Interview: Ali Saleh Al Fadala
Given the amount of competition in the domestic market amongst local insurers, how is the sector looking to expand internationally?
ALI SALEH AL FADALA: All companies must innovate and grow in order to avoid stagnation. With the advance of globalisation it was evident there were a number of exciting opportunities in markets outside of Qatar.
While continuing to strengthen and develop our leading position in Qatar, we chose to enter the international insurance and reinsurance arena. It is worth noting that we first ventured beyond the borders of Qatar in 1968 with the setting up of our first branch office in Dubai, UAE. That branch is still there today.
Some time ago, Qatar’s leaders identified Qatar Insurance Company (QIC), along with other high profile companies including Qatar Airways, Qatar National Bank, Qatari Diar and Ooredoo, as companies with the capacity to enhance the international presence and profile of Qatar. As part of this strategy, in 2014 the QIC Group acquired Antares Holdings (Antares), a specialist insurance and reinsurance group operating in the Lloyd’s insurance market. In addition, Qatar Re, the reinsurance arm of the group, has expanded its footprint with the establishment of branch offices in Zurich and Bermuda and a representative office in London. A presence in both Singapore and Dubai is planned for 2015. The group has also recently established a Malta-based insurer, QIC Europe, which aims to become a key strategic platform for the group to underwrite risks from across the European Economic Area. So we really do view international expansion as key to the group’s ongoing diversification and success.
What stance has the local insurance industry taken on Seha given the rollout of the scheme?
AL FADALA: With the establishment of the government-owned National Health Insurance Company and the current proposals for the operation of Seha, a key area of our concern is the marginalisation of private sector health insurance and removal of the country’s existing competitive environment. Our view is that this is detrimental not only to the ongoing viability of local health insurance providers but also to the efficient operation of the health sector which requires an appropriate level of competition if it is to meet the needs of the Qatari people in an appropriate and cost-effective manner. We are also concerned that the current proposals for the implementation of Seha may not have taken into account rising health care costs, which, when coupled with the dramatic decline in oil prices, could result in the scheme being unable to meet its intended goal of providing mandatory health coverage for all expatriate residents in Qatar. Through discussion with the scheme’s decision makers, it is hoped that the concerns of QIC and others can be addressed. We believe that the success of Seha is dependent upon the involvement of the public and private sectors. Both have an important role to play, and we are committed to continuing our support for the health care sector in Qatar.
With the state’s infrastructure agenda in full motion, how is the insurance industry in Qatar benefitting from the work at hand?
AL FADALA: The state of Qatar is investing in infrastructure development in the run up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and the insurance industry has an important role to play in ensuring that this level of investment is appropriately protected. In 2014 Qatar Rail awarded a consortium of Qatari insurance companies led by QIC the contract to provide insurance for the construction of Qatar’s integrated metro and rail network. Ashghal has also recently allowed the consortium of local insurers to insure its major upcoming projects. The involvement of national insurers in these important projects is a reflection of the maturing state of the Qatari insurance sector and its ability to provide coverage for increasingly complex and large-scale projects. There are many opportunities for insurers like QIC and we are well placed to play a leading role and to provide support for the realisation of the Qatar National Vision 2030.
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