UAE: ‘Insurance growth is reflection of economic growth’

The insurance intermediary is undergoing a complete overhaul of its business and is looking to fuel its next leg of growth using AI and new age technology

By Suneeti Ahuja-Kohli

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Mustafa O. Vazayil, managing director, Gargash Insurance.
Mustafa O. Vazayil, managing director, Gargash Insurance.

Published: Tue 29 Nov 2022, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 24 Jan 2023, 3:07 PM

A post Covid-19-driven growth in the insurance industry is likely to continue and is fuelled by the expansion of the larger UAE economy, said Mustafa O. Vazayil, managing director, Gargash Insurance, in an interview with Khaleej Times.

“Insurance sector is a reflection of the economy. If the economy grows, the insurance sector grows. When an economy expands, industries expand, and their insurance needs expand. We are very positive about the next two-three years, especially for the UAE and Dubai. The rents are going up, and the real estate prices are rising. We (the UAE) are well placed in the region with world-beating infrastructure, which will allow us to play to our strength,” said Vazayil.

The Covid-19 pandemic laid emphasis on the need for health insurance and made people more aware of the enhanced coverage. “Medical insurance wasn’t taken seriously before Covid. The pandemic ushered in a change and people have started looking at health insurance differently. They have become aware and much more concerned about their enhanced insurance coverage,” added Vazayil.

Gargash Insurance is among the leading insurance intermediaries broking and risk management services in the UAE. Established in 1994, the firm has been growing steadily over the years and caters to the insurance needs of SMEs as well as big corporates. The firm is expected to double its premium collection by 2025 to Dh1.5 billion. Currently, the premium collection stands at Dh750 million.

The insurance intermediary has a strong foothold in the industry and has stayed ahead of the curve by investing in technology and innovative ideas. In 2004, the company introduced click, pay, and get the insurance certificate delivered service, which was a first in the industry. “We pioneered this service in Dubai at a time when physical insurance certificates were mandatory and had to be collected. It gave our customers the comfort of purchasing an insurance policy and getting it delivered at home.”

Gargash is now looking to fuel the next level of growth and customer engagement through the use of artificial intelligence. “AI is going to be the future and it’ll be part of the customer experience journey sooner than we think. Currently, customer engagement is limited to buying a policy or at the time of claims or renewal. AI will help enhance customer experience through greater interactions throughout the year,” he said. “We have seen a lot of traction on consumers preferring to transact online. This is a growing area for us,” he added.

Intermediaries like Gargash are seminal in helping corporates understand their risk, exposure, and find the risk management solutions. “Insurance is just a part of the risk management solution. There are various other things which intermediaries can do to help the corporate understand the risk, evaluate it, decide on how to transfer that risk, so that they can do their business well, and while transferring that risk, what are the types of solutions that can be looked into it,” said Vazayil.

On providing excellent customer support service, the managing director added: “We do not sell substandard products. We have set a minimum requirement from a customer point of view. Gargash has service-level agreements with select insurance firms. We keep an eye on the turnaround time for insurers and the network of garages that are enlisted with them. Such factors are important and are embedded in our offer.

The general insurance industry earned a net premium of Dh34.5 billion in FY2020 as per Central Bank of the UAE. The industry is estimated to grow at a CAGR of less than 4 per cent during 2020 to 2025.

With increasing activity, the number of mergers and acquisitions in this space are also rising. “I see more of M&As coming through because this market has over capacity. There are more than required a number of players involved for the size of the market. We can do away with another 10-15 per cent of companies and the market will still be sufficiently serviced.”

At Gargash Insurance, the senior leadership is working to overhaul the entire organisation to make it more agile and aggressive in the insurance space. “We are introducing major changes in our approach in the coming months. By January, we will have a totally revamped organisation that is going to shake up the way we do business.”

Talking about the economy, Vazayil said: “Dubai is more or less insulated (from global recessionary impact) because the economy is not based on manufacturing. Oil price will perhaps fall a bit, but Dubai economy is well geared to attract surplus from the world. I do not see any severe impact from the global recession threat.”

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