“Insurance is a diversified sector and offers immense opportunities for all”

For Dip Prakash Panday, CEO of Shikhar Insurance Co Limited, the past three decades have been a period of leadership excellence. After completing his MBA from Tribhuvan University, he went on to join Everest Insurance where he worked for 10 years, the first two years as a Finance Manager and the later eightyears as the CEO. When Shikhar Insurance was established in 2004, he became the company’s CEO and has continued in the post since then.
He is the former President of the Nepal Insurers’ Association (NIA) and also serves as the Director of Nepal Reinsurance Co Ltd. In a conversation with the HRM, Panday recalls the time when he joined the insurance business, shares experiences he has garnered over the years and talks about the career growth opportunities for young graduates. Excerpts:

Could you tell us about your first job?
I started as Finance Manager at Everest Insurance in 1992/93. I had already completed my MBA and was pursuing the chartered accountancy (CA) program. I was 28 years old at that time and there is an interesting story about how I got the job. I was preparing to get married, and my in-laws told me, “We will not let our daughter tie the knot with an unemployed person.”

I had to find a job. I saw an advertisement in a newspaper and applied for the job and got it. Having said this, I was confident as I had already completed my MBA.
What challenges did you face after joining the job?

I had no experience in the insurance sector. However, as an MBA, I had no problems in understanding areas like accounts, finance and management. I was also pursuing CA, so I was already semi-qualified when I got my first job. But I must say I had to face a few challenges.

The insurance sector was a totally new area for me. But I had already audited the financial papers of Oriental Insurance which gave me a little concept of the insurance sector. Having said that, underwriting and technical aspects of the insurance were a tough task to grasp in the beginning.

At that time, the Nepali insurance sector was facing a human resource crunch. There were a few insurance companies, namely Oriental, National, NLG and Beema Sansthan. It was a must to develop new human resources, but ‘professionals’ at that time were not cooperative. They used to hide books and learning materials. It was my biggest fear.

What major lessons did you learn in the first job?
I found that organizing the annual general meeting is the toughest job. I also learned about corporate affairs. The technicality of the insurance sector was also tough. I had to go through old files. I went for training abroad. I also learned underwriting procedures.

How has been your journey after leaving Everest Insurance?   
Late Mohan Gopal Khetan always used to say, “Try something beyond books, and if you succeed, then you become successful.” Keeping his words in mind, I have always tried new things. In arithmetics, 2+2 equals 4. Likewise, 2+2+2-2 also equals 4. This is what I enjoy, trying new things in different ways.

A few years ago, the insurance business in Nepal was held by private groups. I imagined an insurance company that has investments from the public. Then I started looking for investors of different diversified groups, individuals, and bankers. I convinced them not to interfere in the roles and responsibilities of the company’s management as the board of directors and the management have different set roles.

In 2004, Shikhar Insurance was established. The responsibility given to me to steer a new company was indeed huge. We worked hard and developed a proper corporate culture at Shikhar. There was a massive shortage of human resources at that time, so we started to develop human resources on our own.
At Shikhar, we have 650 employees and all of them had their first job here, except 14-15 employees. We groomed them. We used to take classes every day. Still, we have a computer learning system, and we conduct exams for our employees. This has enhanced the communication skills and helped in the personality development of our employees.

Today, Shikhar Insurance does not have a human resource crunch in any department. In the last few years, Shikhar Insurance has worked hard in solving the human resource crunch in the insurance sector. Similarly, we have been developing new products as per the need and demand of the market.

You have been in the insurance sector for the last 28 years. What changes have you observed in this sector in terms of business growth and career development of employees?
When I started my career, the entire insurance sector had a premium collection of just around Rs four-five billion. Today, the premium collection stands at Rs 40 billion.

In the past, one insurance company used to operate with only 8-10 branches. Now, Shikhar Insurance has 120 branches across Nepal. All the insurance companies have reached the nook and corners of Nepal.

Earlier, experts from overseas used to design products for us. Now, insurance companies themselves are developing new products as per the need of the market. For instance, Shikhar Insurance started ‘Apple Insurance’ in the Jumla district. In the first year, the company collected a premium of just Rs 200,000 which has now reached Rs 90 million. This has encouraged farmers in Jumla to engage in apple farming as the ‘crop insurance policy’ covers weather-related risks, saving them from unprecedented loss.

The overall insurance sector has seen a boom in the last few years. Companies are recording an annual profit of Rs 400-500 million.

What advice do you have for those who want to develop their careers in the insurance sector?
The insurance sector will grow further. Currently, the minimum paid-up capital requirement for life insurance companies is Rs two billion and while it is Rs one billion for non-life insurers. Likewise, re-insurance companies are required to maintain minimum paid-up capital of Rs one billion. In the coming days, the capital levels will further increase. With the increment, insurance companies have to find new business opportunities. For this, a new set of young and energetic teams are required.
I have seen a young individual having a monthly paycheck of Rs 250,000 in just five years of joining the insurance sector. I have seen support staff becoming a company’s branch manager. This sector offers endless opportunities for young people. There are a lot of opportunities, but one needs to be confident and should work hard.

Is the insurance sector just for students of business and finance students?
Insurers need engineers for risk and loss assessments. We need chartered accountants. We need statisticians to analyze data. We need business graduates for almost every department. We need IT graduates to work in digitization. We need doctors to analyze the history of patients and to analyze claims. This is a diversified sector and offers immense opportunities for all.

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