ELIAS R. CHEDID

Qatar 2020 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

Much-needed growth in the sector can be supported and led by new legislation to reduce risk in property insurance—both commercial and residential—and professional indemnity insurance.

Elias R. Chedid
BIOGRAPHY

Elias R. Chedid is COO & Deputy CEO of Seib Insurance & Reinsurance Company LLC. With over 25 years of experience, he has a proven track record in leading successful changes in various markets. His career started in the UK before moving to Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf. He holds a BSc in mathematics from the American University of Beirut and an MA from York St John University Business School in leading innovation and change. He is certified as an anti-money laundering specialist by ACAMS and an associate reinsurance administration by LOMA. He also holds an executive education certificate from MIT.

What is your assessment of premiums when it comes to insurance in Qatar?
The Middle East writes around USD60 billion of premiums, whereby penetration to GDP across the region is still short of 2%, compared to nearly 5.5% globally. In Qatar, insurance premium penetration to GDP ratio has grown by nearly 50% in the past five years to reach 1.5% in 2018 and is expected to match the Middle East penetration rate by 2020. An important reason for seeing such a low penetration level in the Middle East, particularly in Qatar, is attributed to the fact that the insurance sector is still highly dependent on the hydrocarbon sector. In that regard, we estimate that the oil and gas sector's direct impact on insurance premiums in the market is around USD500 million out of nearly USD3 billion, while the balance of USD2.5 billion is outside the oil and gas direct premium segment, but is impacted by the wealth of the oil and gas sector. It is in this space that insurers compete and where people can innovate, create, and come up with new ideas in order to open up the market and increase premium penetration to GDP ratio.

Why is the penetration so low?
There are a number of reasons, but we can look at them through two separate angles. On the one hand, there is GDP and its growth drivers. On the other is the numerator, i.e. the insurance premium and its growth drivers. The main GDP driver in Qatar is the hydrocarbon sector, which represents nearly one-third of overall GDP and contributes around 17% to the overall market insurance premium. Market insurance premiums are highly dependent on corporate business across various sectors that have been feeding the growth plans over the past 10 years and needed to achieve the 2030 strategy. Those projects required insurance types that are project-based and thus not renewable, such as engineering. On the other hand, renewable insurance types that are known to feed growth depend on demand created either by consumer need or by legislation to reduce market risk and improve business standards. We find that market demand is quite healthy in the large enterprises segment but can scale up in the SME and retail segments. Such growth can be a result of a momentum created by market forces but can also be supported and led by new legislation that is needed to reduce risk in areas such as property insurance—both commercial and residential—and professional indemnity insurance.

Is there any particular growing sector you will be targeting in the upcoming years?
The potential is definitely in retail and SMEs. We believe in being a customer-centric organization that focuses on ensuring the personal satisfaction of our clients. This is the core of our success and is where we focus when creating products, pricing our products, and expanding growth.

How can Qatar regulate the insurance sector in order to avoid bad practices?
First of all, we are insurance people, and, in the insurance business, we need to be generating returns to our shareholders based on our insurance business. The long-term sustainability of the business depends on the success of the core insurance operations. Thus, we focus on our technical underwriting profits before we focus on investment profits. This is where we may disagree with strategies that lead to the dominance of diversification over the core business.