What are your expectations for consolidation in the insurance landscape following the new regulations issued by SAMA?
We hope to increase the depth of the insurance market in the Saudi economy. Compared to other countries, this sector is currently smaller than it should be. At present, it is just 1.5% of GDP, while the global levels of this sector are much higher. We do not have an exact figure in mind, but we benchmark this with peer countries. Increased activities in the insurance sector will ultimately better serve the Saudi economy. We strive for a broadening of insurance offerings and our regulations are intended for that. Consolidation will also make the insurance industry stronger and ultimately better serve the Saudi economy. Thus far, four companies have approached us for a merger approval. One merger is at an advanced stage, while the others are currently still in the exploratory phase. Although we have issued more stringent regulations for companies operating in the insurance spheres, not all have yet responded to our message of exploring possible mergers to strengthen their financial positions. Therefore, we are now considering raising the capital requirements for individual companies.
What is your approach on combating insurance fraud and what role can SAMA play?
Insurance fraud is all over the world, as well as in the Saudi Arabian insurance sector. The health and vehicle insurance activities are the most widespread, representing almost 85% of insurance fraud. We work with the insurance companies for the purpose of combating this, hoping that we will strengthen coordination with law enforcement bodies so that we eliminate or mitigate such fraud. It ultimately weakens the sector's competitiveness, reduces sector confidence, and weakens the sector's credibility. That also means higher prices for customers.
How many international banks have applied to SAMA to open branches in the Kingdom?
We recently issued a license to a British bank. We have also provided our recommendation for another one, also to a foreign bank, as the final approval is issued by the King. We also have two requests for national banks, but these are still in the initial stages.
What is the strategy developed by the authority to strengthen or stimulate the auto insurance sector?
We are working on a financial sector development program (FSDP) to strengthen the insurance sector by increasing insurance products. Compared to the much higher rates in many other countries, our production and saving programs are still weak. We need to promote awareness and the importance of saving and protection. We want to encourage people to take out insurance on properties, especially.
Can you tell us more about SAMA's approach to funding and capacity building, including the launching of a sandbox?
The purpose of the sandbox is to strengthen the work on financial technologies, giving all business people, in particularly small businessmen, the chance to enter the financial services arena. We have many participants in this field. But, more importantly, regarding the sandbox, it is a place to learn and exchange experiences for the academic, government, and private sectors, and the business community. Some of them may soon graduate and become entrepreneurs in the financial services industry.