With this year’s General Arab Insurance Federation (GAIF) on the horizon, Global Reinsurance and StrategicRisk publisher Jack Grocott speaks with the GAIF secretary general about the hot topics of the day for the MENA region - big data, political instability, and the move towards a more unified Arab nations
The theme of this year’s conference is “The Future Challenges of the Arab Insurance and Reinsurance Companies”. As secretary general of the General Arab Insurance Federation (GAIF), what do you see these challenges as being and how can they be overcome?
The GAIF General Conference is held once every two years. This year, the 31st General Conference, will be held in Beirut from the 24 May until 26 May. It will take place in difficult economic circumstances that have impacted all of the countries in the region. It was this challenging situation that inspired the theme of this year’s conference.
The GAIF conference represents an important opportunity to discuss and review the present status of, and the challenges facing, the Arab insurance industry. In fact, at GAIF we believe that the primary challenge for the Arab insurance industry is the need to take advantage of growth opportunities.
What do you think will be the main topics for discussion at GAIF this year?
The conference will address key topics such as: the future of the Lebanese oil and gas industry for Arab insurers; the future of digitalisation; and the future reconstruction of Arab nations.
Big data and smart analytics play a part in the event agenda. Like all developing markets, the MENA insurance sector needs analytics to move it forward. What do you see as the biggest obstacle to the digitalisation of the regional industry?
Insurers face many challenges in introducing new channels to market, while simultaneously remodeling traditional channels. However, several elements are intrinsic to all effective digital strategies. Insurers need a vision that focuses on framing the investment argument for digital; building the analytics infrastructure; and, embedding a culture of innovation within the business.
Any digital strategy should begin with a plan and a sound understanding of the practical realities of implementation taking into consideration customer expectations, target operating models, and so on.
What impact is regional political instability having on the insurance markets and the companies that serve them?
Clearly, events in some Arab countries have led to political instability in the region and cast a shadow over the Arab insurance industry. These events have contributed to the emergence of new dangers. However, at GAIF, we are confident that the Arab insurance markets will get through this difficult time. Therefore, GAIF is concerned with ensuring that consumers obtain high-quality products at fair rates and also with improving the technical managerial efficiency of insurance companies. GAIF is providing aid and technical expertise to support all Arab insurance markets by:
- encouraging the trend towards improving insurance legislation
- improving the business environment and regulating competition
- expanding and developing the insurance market
- establishing the rules of market conduct
- developing new insurance products
- developing insurance companies’ investments
- continued training of human resources
- nurturing actuarial expertise
- increasing insurance awareness
- increasing the implementation of modern information systems and subsidising the competitive advantages of the companies operating in the MENA market
- increasing the insurance sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP).