Turning Obstacles into Opportunities – Namalee A. Silva

Namalee A. Silva – Deputy General Manager/Head of Marketing at SLIC

Namalee started her career at Commercial Bank in the late 80’s, during the JVP Insurrection. It was her father, who brought her an application form for the bank’s entrance examination. Her mother being a banker, was the inspiration behind her decision to join the banking sector.

“My first job was at Commercial Bank. I then moved to Lloyds Bank in London, where I worked for 7 years. Upon my return to Sri Lanka, I joined Seylan Bank, and 10 years later I began work at People’s Bank. Although, I began my journey in the banking field and acquired the necessary professional qualifications, I realized that it was not my forte. I wanted to take on a more innovative and challenging role. I have always been attracted to marketing. Therefore, I switched to the marketing division at Seylan Bank. I am grateful to the late Mr. Dayantha Fernando, the then DGM of Marketing, for absorbing me in to the marketing function within the bank, following which, I pursued my professional qualifications in this field. From then onwards, I have headed many functions under marketing, from brand management and activations, to marketing communications. I joined SLIC in 2006, in the capacity of Manager of Marketing Communications and today, I serve as the Deputy General Manager/Head of Marketing at SLIC.”  

Describing her first impression upon entering the Insurance industry, Namalee explained, “When I first entered the industry, like many members of the public, I didn’t know much about insurance. What encouraged me to join an insurance company, was the fact that the marketing parameters are much wider and more challenging than those of a bank. While a bank mainly uses a “pull” strategy, insurance adopts a “push” strategy. Insurance is a sold product, and it is very rarely that the need arises to purchase it (apart the mandatory motor insurance).  Therefore, the challenge to market insurance products is much greater in comparison to banking. The Insurance industry has many channels when it comes to pushing the insurance product to the market; the broker network, the agency force and financial companies are all tied together with the sole purpose of bringing in business. Insurance is also a heavily under-penetrated market due to many reasons.”

Speaking of the challenges faced by the Insurance industry and the means by which to overcome them, “I would say the industry’s greatest challenge and a clear opportunity, lies in the fact that it is a seriously under-penetrated market. The level of penetration for life insurance lies at a mere 12%, whereas there are about 17 insurance companies battling over that small percentage, while we have another 88% of the market that is currently untapped. The insurance companies of the country have thus far been unable to penetrate this untapped segment of the market. Against the backdrop of the rising cost of living, lower income, free health, and the culture of inter-dependability, I think it is a difficult task to convince the public of the importance of insurance.  So, the ultimate challenge faced by insurance marketers would be to tap this market with the right product. We must also bear in mind that there is a larger social obligation that must be met, which is to provide protection to people who really need it”, Namalee stated.  “In terms of general insurance, striking the right balance between topline business and underwriting profits is challenged by the current practice of price undercutting, which is unhealthy for the industry in the long run”, she added.

Moving on to the types of protection provided by insurance, “There is a vast variety of covers both in the life and general sectors of the market, ranging from education, term life, health & medical to home insurance, motor insurance, marine, hull, travel and workman compensation covers”, detailed Namalee.

Despite the popular belief that insurance policies are expensive, Namalee stated that it is far from true. “We offer policies to suit the needs of all customers, some of which can be purchased for as little as Rs.300 per month. All of this is done in order to ensure that all Sri Lankans can enjoy the security provided by the Insurance industry.”

Expressing her views on specialized insurance products for women, Namalee noted “There is no specific product for women as such. After all, we’re striving for equality. Also, with the number of women rising through the ranks of many industries, I believe that the level of gender-based discrimination is gradually decreasing.”

On the topic of her contributions to SLIC, Namalee said, “When I joined SLIC, the company did not have a systematic marketing communications approach, nor a media buying unit, both of which were established by me. SLIC has withstood much political, social and economic pressure over the years. One such occasion was when the company went back to being a government owned entity. It was a challenging situation as we needed to handle the situation via communication and the strategic management of the customer mindset, so as not to allow the fall of the market share. This was a significant contribution not just by me, but by the entire corporate management and the marketing team. We met the challenge, and contributed much time and hard work together. Steering the company’s logo change to cater to modern consumer dynamics, while ensuring a smooth transition both externally and internally, are the recent tasks successfully completed by myself and my team.”

The leading insurance marketer went on to list a number of milestones achieved by her team, which includes, building SLIC up to be the most valuable general insurance brand, being listed as the 3rd most loved consumer brand in the country, being awarded a number of ‘Business Excellence’ awards and making SLIC the market leader in terms of motor insurance. Having achieved all this and much more, it’s no surprise that Namalee. A. Silva is one of the most respected female professionals in the industry.

%d bloggers like this: