Risk Management Services (RMS), a 100% Omani owned company, completes 40 years of operation in Oman in 2019. Today, RMS provides clients with insurance consultancy, insurance broking services and risk management advice through its network of offices across Oman and in 18 other countries in which they operate. Excerpts of an interview with Hugh B.E. Robson, Chief Executive Officer & General Manager, RMS LLC
Hugh B.E. Robson, CEO & GM, RMS LLC has worked in the insurance industry for 40 years. After a grounding in Lloyd’s and Company Markets in London, Robson was posted to Lagos, Nigeria in 1982 by Stewart Wrightson (now Willis Towers Watson). After returning to London in 1985, he was given responsibility for developing Construction & Engineering insurance opportunities in the Middle East. In 1989, he accepted a position with Jardine Insurance Brokers (now JLT) in Hong Kong and remained in East Asia for 23 years.
During this time, Robson was based in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Indonesia and for 12 years, held regional roles including Managing Director and then Deputy Chairman for JLT Asia.
Prior to joining RMS in Oman in 2013, he was recruited by Zurich Insurance Company (ZIC) as CEO of their Global Corporate Division (ZGC) in Asia Pacific where he successfully established ZGC in 8 countries and in five years generated premiums of USD. 500 million.
Below are excerpts of an interview with Robson:
The Journey & Global Expansion
Established in 1979, Risk Management Services was the first insurance broker to be licensed in the Sultanate of Oman. We are a 100% Omani company – a third of RMS is owned by the ROP pension fund, a third by the heirs of the late Qais Al Zawawi and the remaining third by Al Marjan Financial Services (MB Holding Group). For the first 30 years, we operated under a technical and management agreement with HSBC Insurance Brokers Ltd., instilling within RMS a culture of compliance, international standards and being fair to clients. Today, we continue to provide insurance consultancy, insurance broking services and risk management advice to the highest standards.
In 2008, we had our first overseas investment in Pakistan. The business grew very well and in 2013, we ventured to India and Sri Lanka. In India, given FDI regulations, we could only own 26% of the shares in a joint venture as foreign investors but that later grew to 49%. In Sri Lanka, we were a 50-50 joint venture but we bought out the local partner so that is now a 100% RMS business.
The following year (2014), we started talking to Millennium Insurance brokers in Dubai and agreed on a 51-49 joint venture in Dubai [where RMS has majority control of the business]. That entity employs 60 staff and, under the leadership of Albert Rodriguez, has been growing well.
Soon after, we were approached by a venture capital company who owned 70% of an insurance broking business operating in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE). This particular business was quite complex as it had operations in 13 countries along with a strategic network of partners in 12 other countries. It was a very solid business proposition and after much negotiation RMS bought a 100% stake of that business.
The business in CEE is called MAI CEE. Their business model is primarily based on providing a network across CEE. Let’s imagine there is a broker operating in North America, say, in Chicago and he has a client who has opened a business in Poland and needs someone to look after their clients’ insurance requirements. MAI CEE provides the Chicago-based broker with the service whereby they look after that client’s subsidiary in that country. 50% of our revenue in CEE is generated through our network and 50% in-country. MAI CEE is a very strong brand and that’s the reason why we have retained the name.
RMS in Oman
Since June 2014, things have been difficult in Oman. Oil prices and cash flows have been tight, but our shareholders have allowed us to continue to invest, not only overseas but also here in Oman. Five years ago, we were a 40 people team operating from one office . That has now grown to 138 staff in seven branches.
We are split into six divisions: Energy and Construction, Corporate Risks, Industrial and Commercial, Government and Special Risks, Employee Benefits, and Personal Lines and Branches. These six divisions are supported by a separate claims division led by a Chartered Loss Adjuster. With the support of our shareholders we have invested in an expansion programme and we now have – in addition to our head office in the ROP Pension Trust Build in CBD – six branch offices in Sohar, Salalah, Nizwa, Sur, Rex Road and Al Khoud, making it a total of seven branches across Oman. We have another 10 Kiosks that are located in ROP licensing centres. So, with the branches and the kiosks, we have expanded significantly within the Sultanate.
We are very proud of the fact that we have created over 90 jobs for Omani staff over the last five years. Currently, the Omanistaion target in the Insurance Industry is 70% (increasing to 75% this year); however, we have already achieved 78% Omanisation and are extremely proud of that fact.
RMS is leading the pack in Oman when it comes to investing in technology. We have overseas developers in countries like India to help us develop products similar to that of an insurance aggregator. Aggregators essentially help customers get estimates on what their insurance will cost. Even though the aggregator doesn’t issue the policy, it’s a useful tool to help customers shop the market and collect quotes from existing insurance providers.
The other area of business on which we are focused, is employee benefits. We manage the medical and life insurance needs for over 85,000 clients’ employees. We have invested in providing our clients with dedicated internet portals and an App for their employees which enables the employee to make and review claims on-line, check the scope of cover provided, find a hospital or clinic and contact RMS or the selected insurance company staff. We have continued to make significant investments in the development of technology to revolutionise the delivery of our services to our clients, particularly in the claims sector where management information (MI) and the ability to share and access information on-line significantly speeds up the entire process.
We have also launched Apps through our social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn under the name RMS Aldhaman.
Future Growth Opportunities
As I said, in the last few years we have expanded rapidly. We now need to focus on consolidation. What we need to do now, is bring all our businesses together as part of the RMS Group.
We have already started to witness a strong revenue growth from our investments in Dubai, Pakistan, and CEE; however, there are many more opportunities for us to continue to grow particularly in countries like India. However, we want to achieve sustainable profitable growth through developing and implementing business plans for the Group and each country in which we operate. I am also very optimistic that we can achieve sustainable growth in the Oman market, although we must continue to adjust our business model as the economy and insurance market develops.
Sushmita, Assistant Editor – BusinessLiveME, enjoys writing about a variety of topics, including but not limited to, energy, video games, infrastructure, cyber security, feminism and gender, and popular culture. Apart from her content-related duties, Sushmita is adept at making to-do lists.