Tapping potential

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Sameh Hafez, General Manager – Oman, Oman Insurance Company, talks about the new trends, opportunities and challenges in Oman’s insurance sector and his company’s expansion plans

How was OIC (Oman operation)’s performance in 2018?

2018 was a challenging year for OIC in Oman as we spent much of the year focusing on restructuring and going back to basics. We deliberately maintained a flat revenue over 2018 in order to restrengthen our base. Bottom lines were impacted due to losses resulting from Cyclone Mekunu, but disciplined underwriting practices have allowed us to stay positive for the year ahead.

What is your future strategy for Oman? Do you have any expansion plan during the year 2019?

We will continue to focus on our foundations in the Oman market in 2019, to ensure the right fundamentals are in place. Customer experience will continue to remain one of our key strategies, and we’re confident that delivering the right service consistently will be the differentiator for us.

Our plan for Oman is to invest in our growing pool of insurance expertise. Our workforce has grown significantly in 2018, as we’ve continued to restructure and adapt to market requirements. A compelling learning and development programme was commenced in 2018. Based on categorical feedback, we have identified focus areas and introduced a training calendar for the whole team. Only with the right skillsets can we empower the team so that they may take care of the clients.

While growth targets are aggressive going into 2019, we’re confident that we will deliver the results. Our confidence stems from our strong A-rated financials and our wide capacity. But more importantly, a team of expert and experienced industry professionals with a disciplined underwriting approach.

With respect to business focus areas, we will be looking at commercial lines and group medical in the short term. For the long term, we’ve already implemented significant changes in order to strengthen our relationships with industry stakeholders, particularly our competitors, the broker community, and importantly our regulators the CMA. We believe that collectively, we can make a more impactful delivery to the Omani market through shared insights and best practices.

How are you going to tap the new opportunities in Oman, spurred by the rolling out of compulsory health insurance expected in 2019?

The medical team has been ramped up in preparation for the compulsory health insurance mandate. We’re working on various products that will undoubtedly elevate the market. We’ve invested in our service platform and have partnered with new and exciting companies to help us deliver the best customer service to the people who trust us with their health.

What are the new trends, opportunities and challenges in Oman’s insurance sector?

With a growing demography and the regulator’s supervision in terms of increasing insurance awareness and implementing mandatory covers, the personal lines business in the Omani markets is on a growth path. Of course, the most obvious will be the anticipated growth in the health insurance sector due to the new regulations. This will be very welcome to a market that has seen stagnation in recent years. Motor insurance rates should bottom out in 2019. This may encourage consumers to purchase comprehensive cover over third party liability only, thus giving a much needed boost to the motor insurance market in Oman.

Additionally, the Oman economy is slated to grow in 2019 as the government continues to invest in multiple infrastructure projects to support its diversification plans. Such growth brings with it new insurable risk that the insurance industry can certainly benefit from. With that in mind I would predict positive growth in the commercial insurance sector as well.