In this interview, we caught up with Darius Niwaha, General Manager of Octagon Uganda Limited a subsidiary of Octagon Africa, a leading financial services provider in retirement benefits training schemes, and insurance brokerage services in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia for both public and private sector organizations.
Darius has grown with the organization since 2014 from being a pension administrator to a client relationship manager and currently the general manager since September 2019.
He shares his experience with the Ugandan pension and insurance sector and the opportunities Ugandans can take advantage of.
Who is Darius Niwaha?
I have over eight years of experience in pension management and advisory services for both defined benefit and defined contribution schemes, Umbrella schemes and individual pension plans.I have experience in scheme strategic planning, core fundamentals of Trusteeship, and board management, and am well vast with retirement benefit regulations internationally regionally and locally. I am the force behind generating and retaining new businesses for the company, leading the company’s liaison with the clients, regulators, and other market players to meet the company’s business objectives. Previously I worked with Citadel Capital as a business development manager and Tecno Brain Uganda Limited as a business process outsourcing executive.I have a bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Science from Makerere University, certificate of financial mathematics from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and currently pursuing a financial analyst program with the Certified Financial Institute of UK under the LX program, and at the same time pursuing a master’s degree in business development and CFA level one candidate. I’m very passionate about pension investment management governance of retirement benefits.
You are young yet have achieved so much already, take us through your career and how did you end up in the pension and insurance sector?
After university, I got an opportunity through an outsourcing company called Techno Brain Uganda Limited where I was working with a fintech doing online data analysis. It was from there that I got an opportunity to work as the Pension Administrator at Octagon Uganda Limited when it had just started. I am the kind that appreciates challenges, result oriented, very reliable and God fearing. I believe in teamwork, respect and Integrity. These are some of the attributes propelled my professional growth to where I am Today. What are some of the trends and opportunities in the insurance and pension sector Ugandans can take advantage of?Many employers in Uganda have created an opportunity for employees to save for their retirement. They care for their employees and save over and above the mandatory contributions to the NSSF. The initiative by these private organizations was recognized by government which set up a Regulator, the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority through the URBRA ACT, 2011 that protects the member’s benefits for both the NSSF and the Occupational Schemes. This, in turn, allows individuals to save over and above what the mandatory contributions to NSSF and allow them to have a decent retirement package. Over the years, more organizations have come on board like Octagon Uganda Limited, to create different products that enable members to save individually especially those that are not attached to any organization.On the other hand, COVID-19 came as a blessing in disguise, as it has taught people the need to set aside money for unforeseen events.
Members were served a wake-up call and we have seen a surge in savings from individuals because of the COVID-19 experience. More individuals are also taking up insurance policies due to the medical expenses and business disruption noted during the pandemic. Individuals and corporate organizations that procured Insurance for their were cushioned against risks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is very important to cushion yourself for the future by securing insurance cover, having a saving plan and investments.
According to the Regulations, members saving in retirement schemes licensed by the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority (URBRA), will be allowed to secure mortgages and loans using 50% of their savings. What is your take on this?
It’s a great opportunity for members to utilize this regulation that has been put by the Regulator, URBRA. This is because statistically, members who are working after retirement have decent housing as their most pressing need. During their work life, members often use whatever they have saved to construct homes because they didn’t get the opportunity to do so during their work life. This opportunity means that the Member can use a portion of their savings with NSSF and the occupational or individual scheme they belong and secure a facility with the bank while they are still in employment. Getting a loan from the bank is tough without a guarantee and with this, members can use their benefits as guaranteed security against the loan. The mortgage allows you to have a house and at the same time receive your benefits upon retirement. I would encourage Members to start saving and build a portfolio that can be presented to the bank and get the house of their dreams.
Why do most hardworking Ugandans end up with nothing after retirement and how can we change this narrative?
This is a challenge not only in Uganda but in Africa. We have a poor saving culture; people live for now without care for the future. This has created a vacuum in the savings culture as people don’t save for the long term. To be ready for tomorrow, you need to build wealth today. As Octagon Uganda, we are extending financial literacy skills and knowledge to our communities. We have began a financial literacy program for school going children and youth aged between 10 – 20 years on the basics of saving, investing and wealth creation. Octagon Uganda is a leader in innovating pre-retirement products that appeal to all the people in all the sectors of the economy as well as post retirement products relevant to the retirees.
Do you have any parting words before we close the interview? I encourage Ugandans to start planning early while in gainful employment for themselves and their families to avoid regrets in the future.I encourage them to make investments that will enable them to earn regular income, secure health insurance cover and investment products to enable them to sustain their children education. At Octagon, we have products like Octagon PensionPlus Fund, Octagon Post-Retirement Medical Fund, Octagon Conservative (Dollar) Fund which can be used as saving plans.
These will position the saver to continue earning and get the same medical services post retirement because medical and other costs increase year on year.