Just a few weeks after its launch, Noor Takaful is well-staffed, well-capitalised and is already one of the best-connected companies in the region. David Banks found out why.
Noor Takaful looks more like an established operator than a start-up, despite being only months old.
How and why has the company sprung from the starting blocks so quickly?
For starters, it has a healthy pedigree. As part of the Noor Investments stable of financial services companies, it is headed by Sheikh Ahmed, a senior member of the ruling family of Dubai and chairman of Emirates Group, the airline and travel company.
Back in 2008, the talk in the corridors of the Gulf’s leading insurance companies was that Sheikh Ahmed and Noor Investment Group planned to create a ‘gold standard’ Shariah-compliant company which would set an example for takaful companies in the GCC.
A year later, this company already has a wide range of products and a packed schedule for more launches.
CEO, Parvaiz Siddiq, acknowledges that the company does not look like any other start-up.
“The intention was to form a new company that has the resources and performance of an established entity,” Siddiq said.
“We have set up our capabilities as if we were already that large, fast-moving organisation, so this is a different approach for growing the business.”
Rather than waiting for volumes to grow, the company has recruited the number of people it expects to require, and has implemented high service standards from the start.
“We will put all the people out there from day one. Other companies raise their level of service as they increase their business, but ours is a totally different approach.”
Noor Takaful is the Shari'ah compliant insurance brand of Noor Investment Group and the takaful brand was identified early on as a natural extension to the family of Islamic financial products. The intention of the group is to create an Islamic financial powerhouse to lead the Islamic financial services industry.
Best of both
However, one way in which Noor Takaful plans to be different is to apply some of the more successful business and marketing lessons of conventional insurance and, in so doing, set a new example for the rest of the takaful industry.
The company’s management team is mostly from a conventional background and their experience compares favourably with any other takaful company in the UAE.
“They have exceptional experience, they are seasoned and understand the business – my job is to keep the team focussed on takaful products with conventional thinking.”
While some people would argue that a team from conventional backgrounds have some catching up to do, Siddiq believes the opposite is true and insists the team’s background can provide a novel dynamic to takaful marketing as well as an international outlook.
Siddiq, himself with wide takaful and conventional insurance experience, adds: “We might say to ourselves, ‘why can’t these things, which are done in a conventional environment, be done in a takaful environment?’ Would it be compatible and compliant?
“It’s a great combination. It is a healthy debate and quite an exciting challenge.”
As such, Noor Takaful aims to set new standards in the region's booming takaful industry with a focus on ‘service innovation’. Siddiq tantalisingly alludes to ‘innovative new products’, ‘unique in the region’ scheduled for release in April 2009.
“There are initiatives going on and when we are comfortable, the consumer will see them. These initiatives will really create a USP for us. It will happen this year, the initiatives will start to fall in place from Q2 and we are targeting to do something for March.
“We are trying to create a standard. As we go on, we will do things which will be used as a benchmark. We are doing it in some areas already, but not transferred to the consumer at this point.”
Through its two entities Noor Takaful Family PJSC and Noor Takaful General PJSC, the company offers a broad range of Shari'ah compliant general and family takaful products, Including a complete suite of medical products.
Noor Takaful's business model is founded on the Shari'ah principle of wakalah.
General insurance, Group life insurance. Noor Takaful's products and services are governed by a Shari'ah supervisory board comprising of well-known Islamic scholars.
Individual life is still being worked on, but if everything goes according to plan, these products will be released in the second quarter of 2009.
Noor Takaful’s Islamic structure is set apart by some of its activities as a company.
Noor Takaful administers the process of participation, manages collection of the takaful contribution and processes the claims according to the contract agreed with the participants. In addition, Noor Takaful will also act as a trustee for investing funds in Shari'ah compliant structures to generate returns on the contribution paid.
Right now the company has no ambition to go into retakaful and does its reinsurance business mostly with companies outside the UAE, but within the Gulf region.
Most of it is done with companies whose securities are rated at A or A+ by AM Best.
So we have created a takaful offering which is backed by A rated retakaful companies.
“Our intention here was to provide some distinction with security. So that despite being a new company we are well backed so that large corporate companies are comfortable being with us,” Siddiq adds.
The company will begin with a focus on the UAE and because of the economic scenario. As the situation starts to change and Noor Takaful is properly settled in the UAE market, the management team will begin to look outside.
“We can’t say with certainty how the economic environment will ply, but if things start to improve in Q4 2009 or Q1 2010, that will be a good time to start looking, but it’s a difficult question. Our focus will be on the UAE until then.”