The UAE insurance industry has a promising future due to the government initiatives, increasing consumer spending and overall bullish sentiments in the markets, says an industry expert.
Ashok Sardana, founder and managing director of the Continental Group, said insurance industry successfully handled the Covid-19 pandemic, but didn’t rule out new crisis and advised the stakeholders to be ready to face any kind of crisis.
“We are bullish about the insurance sector’s prospects in 2023. Our optimism stems from broader economic tell-tale signs, including favourable initiatives from the government, increasing consumer spending, good employment levels, and an overall buoyancy in the markets,” Sardana said.
“We are particularly swayed by the UAE government’s progressive approach to socioeconomic growth. Its efforts are translating into sector-wide opportunities. The effect on the insurance sector will manifest more in 2023,” he said.
Founded in 1994, the Continental Group is a leading insurance intermediary and financial services solutions provider in the GCC region. Licensed by the Insurance Authority, the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) of the UAE, and DFSA, the group represents reputed multinational and local insurance and financial institutions. It has a team of over 250 highly-qualified professionals that has enabled the group’s expansion across Europe, Middle East and Asia.
Outlook for 2023
In reply to a question about 2022 for the Continental Group and outlook for next year, Sardana said this year has been great so far.
“I’d go as far as calling it our second-best year ever because the best is yet to come. We witnessed growth across our verticals, hired more people in strategic roles and departments, and set the stage for future expansion and aspirations. The year 2023 will see the Continental Group enter a new growth trajectory, supported by the recent foray into DIFC and local and global expansions,” he said.
About major challenges for the insurance industry in post-Covid-19 era, he said challenges are par for the course.
“There are routine challenges, something as trivial as the traffic, and operational ones involving recruitment and expansion. We take every challenge in our stride while staying focused on the big picture,” he said.
“Challenges have gradually subsided post-Covid, but new ones cannot be written off. We believe in staying ready. That conviction will guide our way forward,” he said.
Sharing his successful strategy to handle Covid-19 crisis, Sardana said the pandemic was unprecedented as the uncertainty of the entire situation tested us at our very core — as a company and as a community.
“We helped our clients navigate those times through increased communications, transparency, and timely assurance, especially with respect to insurance policies and investment strategies. Despite facing operational obstacles, we emerged stronger than ever by adapting quickly and being flexible,” he said.
“We launched a multi-pronged crisis response, keeping the safety and well-being of our staff paramount. Adaptive processes were set up, and training was provided to help internal teams continue day-to-day interactions with clients and partners. Following the outbreak, we immediately strengthened our IT infrastructure, making it sophisticated enough to allow the entire team to operate optimally and remotely,” he said.
“Thanks to our pre-existing disaster recovery plan (DRP), business continuity plan (BCP), and communication tree (CT), we remained relatively resilient against pandemic disruptions. We could readily collaborate with product providers to digitalise certifications such as AML/KYC. Such agility bagged us recognition as the top insurance intermediary to adopt digital mediums in the UAE, as we clocked the maximum digital applications for Zurich International (ME) and MetLife Insurance (UAE),” he added.
Continental Group expansion
Sardana said the Continental Group will continue to expand its presence in the region through its new headquarters in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
“Expansion is central to our business strategy for the foreseeable future. We have set the ball rolling through a new headquarters in DIFC, a financial hub conducive to global expansion. It will be the bedrock for the Continental Group to spread its wings through strategic collaborations and methodical expansion.
“To that end, we have also begun hiring professionals across key disciplines such as sales, technology, marketing and administration. The driving principle is that, if you are not growing, you are going backwards. So, we are scaling up, geared toward making our future bigger than our past,” he said.
Sardana, an industry veteran, shared his joy after securing DFSA licence and shifting the group’s headquarters to DIFC and said it is a major milestone for the Continental Group.
“Ever since I founded the Continental Group, we have harboured a ‘think global, act local’ approach. The DFSA has an international reputation for security, credibility, and client-friendly regulations. The DFSA regulation will help supercharge our ambitions of providing our clients with global solutions, partnering with international companies, and expanding our footprint,” he said.
“With our new headquarters in the DIFC and our existing licensed outposts in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Geneva, Hong Kong, Delhi, Bombay, and Port Luis, we have a clear focus: To build multi-generational relationships as an advocate and a trusted partner,” he said.
“Trust, transparency, and technology — these are the three T’s we are attributing to our new association with our DIFC-registered company “CFS DIFC Limited”. We want to uphold these priorities as we gear up for global expansion and collaborations with corporate service providers, private banks and other entities. Our motto is to always make the future bigger than the past,” Sardana concluded.
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