issues as well. Although there are insurance laws in Kenya, the biggest challenge continues to be how to convince a struggling population that they need a product for which they have no money, no education, and certainly have a negative perception about (Bert, 2009). Perception influences individuals to select, organize, and interpret the input from their senses to give meaning and order to the world around them (Elsbach, 2006). Katz’s (1960) functional approach to attitude change argues that both attitude formation and change must be understood in terms of the functions that attitude serve. “As these functions differ, so will the conditions and techniques of attitude change” (Severin & Tankard, 1997). For the sake of clarity, the term attitude has been substituted with perception. In order to effect change, the right strategies have to be used; ones that would help the prospect to appreciate the need for an insurance cover. This calls for some level of involvement with the prospect. Smith (1992) opines that for involvement to be attained, using a common language, sharing experiences, participation in culture, and understanding beliefs of the person we intend to engage with are necessary. This implies that, first and foremost, insurance companies must strive to understand the prospect’s perception of the concept of life insurance and then use the right strategies to try and influence their perceptions positively. The term strategies here refer to the methods or plans that insurance companies must implement so as to enhance positive public perception on life insurance products. Several studies have found evidence that development of the insurance sectors is related to economic growth and key elements in the economic development of a country (Ward & Zurbrueg, 2000; Webb, 2000 & Soo, 1996). Beck and Webb (2003) established that insurance companies play an important role in the financial sector. It is thus imperative for Kenya which has gone through high inflation and slow economic growth to propel life insurance segment in order to increase financial stability that will stimulate growth of domestic output, minimize the rate of inflation, reduce the rate of unemployment and attract investment needed to boost economic development. According to Faida Securities, (2007), Kenya is still under-insured at a penetration rate of 2.6% compared to India and South Africa with penetration rates of 3.7% and 14.7% respectively. Faida securities continue to posit that the major challenge for the insurance industry in Kenya is to increase penetration in the life sub – sector. Association of Kenyan Insurance (AKI) (2008) carried out a survey to understand the uninsured market unique needs and establish the best way in which this market could be insured. According to Olotch (2006), there were only 367,059 individual life policies at the end of the year 2006 in a working population of 8.74 million (about 4 % coverage). The main reasons for lack of insurance cover were found to be: Lack of awareness on products, low income levels, perceived low rate of returns for policies, cumbersome claim settlement procedures, lack of trust in the insurance industry and expensive premiums. As pertains to image, AKI observed that the insurance industry is 120
  3. 3. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION affected by the persistent poor public image which has caused distrust among potential customers. In addition, according to the latest annual AKI report, the insurance industry in Kenya continues to experience various challenges, key among them the poor public perception, which has led to low penetration levels of 1.76 per cent and 0.87 per cent for non-life and life insurance respectively (Microfinance Africa, 2010). Opiyo (2011) notes that many people perceive life insurance cover as devoid any tangible benefits for the insured while alive since all the benefits are accessible upon the demise of the insured. It can thus be noted that low penetration of life insurance in Kenya is caused by reasons ranging from prospects ignorance, negative public perception and economic reasons such as low income levels and expensive premiums. While several studies have dealt with the relationship between insurance and economic development and the identification of factors limiting insurance investment, no studies available to the researcher have been found dealing exclusively with strategies of boosting public perception on life insurance in Kenya. This study hence seeks to fill this gap in research by investigating possible strategies of improving public perception on life insurance in Kenya using the case of life insurance companies in Nakuru town. 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1 Life insurance in Developed world A report released by Price Water house Coopers [PWC] (2012) dubbed life insurance 2020: competing for a future indicated that, in the recent past life insurance in the mature markets has been moving in different directions. Demand for life cover has been slowing down. In the US, the number of life insurance policies was lowest in 2010 -2011 for the past 50 years (Charlotte, 2011). The decline in demand for life insurance in the mature markets is attributed to the mounting pressure on the margins and disillusionment created by the financial crisis which has dented public trust and fundamentally changed customers risk appetite and perceptions. This is presenting a challenge to life insurance companies on how to regain public trust and reengage with customers. A study by OECD (2000) indicates that life insurance is still fairly undeveloped in the Baltic States, as in all Europe’s emerging markets, since in 1998 the penetration of life insurance (direct gross premiums / GDP) was only 0.43% in the Central and Eastern European countries and the new independent states. Premiums ranged from 0.06% in Romania to 0.90% in Slovakia and 0.81% in Slovenia. In comparison, in 1998 the OECD countries devoted 4.58% of their aggregate GDP to life insurance. The study further indicates that in 1998, life insurance accounted for only 16% of total premiums in the Central and Eastern European countries and the new independent states, the percentages in each country ranging from nearly 30% in Russia and Slovakia to less than 2% in Ukraine. In comparison, life insurance accounted for 54.34% of total insurance premiums in the OECD countries in 1998. In these countries, the low volume of life insurance business was attributed to the role played by government provident schemes which posed competition to life insurance policies. 2.1 Life Insurance in Africa The situation on life insurance in Africa is also different despite the important role played by life insurance and its ability to mobilize and channel savings. According to UN (2007) the life insurance industry in Africa is characterized by regional peculiarities. The South African life insurance industry is highly developed and has always been in the forefront of life insurance. In fact, some of the first linked investment products (e.g. insurance products where a specified part of the premium is invested in securities and funds) originated in South Africa. In comparison, the life insurance sector in Anglophone East and Southern Africa is significantly underdeveloped. In some of these countries, the majority of the business relates to pension investment, coupled with group life risk cover. Low income people in developing countries are exposed to a variety of significant risks to their wealth and life. To manage these risks, they resort to a number of strategies for example; informed risk sharing arrangements, conservation (avoiding risks) and self insurance through saving, reduced expenditure and emergency credit from family and friends and money lending institutions. The penetration of general insurance is 1.9 per cent, while that of life is 0.94 per cent of GDP. This is considered to be very low compared to other countries in Africa such as South Africa with a 12.9 per cent penetration rate, which is among the highest in the world, well above the 8.6 per cent average penetration for industrialized countries, according to Sigma (2010). The low penetration rate across the continent can be attributable to a number of factors associated with economic development in general, but they also reflect the development of the insurance industry in particular. 2.3 Life insurance in Kenya The penetration of insurance among the Kenyan population is also low as compared to other 121
  4. 4. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION countries. A good example is Malaysia which has an estimated 41% of the population covered by some form of life insurance in comparison to Kenya that has less than 1% of the population insured. The licensed insurance companies therefore compete for a limited market characterized by low penetration. Kenyans' uptake of insurance cover, both at corporate and personal level, remains predominantly in the motor, fire industrial and personal accident (mainly group medical cover) classes. This illustrates a poor attitude towards personal insurance cover in general. According to the (UN, 2007), the low penetration of insurance in the Kenyan market, relative to other more developed markets could be attributable to: lack of a savings culture among Kenyans; low disposable incomes for the majority of the population, with close to 50% of Kenyans living below the poverty line; inadequate tax incentives that could encourage the middle classes to purchase life insurance products; and a perceived credibility crisis of the industry in the eyes of the public particularly with regard to settlement of claims Siddharth (2010) cites lack of trust in the insurance industry, limited knowledge on its products, limited reach to the informal sector; the perception that insurance is expensive, and the fear of not being able to service it continuously as some of the factors hindering penetration of the service. Kieti, (1998) adds that consumer ignorance has contributed significantly to the negative attitude towards insurance. This is based on a realization that in the more advanced economies characterized by consumer awareness and sophistication amongst other positive socio-economic indicators, virtually everyone is insured against all insurable risk. 2.4 Communication strategies and Public perception On a study about links between communication strategies and personal insurance covers, Kowuor (n.d) found out that the perceptions an individual holds about insurance would determine their response to a personal insurance sales interview or presentation. Kowuor notes that a communication strategy plays a crucial role in understanding these conceptions and effecting the desired change. In order to effect change, the right communication strategy has to be used; one that would help the prospect to appreciate the need for an insurance cover. This calls for some level of involvement with the prospect. Communication is involvement, and for involvement to be attained, using a common language, sharing experiences, participation in culture, and understanding beliefs of the person we intend to communicate with are necessary (Smith, 1992). This implies that, first and foremost, insurance agents must identify the language the prospect understands best and use it to explain the concept of insurance. Hence there is need for insurance sales agents and employees to be properly trained and well equipped with product knowledge and the necessary communication skills to put this knowledge across. Kenyans also need to be sensitized on the necessity of personal insurance and how it works in controlling risks and life’s uncertainties; this knowledge is wanting. According to Kowour, there is need to use the language that the prospect understands best and a more simplified version of policy documents including Kiswahili versions for the rural based clients. According to AKI (2008) the various communication strategies to increase awareness on life insurance include: Testimonial advertising where the real beneficiaries of insurance need to be used in electronic and print media advertising so as to present the benefits of insurance. It can also be done by publishing testimonial stories in magazines or TV documentaries of how insurance helped a beneficiary e.g. payment of hospital bills following an accident; Information advertising where the benefits of insurance as a risk management and savings tool have to be emphasized in the media; Reinforcement advertising: This can be done in print and electronic media to assure customers who have bought insurance that they made the right decision so as to reduce on lapses; Participation in Trade Fares: Insurance companies can increase their visibility by participating in ASK shows in Nairobi and other major towns. Other avenues include motor shows, property exhibitions, banking and wedding expos. AKI proposes to enhance the insurance open day to take a longer period and cover other towns apart from Nairobi. 2.5 Ethical practices and Public Perception Trust is a fundamental principle of insurance (Sadri & Tara, 2012).This is best achieved when both parties in the insurance contract fulfill their part of the contract in good faith. Business ethics is a form of applied ethics. It aims at inculcating a sense within a company’s employee population of how to conduct business responsibly. The insurance agent who writes a policy, and the underwriter who approves it as business for his company, must trust that the information on the application is correct. The agent and the company providing the insurance must trust that the policyholder making a claim will accurately assess the loss. In turn, the applicant must trust that the agent is giving proper advice, untainted by a conflict of self-interest. The applicant must trust that the company underwriter will not discriminate when establishing the premium. Lastly, the policyholder must have faith that the company 122
  5. 5. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION adjusters will pay a fair amount for a claim, should it become necessary. In the absence of trust, the transactional fees from legal and governmental bodies would make a business like insurance difficult at least, and perhaps impossible. Without trust, insurance cannot perform its proper function as a risk management device for companies and individuals. Observing ethics has been identified as a key strategy to attract and retain customers. A special report on the dynamics of public trust in business emerging opportunities for leaders recognized the critical importance of public trust, identifying it as the most important and overarching ethics issue facing business. Not only did CEOs identify regaining the public trust as the single most important corporate ethics issue facing business, but each of the top five issues cited in response to this open-ended question is strongly related to public trust (Arthur, 2009). 2.6 Community involvement and Public Perception In the past, financial performance was the major criterion to evaluate a firm's value. Higher ranks were given to firms that provide greater margins financially. Maximization of shareholders' wealth was, by far, the focal point of profit-driven organizations. In this regard, the emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the past was not evident. In this decade, however, the perception about CSR has changed significantly (Aasad, 2010). The success of a company is now also being measured by its contribution to society (Saunders, 2006). More firms today are beginning to realize the importance of CSR and its impact on societal well being. Ratings are being developed to measure performance of most firms with regard to their CSR efforts besides their financial performance. Such ratings are being carefully monitored by independent watchdogs (Lim, 2011). To date, some countries have already made it compulsory to include CSR ratings into their corporate report and some are even required to publish their CSR scores to the public. This reaffirms the relevance of CSR to the context of modern day business and management. 3. Methodology The research design that this study adopted was the descriptive survey. The descriptive survey was chosen for the study because it allows the researcher to study phenomena that do not allow for manipulation of variables (Kombo & Tromp, 2006). This study will survey a sample of life insurance companies and members of the public in Nakuru town so as to be able to investigate possible strategies that can be used to enhance positive public perception on life insurance in Kenya. Stratified random sampling technique was used to select the elements into the study sample. The two strata used were: staff of insurance companies and secondary school teachers. The sample size in each strata was determined using the formula by Nassiuma (2000) as follows. n= (Ncv 2) / ( cv 2 + (N-1) e2 ) Where n= Sample size N= Population Cv = Coefficient of variation (take 0.5) e= Tolerance at desired level of confidence, take 0.05 at 95% confidence level Applying the formulae to the two categories of respondents, the sample size drawn for this study was 120 respondents which is 25.4% of the target population. This is shown in Table Table 3.1: The Sample Size Matrix Category Population (N) Sample Size (n) Percentage (%) Sales Agents 82 45 38 Teachers 303 75 25 TOTAL 385 120 25.4 Data collected was coded and analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 21 computer programme to facilitate addressing the research objectives and questions. Quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics such as percentages and frequencies chi-square while the qualitative data derived from open-ended questions were analyzed according to themes based on the study objectives and research questions and there after inferences and conclusions were drawn. Findings were presented using tables and charts. 4. Findings The study was to investigate the strategies that can be used to improve the public perception of life insurance companies. The research objectives were to determine the communication strategies that can help improve public perception on life insurance in Kenya; to establish the ethical practices that can help boost the public perception on life insurance in Kenya and finally to find out how community involvement strategies can help raise the public perception on life insurance in Kenya. 123
  6. 6. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION Findings of the study were organized according to research objectives as shown in the preceding section. Generally, teachers’ response indicates that the teacher community generally has a negative perception towards life insurance though not very strongly negative. Agents on the other hand were of the view that public was negative on life insurance. On communication strategies used by life insurance companies to communicate their companies. Majority of teachers who took part in the study 34.33% get information on life insurance mostly from TVs and Radio advertisements followed by print media such as newspapers and magazines cited by 22.39%. Those who received communications about insurance companies and their products from friends and relatives were 17.9% while communication through colleagues at work was 10.45%. Companies also communicated about their products through their agents 8.96% and also by sending texts or information direct to the customers 5.97% either by mobile phones, emails or other forms of communication. There is a significant relationship between the communication strategies adopted and the public perception of life insurance companies. The most effective method of communication was observed as News papers and Magazines and other print media followed by TV and radio, agents were found to be the least effective in company publicity. In terms of upholding to ethical standards in the eyes of the public, insurance companies were rated poorly by 43.28% of the teachers who represent the public, further, 23.88% rated very poor implying that over two thirds of the public (teachers) consider life insurance companies unethical in their practices. Those of different opinion were 16.42% who rated them fair and 10.45% who rated them good and 5.97% who considered insurance companies very good. There also existssignificant relationship between companies’ ethical practices and the public perception. On community involvement by life insurance companies teachers in Nakuru Municipality, insurance companies rarely participate in community activities 61.19%, 22.39% were of the opinion that insurance companies never participated while 16.42% cited active involvement. There is a significant relationship between the two variables the level of involvement in community activities and the public perception on life insurance. 5. Conclusions Based on the findings of the study as summarized, it can be concluded that indeed life insurance companies in Nakuru score low on public perception which could be one of the main causes of poor penetration of life insurance in the society. Communication strategies used by the life insurance are also not very effective in providing the right information to the customers, therefore it is important for life insurance to identify the correct method through which to reach their clients through effective information needs assessment, designing the right communication tool, information monitoring and evaluation strategies, and strategies to deal with negative publicity. The study also concludes that ethical practices by insurance companies especially agents in selling, payment of claims and handling unethical issues are to contribute in the negative perception of life insurance companies therefore reversing these trends can be used as a strategy to improve the public perception of insurance companies. Finally the low participation of life insurance companies in community projects could also be used as a strategy for improving the public perception since it encourages, public confidence, enhances knowledge on organizational products and builds the good will of the customers References AKI. (2008). Understanding the uninsured market report.Nairobi: Association of Kenyan Insurance. Blumer, H. (1989). Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Berkeley: University of California Press. Byamugisha, J. (1973). Insurance Law in East Africa. Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau. Charlotte, N. (2011). Wells Fargo Retirement Survey. New York: Wells Fargo press. Cooper, R., Frank, G., & Williams, A. (2003). The Life Insurance Industry's Ethical Environment: Has It Improved in the New Millennium? Pp38-50.Vol (57) New York: Wells Fargo press. Crowther, D., & Rayman-Bacchus, L. (2004). Perspectives on corporate social responsibility; in D Crowther & L Rayman-Bacchus (eds), Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility; Aldershot; Ashgate; pp 1-17. Eisenhardt, K.(1989). Agency theory: an Assessment and Review. Academy of Management Review, Vol. 14, (1). New York: Longman. Elsbach, D. (2010). Managing Organizational Reputations Through Verbal Tactics: The Roles Context and Character. University of California: Davis. Elsbach, D. (2006). Organizational perception management. Mahwah, New Jersey:Lawrence Erlbaum 124
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