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Focus on Profitable Growth Vital to Long Term Success of the Insurance Industry in the Middle East

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Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Baker, Executive Director of Financial Institutions Supervision at the Central Bank of Bahrain inaugurates the 10th Anniversary Special Edition of the Middle East Insurance Forum (MEIF 2014)

Industry Leaders Discuss New Strategies for Strengthening the Regional Insurance Industry, Overcoming Competitive Pressures and Capturing Profitable Growth.

Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Baker, Executive Director - Financial Institutions Supervision, Central Bank of Bahrain delivering the inaugural address at MEIF 2014

Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Baker, Executive Director – Financial Institutions Supervision, Central Bank of Bahrain delivering the inaugural address at MEIF 2014

Kingdom of Bahrain: 10th February 2014: Confirming its position as the region’s largest and most influential annual gathering of international leaders in the insurance industry, the 10th Anniversary special edition of the Middle East Insurance Forum (MEIF 2014) witnessed today a high profile opening at the Gulf Convention Centre in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Convened under the patronage of Central Bank of Bahrain, the event was attended by 553 international industry leaders and key decision-makers representing over 250 international and regional organizations. A powerful line-up of more than 50 international speakers and industry thought leaders discussed critical issues that the regional insurance industry is currently facing and how the industry needs to be reshaped for greater success.

MEIF 2014 was officially inaugurated today with an opening keynote address by Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Baker, Executive Director – Financial Institutions Supervision, Central Bank of Bahrain. This was immediately followed by a special international keynote session featuring Lutfi Fadel El-Zein, Chairman, Medgulf; and Geoff Riddell, Member of the Group Executive Committee: Chairman – APMEA, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. The session, focusing on identifying the latest developments in the international insurance industry and implications for players in the Middle East, analysed the major trends reshaping the insurance industry in key developed markets across the world and assessed their impact on the regional insurance industry.

Inauguration of the MEIF 2014 Exhibition

Inauguration of the MEIF 2014 Exhibition

Speaking at the keynote session Geoff Riddell, Member of the Group Executive Committee: Chairman – APMEA, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd noted that “even though the Middle East as a region is still relatively early in its development of an insurance market, there is no question that global trends will sooner rather than later also have radical implications for insurance in the region and by adopting international best practices the region can leapfrog and greatly accelerate progress in the industry”.

“Greater cooperation between regulators to foster the development of a regional industry would allow small-scale local players to use commonalities of language and culture to build scale and compete directly with international businesses”, Mr. Riddell said.

Geoff Riddell, Member of the Group Executive Committee: Chairman - APMEA, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd delivering the keynote address at MEIF 2014

Geoff Riddell, Member of the Group Executive Committee: Chairman – APMEA, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd delivering the keynote address at MEIF 2014

He also added that “local corporations are going to increasingly look to internationalize their businesses, at which stage they will need (insurance) providers that can meet their needs internationally and therefore insurers in this region need to ensure that they have the necessary skills and market access to compete internationally for corporate and mid-tier commercial lines of business.” “This means local insurers have a strong interest in encouraging the development of a regulatory environment that is consistent with international rules and perhaps counter-intuitively, that allows international firms – and by association, international talent and technologies – to access the local market”, Mr. Riddell said.

MEIF 2014 also featured an exclusive on-stage interview session with two of the leading pioneers in the Middle East insurance industry. Interviewed by Sivam Subramaniam, Editor-in-Chief, Asia Insurance Review & Middle East Insurance Review; Jerome Droesch, CEO – AXA Gulf and Middle East Region, Chairman of AXA Cooperative, Member of the Executive Board of AXA Mediterranean and Latin America Region and Board member of AXA Middle East; and Sameer AlWazzan, Chief Executive of Bahrain National Holding shared their unique insights into the progress of the regional insurance industry over the past decade and discussed what the industry needs to do in order to achieve the next level of growth.

A major highlight of this year’s MEIF 2014 was the industry leaders’ power debate session, which featured significant debates and discussions on overcoming intensifying competitive pressures in the Middle East insurance industry. The debate led by Safder Jaffer, Managing Director & Consulting Actuary – Middle East & Africa, Milliman; and featuring Jamil R. Bahou, Managing Director, Crescent Global Group; Yassir Albaharna, Chief Executive Officer, Arab Insurance Group (Arig); Youssef Al Kareh, General Manager, Solidarity General Takaful; and Farid Chedid, Chairman & CEO, Chedid Re discussed key strategies for balancing premium growth with technical profitability and also analysed how leading industry players are evolving and transforming their business to overcome the challenges of increasing competitive pressures.

Speaking at the Power Debate session Farid Chedid, Chairman & CEO of Chedid Re noted that “with an increasingly strong economic growth outlook for the Middle East and given the region’s historically low insurance penetration at just one-fifth of the global average, the prospects for the regional insurance industry continue to be very positive with considerable room for growth. However to realize the full growth potential of the insurance industry in the region, the sector needs to develop talent and expertise. The industry must create affordable and tailored products that cater to the growing and complex needs of consumers in the Middle East. It is also vital for regulators in the region to ensure that the right regulatory and supervisory infrastructure is in place to enable the sector to deliver its economic and social benefits.”

“A concerted effort by policymakers, regulators and market participants is needed to address a number of market and regulatory challenges to enable insurance to further grow in the region”, Mr. Chedid concluded.

Speaking to the media present at the event, David McLean, Chief Executive of the Middle East Insurance Forum said that “today, as we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Middle East Insurance Forum, the landscape of the regional insurance industry has undergone a significant transformation from what it was a decade ago, and the market still continues to experience significant changes. Given the positive economic outlook for the GCC region, the future of the regional insurance industry is increasingly bright with ample growth opportunities as the penetration rates in the region remain comparatively low when compared to the global average. With significant untapped potential in the region, it is essential that leading players in the industry focus on providing sophisticated and differentiated products with significant value propositions, promote transparency and adopt international best practice in order to move towards a sustainable profitable growth path.”
The MEIF Exhibition, which was held along the sidelines of the conference, was inaugurated by Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Baker, Executive Director – Financial Institutions Supervision at the Central Bank of Bahrain and showcased the latest products, services and innovations from over 35 exhibitors.

Day two of MEIF 2014 continues on the 11th of February and will feature high-profile sessions and roundtable discussions on product development, asset management, captive insurance and Takaful.

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