Leading an insurance company is no mean feat at all but taking over a company that was on a trailblazing mode for several years and agreeing to grow it even more exponentially requires nerves of steel and deep rooted self-belief. When asked to step into the shoes of their previous CEO who had a golden run up to that time, Ivan Nicholas the present incumbent accepted the challenge gracefully. He no doubt dug deep into his long experience and not only managed to hit the ground running but to his credit increased the trajectory of their growth curve smoothly.
Industry Experience and Values
Mr Ivan Nicholas, the Chief Executive Officer at Sanasa Life Insurance Company PLC, boasts an impressive professional career spanning nearly 4 decades. His journey commenced in 1983 when he embarked on his career with Mercantile Credit as an underwriter, over the years Mr. Nicholas steadily ascended the corporate ladder, showcasing his managerial skills and business acumen. Following the de-nationalizing of Insurance Industry, he joined Union Assurance and then moved on to a few other highly notable insurance organizations before joining Sanasa Life as its Chief Business Officer in June 2019. Through his 39 years of diverse experiences in the Insurance Industry he has mastered the art of understanding the Market, Product and the People. Not surprisingly his strongest area is developing and motivating award-winning sales advisors and field management. Mr. Nicholas has garnered valuable insights and best practices from multinational corporations and leading local organizations extending from general and life insurance, corporate and retail sectors.
Sanasa Life Insurance Company PLC prides itself being the Insurance forerunner in the neglected and underserved market segments. Moving away from the low hanging fruits and Red Ocean of traditional players required the Company to adopt a fresh business model. Successfully exploiting niche markets means identifying and fulfilling unique needs of the target audience.
Unique Collection System
The Company’s customer centricity is well demonstrated by Sanasa Life’s structured daily collection system where daily income earners can pay their premiums in affordable instalments as low as 100 rupees. This revolutionary concept transcends the conventional approach of relying solely on agents for policy management. Instead, the company transfers the policy to a dedicated collection officer who operates independently, streamlining the process and fostering a closer relationship with the customers.
In the capable hands of Mr. Nicholas, Sanasa Life Insurance Company PLC places utmost importance on operational efficiency. The company’s strategic focus revolves around Processes, Performance, Product, People and Preferred Markets. This allows them to channel their efforts into creating real value for customers, owners, staff and the Community. By concentrating on the customers’ genuine needs, Sanasa Life differentiates itself from competitors and delivers tangible results. Moreover, the company’s predisposition to think ahead of the times and enable work-from-home and seamless integration of technology long before the Covid pandemic has proven to be both a blessing and a sustainable strategic advantage that can leveraged in the short to medium term
Sanasa Life demonstrates its commitment to sustainable growth and value creation through its investment proposition. With a clear strategy and meticulous planning, the company envisages to achieve a 15.16% compound average growth rate of gross written premiums over five years. This sustainable value creation is backed by efficient work processes, reinforced by its digitalization strategy over the years. By leveraging well-structured and digitally transformed operations, Sanasa Life aim is to enhance competitiveness and operational efficiency. The company has introduced e-policy issuance and a payment gateway for premium collections, making it more convenient for customers to access and manage their policies.
Financial position & Solvency
In pursuit of an optimum investment portfolio, Sanasa Life adopts a discerning investment strategy. The company proactively balances risks and returns to secure robust investments yields that give the anticipated return on investments. Moreover, maintaining a strong financial position is reflected in their healthy balance sheet and robust asset position, boasting a total asset cover of 1.52. Additionally, the company upholds partnerships with rated reinsurers to effectively manage risks, thereby minimizing capital pressure. With a capital adequacy ratio of 257%, Sanasa Life showcases efficient capital management which in return enables them to navigate potential challenges and opportunities with confidence.
Branding and Branch Network
Furthermore, Sanasa Life Insurance Company PLC seeks to expand its reach and build brand equity through targeted marketing campaigns. Their focus lies in penetrating deeper into the SANASA society network and capturing potential market opportunities among retail and small to medium enterprises. Mr Nicholas also tells us that, to enhance operational efficiency, Sanasa Life makes focused investments in digitization initiatives, aiming to improve business processes. This strategic approach towards physical market presence is evident through the recent establishment of 11 new branches and 2 sub-branches across eight districts. Additionally, Sanasa Life recruited 297 officers as permanent staff, bolstering their marketing cadre. To further strengthen their presence, the company invested objectively in branding, marketing, and promotional activities, including roadshows and door-to-door campaigns across districts. Sanasa Life has outlined key strategies to drive growth, primary among them is expanding the branch network particularly in the North and East regions of Sri Lanka. This geographical expansion aims to tap into new potential markets and further enhance the company’s distribution footprint.
Learning and development for all grades across the Company and the refinement of the corporate succession plan are ongoing investments that further strengthen the organization and its stability.
Sanasa Life’s overall growth is a result of a clear vision and a well laid out game plan. The company continuously assesses its market position, striving to increase its value and volume. A diverse portfolio of products, including conventional life products, VTA products, group life offerings, and investment-based products keeps Sanasa Life well attuned to market dynamics and customer needs. The company presently enjoys the 8th position in the Insurance Industry with a remarkable growth of 90% in 1st quarter of 2023.
Further confirmation that the company’s efforts are channelled in the right perspective is the plethora of awards won by them in the recent past (1) Fastest growing Life Insurance Company in Sri Lanka- Global Banking & Finance Review Award 2022.
(2) Silver Award Insurance sector – Gross Premium up to 10 Bn Award 2022
(3) Best strategies for spreading -special recognition in 3rd Emerging Asia Insurance
Stakeholders Engagement in General
Sanasa Life Insurance Company PLC has established itself as a prominent entity known for its positive impact on the community. The company follows fundamental policies to maintain its forefront position and contribute to the betterment of society. Sanasa Life’s commitment to responsible business practices and stakeholder engagement is a cornerstone of their strategy. With deep social roots spanning over two decades, the company prioritizes building solid relationships with its stakeholders. This approach lays a solid foundation for gaining trust, confidence, and respect from stakeholders. By fostering market positioning for sustainable value creation, Sanasa Life aims to create a positive impact on the lives of its stakeholders.
The Society Network
A significant aspect of Sanasa Life’s community engagement, according to Mr. Nicholas, revolves around its relationship with the SANASA society network. The company focuses on empowering local communities by offering suitable employment opportunities within their permanent cadre and commission-based agent roles. Sanasa Life also extends philanthropic support to address the socioeconomic and cultural needs of those in the lowest strata of society. By actively engaging with and uplifting local communities, the company contributes to the overall well-being of society.
In line with its commitment to local communities, Sanasa Life adopts a recruitment strategy that considers referrals from the SANASA Society network. This approach ensures that employment opportunities are extended to individuals residing in close proximity to the company’s branches and sub-branches. In the reporting year, Sanasa Life witnessed an 83 percent increase in personnel employed through this strategy. Furthermore, the company’s philanthropic initiatives experienced a significant 125 percent year-on-year increase. These efforts exemplify Sanasa Life’s dedication to improving the lives of individuals within its communities.
Sanasa Life actively carries out special projects focusing on education, healthcare, social transformation, and environmental preservation. These initiatives are primarily driven by the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects and are implemented in collaboration with the SANASA Society Network located island-wide. By taking on these projects, Sanasa Life aligns its vision of creating a thriving society with its commitment to environmental sustainability. Under the visionary leadership of the Company‘s founder Chairman Dr. P A Kiriwandeniya, the company launched the national-level social transformation project “Aya Wedi Karamu – Weya Adu Karamu,” (Enhance incomes and lower expenditures) which aims to uplift the rural population of Sri Lanka. District-level introduction workshops are being rolled out with the intention of covering 5000 villages eventually. The aim of this extensive excise is to create a credible data base of each village, enhance its human capital, add value to its local economy, identify new projects and increase overall capacity.
Sanasa Life has also undertaken a series of special projects focusing on education, healthcare, and social transformation throughout the year. These initiatives align with the company’s broader vision of creating a thriving society while also safeguarding the environment.
The company places great emphasis on recruitment and retention, following a well-structured process to attract the best-fit employees and upholding best practices in HR management. Sanasa Life also invests in skills training and nurtures a performance-based workplace culture to build an empowered team. The company ensures a work-life balance and prioritizes health, safety, and employee well-being. Compliance with relevant labour laws and regulations is another key focus area for Sanasa Life, demonstrating their commitment to labour relations and ethical business practices. To ensure that all employees are equipped with the necessary skills to navigate the evolving workplace technology, Sanasa Life provides focused training programs.
Sanasa Life Insurance Company PLC has adapted to the challenges brought about by the post-pandemic era through its focus on innovation and digitalization. Recognizing the need to streamline business processes, improve the quality of information and data, and enhance management systems, Sanasa Life has invested in digitalization initiatives. This investment aims to optimize decision-making processes and increase operational efficiency.
Sanasa Life has also embraced digital platforms for marketing communications, leveraging the power of technology to reach a wider audience and enhance customer engagement. Additionally, the company focuses on product innovation that aligns with evolving technology trends, ensuring that its offerings remain relevant and competitive in the market. Cybersecurity measures are a top priority for Sanasa Life, as the company recognizes the importance of safeguarding the confidentiality of information and data.
The drive for digitalization extends beyond streamlining processes and improving efficiency. Sanasa Life aims to increase productivity and reduce costs by digitizing business operations. Disciplined claims management and a lean overhead cost structure contribute to cost-saving initiatives, and the company aligns its investments with macroeconomic trends to optimize returns.
Digitalization & Cyber Security
To support its digitalization efforts, Sanasa Life has increased its in digital initiatives. Cybersecurity measures have been reinforced to ensure the protection of sensitive information. The company has provided IT skills training to employees, equipping them with the necessary expertise to leverage digital tools effectively. Additionally, a separate entity has been established to carry out group IT activities, further enhancing the company’s digital capabilities.
To further enhance its IT capabilities, Sanasa Life established Sanasa IT Solutions (Pvt) Ltd as its fully-owned subsidiary. This software development arm provides IT consultancy and services to the entire Sanasa Group, including Sanasa Campus and the Sanasa Society Network. The company’s focus is on developing in-house solutions for business transformation and process improvements, including the development of new core systems and mobile applications.
Risk Management &Compliance
Sanasa Life places great importance on risk management and compliance. The risk registry is regularly reviewed and updated to facilitate effective management decision-making. The compliance function has been strengthened, with team members receiving advanced training in compliance and risk management. Operational level staff, directors, have undergone training on compliance, internal controls, and risk management. Furthermore, training programs on professional conduct, Sanasa work values, and the code of ethics have been conducted from the level of insurance agents to the senior most levels The company has also has a separate department for compliance and anti-money laundering policies within its staff structure.
In summary, under the visionary leadership of Mr. Ivan Nicholas, Sanasa Life Insurance Company PLC has emerged as an industry trailblazer, spearheading innovation, and customer-centricity. With a strong focus on operational efficiency, sustainable growth, community engagement, and digitalization, Sanasa Life stands as a formidable force poised for continued success in the dynamic and evolving insurance landscape.