Pakistan’s life insurance sector has shown immense growth, expanding by 30-35 percent a year for the last couple of years. However, there is still a huge potential for insurers to tap a large un-served market if they would work harder to remove barriers to insurance sales, according to a senior executive with the country’s largest private-sector life insurance company, Jubilee Life Insurance.Mr Javed Ahmed, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Jubilee Life Insurance, in an interview with the Business Recorder, said that creating awareness of insurance is a long-term game and has to be done through mass media, that is, television and newspapers. “So, all the companies have to work on that front,” he said.Mr Ahmed added that even if the public is aware of life insurance, they might not think highly of insurance companies. “I think the perception cannot just be changed by advertising. Companies are working very hard to build their image and to improve their services. They are adopting new ways of communicating with customers. As you can see, all the companies have websites now, policy portals, SMS services and call centres. They are adopting every possible way to communicate with their customers. So I think this will definitely help the industry.”Asked whether Pakistanis, especially rural residents, are less accepting of insurance because of religion, he said: “That is a misconception about Pakistan, that people don’t buy insurance because of religion. It’s totally wrong. It’s the problem with insurance companies that they have not developed the networks to reach those customers. “Saying that people don’t buy insurance because of religion is a very easy excuse. In fact it’s the easiest excuse. If you ask our sales force in their day-to-day meetings with customers how many proposals are rejected using this religious excuse, they would say ‘Very few’.”He added: “In a survey that we conducted on micro-insurance, targeting the lower segment of the market which is more religious and more fundamental, I would say only 10 percent of people said that they would not buy insurance because of religion. And, if you talk about the entire population, it will only be 5 percent or so. In short, 95 percent of the market does not consider religion to be a problem.”Commenting on insurance penetration in Pakistan, he said: “I think one of the major reasons for low penetration is that insurance companies are content with whatever growth they were getting, be it 20 percent or 30 percent. But any industry in Pakistan can achieve that level of growth.” He suggested that the opportunities available to insurance companies mean even achieving growth of 50 percent could be considered under-performing. “If you want to increase penetration, then you have to remove all these mental barriers that we have created by ourselves.”In a separate interview with the Daily Times newspaper, Mr Ahmed said that life insurance penetration stands at 0.4 percent of GDP in Pakistan, which is very low as compared to countries like India and Bangladesh where penetration is 4.2 percent and 0.8 percent respectively.Outlining other challenges faced by life insurers in Pakistan, he said that while people appreciate the security offered by life insurance, the decision to actually purchase a life insurance policy is often delayed.Also, unpredictable and severe power load shedding has significantly affected growth in manufacturing and other business sectors, which has had an adverse impact on growth of group insurance business. In addition, the lack of human resources in the industry is a concern in the short term.