STAYING AHEAD

Abu Dhabi 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Michael Bitzer, CEO of Daman, on expanding into the northern Emirates, sustaining a competitive advantage in a saturated market, and using innovation to stay lean.

Dr. Michael Bitzer
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Michael Bitzer joined Daman in November 2005 as CEO. Prior to that, he spent several years with the Munich Re Group where he served as director of operations for MedNet and the regional managing director of MedNet Gulf. He holds a degree in business administration and was awarded a PhD in medicine. He served in the German Army for many years, holding various positions in outpatient clinics, hospitals, and administration. In Germany and abroad, he has also worked in the pharmaceutical and management consulting industries.

How would you evaluate the company's progress and place in the local insurance industry?

Our 10th anniversary in 2016 was important to us because we continued our growth, especially in Dubai and the northern Emirates. Our “home market" is Abu Dhabi, where we have the lion's share of our industry, so growing in the other six Emirates was a natural move. By the time we started in 2017, we had an additional 65,000 members secured in Sharjah alone. Furthermore, we have also expanded in terms of our quality. We have improved our services in every segment we offer, made administration procedures more efficient, and designed a domestic strategy to increase productivity and bring overall costs down. These steps will allow us to serve customers better with reasonable premium rates. We had alterations in almost every business line due to reforms introduced in 2016. One of the main changes was the introduction of co-payments for treatment taken in private sector healthcare centers, where Thiqa cardholders have to cover 20% of the total cost of the treatment themselves.

How have recently adopted healthcare regulations transformed your approach towards the local market?

Initially, the impact was felt more strongly because of the relatively short notice with which these changes were announced. We were suddenly faced with the challenge of changing our systems and modifying communication channels with our clients and providers in less time than we initially would have.

How has Daman sustained its competitive leverage within Abu Dhabi's oversaturated market and how does it tailor its offerings to the lower-income segment?

The Abu Dhabi insurance market is price-driven. Daman has made it clear that it will never fall into a price war; we would rather be competitive by minimizing administrative costs or optimizing our procedures without selling under production costs. We are not interested in simply selling with guaranteed losses. We work under the method of attracting clients for our services and reasonable products rather than focusing on prices. We have been successful this way and will continue on this path.

What is Daman's approach to e-health services, and what have been the company's most recent digital introductions?

As people increasingly use their smartphones in every aspect of their lives, we deem healthcare a key part of that new way of life. We work heavily on digital health solutions, assistance centers, and pilot programs to extend the scope of our e-health services. We want to offer a selection of proven solutions. At the moment we focus on three key subjects through these applications—tackling diabetes, nutrition programs, and a support program for pregnant women. We have invested in new medicine and a deeper integration between digital solutions to include payments, procurement services, and the like. A further sophistication of e-health will radically change the ways in which we can provide coverage and how we guide our members towards best practice methods in healthcare.

What do you envision for the development of the local insurance industry in 2017, and how will Daman remain at the top of the game?

The focus for the future will be innovation. In 2016, we created a position called Chief Innovation Officer as a reflection of the company's commitment to this part of the business. We have also increased the number of staff members working on innovation and the development of new digital products with an entire floor dedicated to this area. It is through innovation that we try to come up with solutions that might further benefit our customers' requirements. Within the motor sector, the Insurance Authority has defined new rates and new regulations that will certainly impact the market in a positive way. As for the insurance market as a whole, things are hard to predict. There are over 60 players competing in the industry today and experts predict mergers as a tool to obtain a larger share in the market. It is doubtful we will see major mergers in 2017.