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Don't waste a holiday, get a job

Friday January 25 2019

 Eunice Maina.

Eunice Maina is the CEO and Founder of Bismart Insurance. PHOTO| COURTESY 

LILYS NJERU
By LILYS NJERU
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Bismart is an insurance aggregator, a platform that allows people to compare insurance policies from different insurance companies and buy online. Eunice started off as an insurance agent, rising through the ranks to become a country sales manager. She would later resign to form her own company.

How did all this unravel?

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Nairobi in 2004 and getting an international advanced diploma in computer studies from NCC Education, UK, in 2006, I got a job as a trainer at an ICT training institute.

I am a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), CompTIA A+ (User Support) certified professional and CompTIA N+ (Network Support) professional. While teaching at the institution, an insurance agent came by to sell policies, sparking my interest in this field.

Later, I started asking myself why there were few people signing up for the policies if insurance was as good as the agent had implied. In 2009, driven by this curiosity, I decided to quit my job and join an insurance company as an agent. My close relatives and friends thought I was crazy!

Looking back, this is the best decision I made because the lessons I picked in the industry, plus my experience in the IT sector, enabled me to establish Bismart Insurance, an insurance comparison platform that enables customers to compare benefits, exclusions and prices online.

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We have over 10 insurance companies on the platform and a dedicated customer care service team that helps customers to make a choice through Live chats and calls.

How would you describe the insurance industry and what has your experience been like linking people to various insurance providers?

When I founded Bismart one-and-a-half years ago, there was a lot of mistrust in the industry because customers didn’t know much about the cover they were buying. Our main focus has been to educate our customers and the general public about the various insurance policies and how to follow up on claims.

Currently, we have over 4,000 users. Last year, we were among five winners picked for most innovative and scalable business in the Standard Chartered Women in Technology program. We later got into partnership with GreenTech Capital partners, a German-based venture capital firm that has invested in the company to make it more robust and effective.

With many bills to pay and often operating under a shoestring budget, why should a young person still consider taking various insurance policies?

Insurance is all about transfer of risks. If you have an asset that you value, you need to ask yourself how much it will cost to replace it. For instance, if you lost your phone today, how hard would it be to replace it? If it would be hard, then you need to take an insurance cover for it.

There are two covers that are a must have: inpatient health cover and dreaded diseases cover. An inpatient cover is important because it relieves one of the worries of having to pay significant medical fees should you be admitted in hospital for a prolonged period, or be put on treatment and medication for a long time.

In Kenya, most insurance professionals are trained on the job and just a few institutions offer insurance courses. Why is this?

In the past, the field was largely unregulated, but presently, there are various institutions offering this kind of training, such as the college of insurance. To become an insurance agent, one is required to get a certificate of insurance proficiency.

Have you ever failed?

When I began my career as an insurance agent, I was keen on closing sales, so I would meet prospective customers depending on their availability. In the process, I realised that I was spending less time with my family yet I was still not very productive at work. I realised that I had to draw boundaries between family and work. Only then did I become effective at both.

What do you remember about your 20s?
I had lots of energy and was ardent in job seeking. During school holidays, I ensured that I had a job, yet I didn’t have a godfather in any of the companies I worked in.

I would simply walk to the gate of a particular company and befriend the security guards, who would give me the name of the CEO and their reporting time. I would then show up on an appointed day and tell the receptionist that I had an appointment with him or her – it was a lie, but it often got me a job.

I encourage young people to volunteer in various organisations while still in college to get experience and the much-needed work ethics. Your 20s are the time to focus on building capacities to generate wealth, not just looking for money.
What’s your biggest passion outside work?

I love meeting young people and listening to their stories of innovation, struggles and triumphs as I share mine. Other times, I like to sit down and read personal development and entrepreneurial books. I am currently reading Scaling Lean by Ash Maurya.

What gives you contentment?

Seeing the people that I have mentored grow and prosper in different fields. For instance, I consider my staff to be my mentees since I believe it’s not just about making money, but enabling them to grow and be all they can be. I have also mentored many girls in high schools and universities.

What’s your greatest belief?

I am a Christian and I believe that as children of God, we are powerful beyond measure. The power to recreate the world we want is within us. We should not sit and wait for the government to change our country, we must be ready to initiate the positive changes we want.

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