How have you outgrown the market in recent years?
SAMER ABOU JAOUDE Our strategy has evolved throughout our history, though we have always recognized the value of our customers. In 2016, we launched a new strategy with the purpose of improving and increasing our customer-centric efforts. We need to be flexible in order to adapt to the different needs of customers and be profitable. To this end, we reassessed our operations across the region. We are present in nine territories, five of which are branches directly owned and managed by the company. Lebanon is our head office, though we have branches in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain. In addition, we have majority-owned subsidiaries in Oman, Syria, and Jordan. We also have an affiliate in Saudi Arabia, of which we are one of the largest shareholders. This is an equity investment for us. Due to our large presence, we reassessed our operations to ensure our customers were receiving the best services and created departments and teams within the organization that focus on the different distribution channels. This will offer us flexibility and ensure excellent customer care and service. We have also launched new products to cater to the different communities we operate in.
ANTHONY KHAWAM 2017 was an amazing year. We mostly grew our non-life services, though the entire company grew tremendously compared to 2016, and our results were just staggering. In terms of growth, we outdid the market nearly 15-fold. Profitability was great. The Minister of Economy and Trade and the Insurance Control Commission (ICC) even congratulated us for our great work. However, what truly underpins our success is our ability to profoundly impact the people we serve; this is what truly makes a difference. People are happy because they come back and are willing to pay for our services. Financial solvency is also doing great because of this. Our focus now is to grow by 35% in 2018.
What is your approach to product development?
SAJ Across the Arab world, the medical and motor lines of business are dominant. This structure and distribution will likely remain for the foreseeable future. Having said that, we have developed new types of motor products that cater to the needs of specific clienteles. We have also launched new travel, personal accident, and marine products. In Lebanon, we have launched a new hunting liability policy that offers sport enthusiasts the ability to hunt safely and adhere to regulations. We seek to find the best way to distribute these products to ensure our policyholders are fully satisfied. We want to offer excellent A to Z coverage and care. Altogether, this has resulted in a larger customer base and more active product demand. The new products we are launching are personal lines, and we need a large product portfolio to be properly positioned. We envision an even larger customer base in the coming years as a result of our current product expansions. In parallel, we are leveraging our territorial presence to sell policies designed for regional companies. Companies can now speak to a single company able to provide coverage across multiple territories.
AK The easiest thing in insurance is product development. However, what is more difficult are service and consistent delivery of the best services. The most difficult thing is being there whenever clients need us and innovating when it comes to services. Products are important, though there are other things to look at. Our products are good, and whenever a claim happens we want our clients to benefit from them; that's why they are never void. Our prices are not the lowest in the market, but they are well suited to sustaining our good service standards. In our industry, if we take in bad businesses, results will be negatively impacted and we will be forced to increase prices. Thus, from the beginning we do not take bad business, which helps us maintain competitive rates.