Insurance industry poised for new era of transformation

Rohma Sadaqat
Filed on May 23, 2021 | Last updated on May 25, 2021 at 10.53 am

The first major wave of transformation that disrupted the insurance industry came more than 20 years ago with the growth of the Internet, says Nicola Garelli, CEO of Beema Insurance.

This disruption resulted in a change of the distribution channels. Today, the market is ready for a new era of transformation, Garelli says.

"We, at Beema, want to make insurance simpler, easier, and fairer," he told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview. "The reason for this is that we saw that there is a space for transforming the industry from what is traditionally proposed by the insurance players."

Technology, he pointed out, is enabling new startups and product lines that are better suited to meeting the needs of the public. "Insurance companies today can collect information about the behaviors of users to create more accurate products that are tailored to their lifestyles."

Beema sees this as an opportunity to lead the transformation of the insurance industry in the region, specifically in high-growth markets. "If we look at the next 10-15 years, operating in high-growth geographies makes a lot of macroeconomic sense and they offer a healthier competition than more established markets. By operating in high-growth countries, we have the possibility of really innovating while configuring the products and excelling in our operations."

A completely new approach to make insurance lovable

Beema, part of the portfolio of the Emirates National Oil Company, grounds its activities in robust technical competence, reliability, and service quality. While it leverages tradition, it approaches people in a different way, trying to create a community.

"We have made it a point to trust our customers, giving them tools to be more transparent and to create value for themselves and for the rest of the community insured with Beema", Garelli explained. "Take motor insurance for example and our cashback option. We offer a very competitive price, but we also have the option of a cashback, which is based on how much or how little you have driven your car. You simply take a picture with your phone and send it to us."

Of course, there is an element of responsibility involved in using the method in a fair way, because when customers use the service properly, the whole community benefits, which he is quick to note. "We do have a sophisticated AI system which runs through the photos to check if they are all original, or have been edited in a way, but we do trust our users to truthfully report their driven kilometers into our platform. By providing this type of trust, we hope that we are improving not only the confidence but also the transparency that users have."

Customers have hailed the service, and Beema has posted record growth in market share, with over 13,500 policies sold in 2020 alone. The company expects the momentum to carry over this year as well.

Tailormade products that reward and incentivize

Addressing concerns about the type of data that is collected to create a user profile, he explained that the company only collects data after it has been given permission to do so by the user. "None of the data collected involves any localization, so it is completely safe from a privacy point of view. The data is always used to improve the customer profile to give the user a better price; if you are a good driver, you will get a better price consistently over time."

Beema is also working on creating a community rewards system, where a portion of these good behaviors can be passed on.

"Our whole proposition is to create and operate a usage-based platform which gives us the flexibility to use various factors in the way we price our products at the beginning of the policy, and then in the way we transfer a portion of the rewards back to the user at the end of the policy," Garelli explained. "This concept will define everything that we will bring to the market."

Beema is also working on a home insurance proposition, which will collect data on user behavior to give customers the best possible coverage and price. Right now, the concept is in the testing phase and is expected to be launched in the third quarter of this year. The company is also working to introduce a health insurance proposition, which will reward people for maintaining healthier lifestyles.

Beema is also about to launch a travel insurance proposition for both inbound and outbound travelers in the UAE. Specifically, the product will target the needs of visitors as they arrive for Expo 2020 Dubai. "We want these visitors to feel like they are at home when they arrive in the UAE," Garelli said.

Talent acquisition remains a priority

Company culture and talent acquisition are high on Beema's priority list as it sets out on the new phase of its growth.

"We have one of the strongest technology teams in the region right now," Garelli stated. "This team is made up of both regional and international talent. However, recruiting has been one of the major challenges that we faced over time. When hiring, we look for exceptional leaders that are able to embrace ambiguity willingly and work with a team on an agile and collaborative approach. Thankfully, we got some very good results from the local universities in the UAE."

Looking ahead, he says that he is confident that the UAE will be a key source of exceptional talent for the world, which will result in the launch of several innovative products and services across various sectors. "The ecosystem that is in place in the UAE is developing at a great pace. We have seen several incredible steps over the last few years, and I really believe that Dubai will become one of the top startup hubs worldwide."