The Business Year

HE Ebrahim Obaid Al Zaabi

UAE, ABU DHABI - Finance

Meeting Your Needs

Director General, Insurance Authority

Bio

HE Ebrahim Obaid Al Zaabi is the General Manager of the Insurance Authority of UAE, the federal authority regulating the insurance sector and a Board Member of the financial free zone, the Abu Dhabi Global Market. He represents the UAE on the Board of the GCC Accounting & Auditing Organization and is a member of the UAE Committee to Review Defaults of Public Shareholding Companies. Prior to this, while being the Deputy CEO for Issuance, Research and Legal Affairs at Securities & Commodities Authority (SCA), he was also a Board Member of Insurance Authority until 2011. At the SCA, he had a distinguished career spanning more than 11 years. He is a graduate of California State University with further enhanced academic credentials through overseas and UAE based high-level management and financial courses, training, and seminars.

TBY talks to HE Ebrahim Obaid Al Zaabi, Director General of the Insurance Authority, on market demand, the role of takaful, and increasing penetration.

What has the Insurance Authority done in recent years to ensure that the industry continues to grow and meet market demand?

We are now at the stage where we are reorganizing all the sectors within insurance. We have new regulations that address investment and finance and concern both takaful and conventional insurance. We already have the brokerage firms regulation in operation, which came out in 2013. We are working with actuaries to ensure that most of the companies are solvent and comply with international solvency levels. These are the major topics we are working on.

How do you see the role of takaful in the insurance industry of the country?

We currently have around 10 takaful companies in the UAE, and we have been discussing how we can improve the law and regulations to make them more beneficial for both sides. We need to promote takaful, and are in the process of creating the sharia committee that the law requires. And this national sharia committee will help companies comply with the law.

How would you assess the growth that the local insurance industry has experienced in recent years?

Every year, we have a growth rate of around 10%. What we want, however, is a higher penetration rate. There is growth in a general sense, but on the life side I do not think there is enough. This is where we are now focusing. We need more products and penetration, and we are helping companies achieve this. Therefore, we are working with them to develop new products and get them onto the market quicker. We have been approached by government entities and professionals that want a specialized contract for their business. We are helping them liaise with companies to ensure this happens.

What is being done currently to increase the insurance penetration rate?

We cannot tell companies to “do this.” They have to come up with the ideas. However, if government or professional entities approach us, then we will work with them. Basically, we go to companies and say that if they want a policy for life or their children, then offer them a proposal that could meets their needs. It is not our job, but we are trying to liaise between companies so that we can increase penetration. Our mandate is the regulation and supervision of the industry. Although we facilitate the growth of the business, we do not seek to interfere.

In early 2014, the Insurance Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU). How will this contribute to the country’s insurance sector?

We are working with HBMSU to ensure that more students go to university to study insurance, because we need to increase the level of awareness. That is why we are taking up MoUs with not only this university, but are also looking at other universities in the UAE, allowing us to establish dialogue to enhance the sector. The UAE used to have universities that offered insurance degrees. At the moment, there are no courses because not enough people were interested. The UAE needs more people in this field, and for this reason we are working with universities to try and create an appealing and useful program for the youth. We are interested in doing campaigns in universities, malls, and schools to spread this awareness of insurance and that this is a good field to study.

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