x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Zurich insures the parts other firms do not reach

Providing insurance coverage for priceless works of art and Land Cruisers going off-road in Oman helped Zurich to rapidly grow its revenue in the Middle East during the first half of the year.

Despite an
Despite an "abundance of competition" in the UAE, Maroun Mourad, the regional chief executive for Zurich general insurance, says the insurance industry was not catering to many of the requirements of customers. Sammy Dallal / The National

Providing insurance coverage for priceless works of art and Land Cruisers going off-road in Oman helped Zurich to rapidly grow its revenue in the Middle East during the first half of the year.

Zurich's nascent general insurance business tripled premiums in the region during the first six months of this year to US$119 million (Dh437m) compared with the year-earlier period.

Despite an "abundance of competition" in the UAE, Maroun Mourad, the regional chief executive for Zurich general insurance, said the insurance industry was not catering to many of the requirements of customers.

"We think the population is underserved and underdeveloped here from an insurance point of view," he said. "What we've done over the past few months is to go out and talk to distributors, partners and customers to find out what their needs are, what customers require and what their lifestyle requires … We identified significant gaps in customer propositions."

This has resulted in Zurich promoting insurance coverage for aspects of life in the Arabian Gulf other insurers do not, such as including coverage for dune-bashing on 4x4 vehicles or travel to Oman as standard on motor insurance, as well as providing cover for repairing iPad screens.

The UAE is the second-biggest Gulf market for insurance, after Saudi Arabia.

Zurich estimates the non-life insurance market in the Gulf has the potential to grow from gross premiums of $11.8 billion last year to $19bn by 2016. "With mandatory insurance around the health and motor market [the non-life insurance market] has been growing quite quickly," Mr Mourad said.

The insurer's UAE operations, established in 2009, generated profits of Dh19.7m last year, compared with a loss of Dh2.9m in 2010.

Zurich plans to enter Qatar during the first quarter of next year and is exploring expansion plans in Saudi Arabia, expected to take place either through a strategic tie-up or acquisition.

A sponsorship deal with Christie's,an auction house, to promote Zurich's insurance of artworks has also helped to tap the high net-worth market and grow the insurers' revenues.

"It's a very demanding segment of our population and they're investing in assets that are quite expensive and mostly uninsured," Mr Mourad said.

Insurance for yachts, expensive jewellery and investment properties have also been highly sought after by this customer segment, he added.

The market for general insurance developed rapidly during the past decade as the UAE's economy boomed.

Underwritten premiums for non-life insurers amounted to Dh16.7bn in 2009, according to the latest available data from the industry's regulator.

ghunter@thenational.ae