This year, the GAIF conference returns to Oman for the first time in more than two decades. Two of the country’s leading insurance figures sat down to talk with Global Reinsurance before the event begins in Muscat.

This year, the General Arab Insurance Federation (GAIF) conference is set to be held in Muscat, Oman, the first time it has come back to the country in more than two decades.

Mahesh Prabhu

Among those attending the event will be Mahesh Prabhu (pictured), head of corporate support at Oman Re, and Aiman Al Habib, general manager of the Oman Insurance Association. The pair of them sat recently to talk with Global Reinsurance about what is coming up.

“Simply put,” said Prabhu, “this is as big as it can get in the region. The organisation is a very powerful and influential body, and its conference goes to one of the Arab countries every two years. Now, it’s back in Oman. That is a very strong statement in the insurance industry, and it is very exciting that it is back.”

For Oman’s insurance market, motor insurance is its biggest line, followed by health insurance.

“These two are the dominant lines of business,” said Prabhu. “Culturally, non-life is the most-dominant form of insurance in our part of the world, especially in Oman. Having said that, the life sector had a religious or cultural angle to it. There are solutions to be found, although this part of the world—and, also, Oman—are great welfare states. But that cannot stay forever; populations are growing.”

Much of that lies ahead. Prabhu said that he was very excited to welcome the two thousand or so delegates to the GAIF event. Each GAIF conference comes with a new theme—in 2024, the theme centres around how to incorporate sustainability and financial inclusion, along with the significance of leveraging AI.

There has, Prabhu said, been a paradigm shift in the way insurance business is done in the Middle East and around the world, particularly in the time since the Covid-19 pandemic subsided.

“To be honest,” he said, “the regional insurance market was not super prepared. It was prepared, but not super prepared for things such as lockdowns and people switching to working from home. That meant there was a rapid acceptance of technological advancements, which were not just restricted to the insurance industry.”

The main focus, however, is on the conference. Prabhu was joined by Aiman Al Habib. The latter had only recently taken on his new role with the Oman Insurance Association, and he said his new position combines managing local and regional relationships for the insurance sector and beyond.

Industry talent focus

Al Habib said his primary aim for this year is to make the GAIF conference a success.

“Looking ahead from that, our focus will be on promoting the people in the Omani insurance industry,” Al Habib said.

Al Habib and Prabhu both emphasised the importance of developing insurance expertise in the region, through industry educational standards.

This is particularly in collaboration with the UK-based Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), as well as its US equivalent, the Insurance Institute of America (IIA), they emphasised.

“In Oman and across the Middle East, we have had a shortage of education and training material that syncs with the growth and development of the insurance industry. To its credit, the CII spotted this opportunity early and opened up an office in the region,” said Prabhu.

“We talk about AI, we talk about cyber, we talk about space and technology – all of these exciting opportunities. They [the CII and IIA] have the learning material ready for that,” Prabhu said.

“What we’re trying to do is work in collaboration with them to get the best practices already being followed in those markets. Both institutions are customising or aligning their syllabuses, promoted in our region, and to be compliant in our part of the world,” he added.