Qatar insurance market is third in the region on volume
Salim Mansour, country manager, AXA Gulf, speaks to The Edge about the general insurance company’s business philosophy and their plans for Qatar for 2016.
Tell us about yourself: your professional experience and your role at AXA Gulf.
I am currently the country manager for AXA Gulf in Qatar, a post I have held since joining the company in 2012. In my role, I am mainly responsible for growing AXA Gulf’s operations in line with AXA’s strategy in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. I have more than two decades of experience in sales and healthcare operations.
Prior to joining AXA Gulf, I worked with Ufa Assurances in Lebanon as the sales and marketing director and before that, I worked with Bupa Arabia in Saudi Arabia for 14 years, where I led the sales operations for the company across the country besides also training the sales force.
How would you describe the business philosophy of AXA Gulf?
Our mission is to protect people when they need us as well as increase risk awareness. AXA Gulf wants to lead the change by becoming the preferred company by being more available, attentive and reliable to our customers, distributors, partners, employees and shareholders.
As a company, we have achieved success in offering creative ideas, global reach and highly flexible service capabilities matching the best-in-class insurance solutions to make our clients’ lives easier. We have invested a lot to remain close to our customers, listen and respond to their expectations as customers are looking for a one-stop trustworthy insurer.
We are convinced that building on our key differentiating assets can only fulfil our ambition. These include our unique distribution mix, digital strategy underwriting agility, talent acquisition, international brand, and segmented product approach.
We are also committed towards our community and causes we associate with include road safety, breast cancer and diabetes.
Tell us about your assessments of the Qatar market, especially when it comes to the level of competition.
According to Moody’s, which provides credit ratings, research, tools and analysis that contribute to transparent and integrated financial markets, Qatar currently sits third after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, in terms of the volume of written premiums in the insurance sector, which amounted to around USD2.2 billion (QAR8 billion) in 2014. That figure was expected to increase to USD2.5 billion (QAR9.1 billion) by the end of 2015, with some monitoring agencies predicting an increase of 20 percent over 2014.
Despite the fact that Qatar’s economy is smaller than other GCC countries, it does benefit from the high level of investments in different sectors, which would definitely reflect on the growth of the insurance sector. The insurance sector in Qatar still operates in a centralised manner, meaning that it is directly connected to the Qatari government, which is its biggest investor.
With advancements in sports, tourism and investment planned by Qatar over the next five years, Moody’s expects the insurance sector to grow immensely and comprise 1.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
On the other hand, competition and price wars are among the main challenges faced by the insurance sector globally. The increased number of players, combined with soft market conditions and a lack of expertise in underwriting and portfolio management skills, have taken a toll on the profitability of the insurance companies and most have reported a decline in their return on assets.
Pricing is a key insurance decision. How does AXA arrive at a price peg for a particular risk?
Insurers in general should take responsibility and revert to sustainable price levels in order to not put their profitability/business at stake. Today, the insurers that will succeed will be the ones who are delivering solutions in line with customer needs.
The market offers huge potential to grow and at AXA Gulf we are committed to invest and develop our services, which are aligned with our objective to be one of the leading international insurers in the country.
To address the increasing competition in the market, we have redefined our campaign strategy and focused on innovation by launching new products that are well-suited for the price-conscious customer. This product allows our customers to ‘select’ their options, in line with their needs and expectations, thereby providing a competitive edge, whilst also ensuring that there will be no compromise on benefits and service.
Our strategy is centred on maintaining a long-term profitable book of business to ensure long-term sustainability in the best interest of all stakeholders. As our book of business has strongly grown in the past year and at a much quicker pace than the market, we expect it to continue in the coming years.
Talk us through the various risks that AXA covers, on your business side. What are the most promising ones in the region?
AXA Gulf offers a wide range of insurance products and services for corporate, SME and individual customers. In my opinion health and motor insurance are on top of the list as it is mandatory by law in some of the countries in the GCC. Other insurance solutions and products that AXA offers its customers include property and casualty, marine, liability, group personal accident, art and crime.
What about the risks on the retail/individual side?
We offer insurance solutions that cover motor, health, travel, home, yacht, personal accident.
What are your business plans for the next three years in the region?
At AXA Gulf, we see a lot of growth potential in the Gulf region and hence we are focused on expanding our presence in the market by offering unique and tailored insurance solutions for various customer groups.
Our main priorities for 2016 would be: accelerate growth in untapped streams; invest more in distribution to increase our footprint through our multi-access strategy; reinforce our market share in compulsory products (health and motor); improve our efficiency to optimise productivity and management of expenses; continuing to invest in recruitment, training and development of nationals; and continue to innovate both in quality of service and products to adapt our offering to customer needs.