Onshore and offshore construction, M&A and financial lines are the top priorities for the reinsurance broker’s Middle East hub, Nadim Semaan told GR at GAIF34.

A new construction boom in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia in particular, is the focus for growth at Gallagher’s reinsurance broking hub serving the region.

Nadim Semaan

Nadim Semaan, senior executive officer, Gallagher Middle East & Africa, spoke to GR during the General Arab Insurance Federation (GAIF) conference underway this week in Muscat.

Facultative business comprises the majority of Gallagher’s placements in the region, something that Semaan expects to continue as major projects get underway, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.

“Construction is our biggest focus, because of all of the projects taking place in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These include Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Saudi energy expansion and renewables – all of this will be construction business,” said Semaan (pictured).

“You also have offshore construction energy, that goes into the energy market. We see huge opportunities in Qatar in the development of its offshore natural gas industry,” he said.

The offshore energy construction boom is being driven by European demand, he noted.

Semaan continued: “They want to want to move on from the previous reliance on Russia, so the focus is on the Middle East and North Africa. For instance, we’ve just picked up on a new project in Libya, which is a joint venture between Libya’s national oil company NOC Libya and Italian energy company ENI to develop to new fields in Libya.”

The 34th GAIF conference is being held in Oman, with more than two thousand delegates from insurance companies across the Middle East and beyond descending on Muscat, more than two decades after the city last played host to GAIF in 2002.

Two years ago, Semaan started the Gallagher team, which has by February 2024 grown to 60 people, 40 working on the fac side, and 20 in treaty reinsurance broking. Eleven of those were onboarded through the Willis Re acquisition, but the others, he emphasised, are organic growth hires.

“I think brokers have to evolve,” Semaan said. “They have to focus on the advisory side of things to support the clients as a consultancy and less about the transaction. That is my message to the community.”

Gallagher’s reinsurance broking entity for the region, which sits in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) hub, focuses on specialty lines, such as construction, aviation, marine, energy and special risks.

The latest regional line to be added to its DIFC hub is mergers and acquisitions (M&A) insurance solutions. This was announced on 19 February, led by Amanda Wynne as divisional director, who was previously at rival broker Aon, tasked with building the new practice.

The new M&A practice, within the fold of financial risks, including cyber and directors’ and officers’ liability (D&O), represent the third ranked area of growth earmarked by Semaan.

“The third biggest growth area I would say is in financial lines and M&A. There’s huge cyber demand in the region, and M&A will grow and it will keep on growing,” he said.

Cyber demand is a strong sign of maturing markets in the region, Semaan acknowledged.

“The sophistication of the buyers is improving, which is good,” he said. “And the market is changing as well. The cyber market was very hard. It was tough to place high limits. Now it’s turning as well – turning into a buyers’ market,”

While global reinsurance markets have firmed up and seen capacity tightening at successive renewals, it is a different story in the competitive Middle East market, he suggested.

“There is an abundance of capacity across all business. We’re not finding it difficult to find capacity across all lines of business. It’s not just about competition. The other reason why there is abundance of capacity is it’s a profitable part of the world. It’s not got natural catastrophe exposure, so reinsurers are making money,” Semaan added.