HW Questionnaire: Luke Ngwerume Talks Of Zimbabwe’s First Online Financial Services Mall Launch

Luke1 (1)Former Old Mutual CEO Luke Ngwerume Launches ZimSelector, Zimbabwe’s First Online Financial Services Mall

An exciting new company in Zimbabwe offers good news against a global backdrop of falling confidence and failing finances. ZimSelector.com is the first on-line Financial Services Mall for Zimbabweans at home and abroad.Led by Old Mutual CEO emeritus Luke Ngwerume, ZimSelector.com is proud to bring Zimbabwe’s most trusted brands in insurance and banking together to give customers an easy convenient way to get quotes and buy online. Initially Zimselector will offer products from nine leading Financial Service Providers including Old Mutual, RM Insurance, CABS, Zimnat Insurance Group, CBZ Bank, Fidelity Life Assurance Group, CIMAS Medical Aid Society, and Nyaradzo Funeral Services,  who will have their own ‘branded shop windows’ on the site and will allow people to buy on-line. This is a huge step forward in the ongoing development of the Financial Service sector in the country.

In the next phase, an aggregator or comparison service will also be offered to allow customers to compare the product benefits and prices, select their preferred product and buy on-line. This is the first time such a service has been offered in the Zimbabwe and the wider African continent.

This will revolutionize the way Zimbabweans purchase their financial products, which at the moment can only be done by talking to a call center or face to face – and for Zimbabweans who are based all over the world, that just does not work. Initially ZimSelector.com will focus on the insurance market, with home, motor insurance, together with life insurance, funeral cover and savings and investment products. The range of products and trusted financial service providers will continue to grow.

Harlem World Magazine asked Mr. Ngwerume a number of questions by e-mail:

Harlem World Magazine: Who is the ZimSelector client/customer, please describe him or her?

Luke Ngwerume: Your typical customer is a Zimbabwean anywhere in the world who is comfortable with navigating the internet and has a financial need to meet. They also understand the need to deal with prime financial brands in Zimbabwe, which have a proven track record and which offer a wide range of financial products. These prime financial brands are the most trusted financial institutions in Zimbabwe. The typical customer is keen to compare products and the value for money proposition offered by any financial solution. Finally whilst  the typical customer has a financial need to meet in Zimbabwe they demand flexibility around when to compare and buy products from anywhere in the world and do so in an efficient cost-effective and convenient manner every day of the year and on a 24 hour basis The typical customer only wants to deal with the most credible,  secure and robust world-class platform which is well-regulated and provides unfettered access to the most trusted financial brands in Zimbabwe.

HW: ZimSelector.com sounds like a longtime in coming, what took ZimSelector.com so long to come to Africa?

 LN: This is a product which is completely new to the country and which has been designed and developed to world-class standards. It has brought with it a transformational approach to the distribution and marketing of financial products in Zimbabwe to the world-wide Zimbabwean market.  In addition the regulators have had to take time to carefully assess the new business model being introduced and this was aptly captured by the Commissioner for Pensions and Insurance, Mrs Manett Mpofu when she remarked that” Zimselector was a new type of player whose application for registration required that the commission went back to the statutes of the insurance industry to understand how to deal with its registration”. The main issue for the Commission was this new multiple agency type of company which broke off from tradition by offering a wider range of financial products including banking and investment products. Such an “animal” did not exist before the entry of Zimselector. Adequate time was therefore needed to deal with the regulators to ensure that the new business would meet their stringent regulatory requirements. In addition as the product offering straddles more than a single regulator this meant that several regulators had to be consulted and their needs met to their satisfaction.Finally the new business model required the participating financial institutions to re-engineer some of their processes as this mode of distributing financial products is quite different from their traditional methods. This has implied sharp learning curves for the people involved but the most important outcome is that everyone involved now accepts that this is the ideal way to distribute financial products and the question should be why this transformational change did not take place years ago.

HW: What can we learn from the opening of Zim Selector.com? We assume that countries from around the world are looking and taking notes on the success or failure of ZimSelector.com, what can these countries (outside of Africa) learn from your start-up?

 LN: The Aggregation approach is well established in the UK – but I am sure countries which do not have this type of wide distribution which is not time bound will be watching the progress of ZimSelector with interest. There is a real focus on improving access to products whilst  reducing the cost of distributing of these  financial service products across both Banking and Insurance – and there will be a lot of lessons to be learnt from this launch.

HW: We understand that the loan from the company has to affect the locals, how and where do you see the $10 million dollar investment from the government effecting the local people (infrastructure, food, etc.,)?

 LN: ZimSelector is determined that our service offering will benefit all Zimbabweans. We are working with large trusted brands and have made very transparent service promises that we will make sure we deliver to build trust and address the confidence issues that are undoubtedly low at the moment. In addition, we are passionate about the value of the products that we promote. Having the right insurance in place is essential to help avoid unnecessary financial hardship and emotional stress following traumatic events such as serious illness or death.

HW: Right now ZimSelector.com is just for Zimbabwe, when will all of Africa have a AfricaSelector?

 LN: We have very ambitious plans for ZimSelector.com. There is no doubt that we want to extend our service beyond the borders of Zimbabwe and across the continent. Given that there is a vibrant Diaspora from across the African Continent, we have no doubt that our service would be very well received. Not only do we want to expand geographically – but we will certainly add to our product portfolio. We are working with a financial services technology partner from the UK, Total Systems plc, who have wide experience across multiple products and we have chosen a platform that easily allows s to extend our portfolio…watch this space!

HW: Why do you feel ZimSelector.com is a gamechanger? Why has something like ZimSelector taken so long to come to Africa?

 LN: Put simply, ZimSelector.com is the first Aggregation Service in Zimbabwe. It is the first time that Financial Service products can be distributed in volume through one on-line quote and buy website and as such can  revolutionize the way products are sold to Zimbabweans. Whilst above we have captured some of the issues that have had an impact on the speed to market it is also true that sometimes in the world of business “ a time comes when you have a perfect storm”, a convergence of ideal factors which give birth to a new idea and this could be a combination of economic, social, market conditions together with the presence of the people who spot the opportunity and willingly work to convert and idea into reality.

HW: Is the product complete and if not, whats coming next?

 LN: The initial launch of the Aggregator is very much a first phase. From the outset we will be offering a comprehensive range of products including   Life, Home, Motor Funeral and Health insurance and Banking, Mortgage  and investment products across the most  trusted brands including – CBZ, CABS,CIMAS, Fidelity Life, Nicoz Diamond, Old Mutual, RM Insurance and the Zimnat Life and Zimnat Lion.Moving forward we plan to work with more Providers and extend our products to include money transfer and funeral services. We also plan to offer full customer self-service that will allow customers to manage and amend their portfolio of insurance and investment products. Exciting times ahead!

HW: Thank you.

 LN: Thank you.

More details can be found at www.ZimSelector.com.

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