TBY talks to Navin Kumar, CEO of Oman Qatar Insurance Company (OQIC), on opening a branch in the Oman Avenues Mall, new regulations in the sector, and expectations for the year ahead.

Navin Kumar
Navin Kumar was recently appointed as the CEO of OQIC. Prior to his current engagement, he was the Vice President of Finance and Administration at OQIC. Kumar has over 15 years of experience in the financial and insurance industry. He has successfully managed a full remit of functions in finance and accounting, investments, compliance, HR, IT, administration, strategy, and management. He is a graduate of commerce from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India and he is also an associate member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. Prior to joining the QIC Group in 2008 for Kuwait operations, he has worked as Sr. Manager Finance & Accounts at Reliance General Insurance Co. Ltd and as Operations Manager at ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd.

OQIC has opened a branch in the Oman Avenues Mall. What is the advantage to this location and how does it fit with your overall growth strategy?

Opening a branch at Avenues Mall in Muscat is an extension of our well thought out strategy, which we had implemented a few years ago by opening a kiosk at a mall in Doha, Qatar. Capitalizing on the success of our pilot project, we decided to open a branch at the Avenues Mall to gain visibility and traction. Depending upon the success of this branch, we may look at opening similar outlets at various malls. This also allowed us to refine our look and feel, which will be easy to replicate wherever we go. The location is also strategic because it allows us to be operational for longer hours than traditional branch timings to suit our customers' convenience.

How has OQIC adapted to changes in modern technology to serve its increasing customer base?

We strongly believe that customers today prefer to purchase and manage their insurance digitally. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of merit in having a brick-and-mortar approach, as many customers still prefer human interaction and would prefer to buy their financial products over the counter. To maximize on our reach, we have deployed cutting-edge technology to send instant quotes, SMS, and emails to inform customers about the latest promotions, and send auto reminders just before renewals. We have already ventured into various social media channels to engage our customers and ensure that we enrich their customer experience.

In which area of activity does OQIC have the most clients?

Approximately 50% of our premiums are generated through the sale of our retail products. To give an overview, we have over 70,000 retail customers, which equates to 7-8% of the total motor insurance market share in Oman. We have over 5% of the overall market share for all the products.

How will OQIC change in response to the CMA's mandate to have insurance companies become publicly listed throughout 2017?

Currently OQIC uses a lot of shared resources such as IT, finance, investments, and human resources, which allow us to be nimble as a company. With the implementation of the IPO, there would be increased transparency, corporate governance, and sufficient capitalization for some of the shared functions to be embedded locally within OQIC. The regulator CMA has mandated that 40% of the paid-up capital has to be allocated to the public offering. That is generally the standard percentage you would expect to see across the Gulf countries. Our plan for floating the IPO is well in progress.

Do you think this ruling will help advance those insurance segments?

It may assist in better insurance penetration, albeit the majority of the population has marginal availability of liquidity to buy these shares. Based on market trends, it can be safely concluded that this is a consumerist society and people would rather spend their money on tangible items.

What are some of the other regulatory changes that have come in recently?

A new law has been introduced for better regulation of insurance brokers. The law is expected to increase the operating costs of brokers so there may be possibilities for more mergers and acquisitions in the anvil. There are currently 40 brokerage firms and not all of them generate significant revenue for being sustainable.

What steps can Oman take to improve safety for its citizens, especially on the roads?

We recently performed a survey in Oman about the lack of use of indicators in cars. 66% drivers claim to indicate “almost every time," but credit only 13% of other motorists for the same. Around 38% find indicating is a sign of inexperience, don't indicate out of habit, or don't use indicators because it is not common in their home country. Around 93% state that indicating lane change increases road safety. If the road traffic regulators were to impose stricter driving standards and improve the driver's education system, there would be an improvement in road safety. Road safety is one of the important issues that we have rendered support to and seek greater cooperation from the Oman Insurance Association. While we have a fantastic road management in the capital, there is a lot of room for improvement for the interiors that still need to be developed and roads widened. To summarize, there has been a significant decrease in the reported number of deaths due to road accidents, which is a good sign.

What is your outlook over the next 12 months for OQIC?

We have a cautiously positive outlook. We are using technology and innovation and enhancing our products and services to highlight our “customer first" approach. We have worked on improving our partnership with affinities and intermediaries for gaining greater momentum in the marketplace. Being a subsidiary of the QIC Group-the leading insurance Group in the MENA, we share the same philosophy in terms of the quality of services we provide and the lines of products we underwrite.