The Business Year

Praveen Kumar

OMAN - Finance

Praveen Kumar

CEO, Al Ahlia Insurance Co. SAOG

Bio

Praveen Kumar is the CEO of Al Ahlia Insurance Co. SAOG. He holds a bachelor of science (mathematics) degree from the University of Madras and is a chartered accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He holds a professional certification in derivatives market.

During the pandemic, Al Ahlia Insurance Co. SAOG swiftly leveraged its established contactless platforms to extend its services seamlessly to customers in a safe and secure manner.

What have been some of the major developments across your operations over the past year?

At RSA & Al Ahlia, the last few months have been nothing short of transformational in the truest sense of the word. At our group level, Canadian insurer Intact Financial Corp. and Danish insurer Tryg A/S acquired RSA Insurance Group Plc, one of the biggest acquisitions of a UK-listed company in 2020. This acquisition gives Al Ahlia an opportunity to continue to build on our strong market position across all lines of business and customer franchises. At the Middle East regional level, our businesses have gone through a restructure of our operating model and created hubs of excellence spread across the Middle East, for all country operations to get expertise from and apply it locally in the best possible way. We have onboarded new colleagues with a diverse new age skill set which not only compliments our traditional technical forte but also reflects our growth ambitions for the next few years. At Al Ahlia, we have continued to be performance-driven, customer-centric and focused on our journey of providing best-in-class services to our customers. During the pandemic, we swiftly leveraged our already established contactless platforms to extend our services seamlessly to customers, in a safe and secure way following the directives of the Supreme Committee appointed to deal with COVID-19. Our WhatsApp services and Call Center have been working continuously through the intermittent lockdown phases providing customers with essential services such as new insurance buying, renewals and registering claims. We also introduced an active ‘Webchat’ function on our website which has been a valuable tool for customers to reach us anytime. Shortly we will introduce our revamped online customer journey which will make it even easier for our customers to buy and renew insurance online. The benefits of these innovations and channels have been immense not just for the business, but for our customers who rely on us, and we are glad to be doing our part to keep the community going during these unprecedented times.

What is your opinion of market penetration throughout the insurance sector and how do you respond to the high level of competition?

Compared to global average of 7.23%, the penetration in Oman is at 1.32%. The lower levels of insurance penetration in Oman gives the industry confidence to grow with market evolution over a period of time. The introduction of mandatory health insurance program will be a big catalyst for growth moving forward for the industry and the penetration may increase. For the size of the market (approx. USD1.22 billion), the landscape is somewhat crowded, with around 20 insurers and 37 brokers. For an insurance company, profitable growth is the problem. Based on data, our best estimate is that the market will be flat in 2021. Al Ahlia is a focused property and casualty insurer (P&C), and we expect smaller, single-digit growth from all our lines of business. Our aim is to deliver a sustained profitable performance for all our stakeholders, through our segmented pricing and distribution strategy. Our stable investment income is also a good part of overall profitability while the major share coming from strong underwriting results.

What can drive growth in the insurance sector and what customer segment is available for insurance companies?

As the market sees new participants and an influx of ideas, naturally companies will look to build strength through collaboration and/or consolidation, opening avenues for newer business models and partnerships. With changing consumer behavior, there is a need for new products or add-ons to the existing products and more clearly there is demand for new channels of distribution to reach customers faster, quicker and at their time of convenience. Innovation can be the catalyst for inorganic growth through the advent of insure-tech, analytics-based customer/business propositions. Insurers and innovators will be on the lookout for such opportunities to disrupt the existing models.

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