PREMIUM SERVICES

Abu Dhabi 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ebrahim Obaid Al Zaabi, Director General of the Insurance Authority, on the history of the institution, new technology, and outlooks for the future.

Ebrahim Obaid Al Zaabi
BIOGRAPHY
Ebrahim Obaid Al Zaabi is the Director General (CEO) of the Insurance Authority of the UAE, and represents the UAE on the board of the GCC Accounting & Auditing Organization. Al Zaabi is also a member of the UAE Committee to Review Defaults of Public Shareholding Companies. Previously, he was the Deputy CEO for Issuance, Research and Legal Affairs at Securities & Commodities Authority (SCA), as well as a board member of Insurance Authority until 2011. He has held the membership of various committees between SCA, the Ministry of Economy, and the Central Bank of the UAE. Earlier in his career, Al Zaabi was the Fund Manager for the global commodities portfolio of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

What is the history of the Insurance Authority, and what is its role today?

The authority recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. We have introduced many technical insurance regulations for companies, including takaful. To help companies adapt their business models, we engage their leaders in designing most of our regulations through consultations before we introduce new laws or make amendments. Today, the authority is growing rapidly and hand in hand with the sector. We are number one in terms of premium collection in the MENA region, witnessing an average growth of 10% per year. Demand is high, and penetration in every sector of insurance is growing as well. Finally, we focus on raising awareness through campaigns and short films in schools and cinemas to educate people on insurance.

What has been the reaction to the new motor insurance policy?

Prior to rolling this out in 2017, we had a regulation in place from 1987 that had not been amended. For five years, we had been reviewing the policy, asking companies how we could improve it to tackle outstanding issues. At the end of the day, our regulations are for consumers, and we needed input to add value to these policies. This five-year journey has come to an end, and we finally rolled out our new policy, though our work is not yet finished. In the meantime, we encourage people to shop around at the 48 insurance companies in the UAE until they find a policy that is right for them.

How is the Insurance Authority working on introducing technology to streamline the claims handling process and data acquisition?

We are looking at technology, fintech, and blockchain. Currently, we are trying to get things done electronically. The new claims technology that we have introduced pushes claims directly to the insurance company, and it has three days to come back to the client before it is escalated to us. We aim to reduce the amount of time it takes to receive a claim as much as possible. That is why we introduced a loaner car policy, whereby the company has to provide customers with the same type of car or compensate them AED300 (USD82) per day until the claim is settled. Our neighbors may have larger populations than Abu Dhabi; however, we are beating them in terms of technology.

What is the competitive advantage of the UAE market compared to other countries in the region?

Awareness is higher in our market. We also have a large amount of compulsory insurance, such as health and motor, which adds value. Now, we have been approached by different entities that want other compulsory insurance. We want to get the government involved as much as possible. Insurance will become increasingly dominant in the coming years, as people think even more about how they can insure themselves and companies work to create better products. Typically, the stock exchange is the mirror of the economy anywhere in the world. However, insurance is heading in that direction. Now we also have to pay VAT, and there will be an impact during the first year, after which everything will run smoothly. We want to reduce the number of complaints from 60 a day to zero—that is the ultimate goal.

What are your expectations for 2018?

Life insurance is the next big thing, as well as making investments. We are working actively to promote life insurance and want to raise awareness. We have drafted new regulations, and they will come out on the takaful side as well. All in all, we see positive growth in the insurance sector, with an average of 10%.