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Geoff Riddell

Top finance leaders to attend Bahrain forum

Manama, February 9, 2014

Leading players, industry thought leaders and key regulators in the international and regional insurance industry will be in Bahrain tomorrow (February 10) to take part in the 10th anniversary special edition of the Middle East Insurance Forum (MEIF 2014).

The 2014 edition of MEIF summit, which will be held at the Gulf Hotel, will feature a powerful line-up of high-profile speakers including Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Baker, the executive director – Financial Institutions Supervision, Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB); Lutfi Fadel El-Zein, the chairman of Medgulf; and Geoff Riddell, the member of the Group Executive Committee: chairman – APMEA, Zurich Insurance Group.

To be held under the theme “Strengthening the Regional Insurance Industry: Overcoming Competitive Pressures & Capturing Profitable Growth”, the two-day event convened under the patronage of the CBB is set to gather more than 550 international industry leaders representing over 250 global institutions, industry thought leaders and key regulators in the regional and international insurance industry for high-profile discussions focused on strengthening the regional insurance industry, overcoming competitive pressures and capturing profitable growth.

David McLean, the MEIF chief executive said that over the last several years regulatory authorities in the Middle East have taken critical steps to develop their respective local insurance markets and, as a result, the region’s insurance market has enjoyed significant development and exciting growth rates.

"However, the industry still remains fragmented and the sector needs to address a number of key challenges to drive further growth of insurance in the region and bring developments in line with more advanced insurance markets in other parts of the world," he pointed out.

"The annual MEIF, which over the last 10 years has established its pre-eminent position as the region’s largest and most influential annual gathering of insurance industry leaders, is set to continue its tradition of supporting growth, excellence and innovation in the regional insurance industry," he remarked.

According to McLean, this year's forum is poised break new records with more than 550 attendees representing over 250 leading global organizations set to join more than 50 international speakers and thought leaders for a very special and unique event that will chart a new road map for the further growth and development of the dynamic insurance industry in the Middle East.

Confirming his participation at MEIF 2014 and commenting on the CBB’s support for the event, Al Baker said: “Looking ahead, there is substantial new and untapped potential for the regional insurance industry in the coming years driven by capital investment and government spending especially in the area of new infrastructure projects over the next decade."

"This is expected to result in a surge in insurance activity and a growth in gross premiums in the region. However, regional insurance players must address key competitive challenges and balance top line growth with profitability. It is increasingly vital that insurance business should be underwritten and priced in a way that all the inherent risks are considered," he noted.

Furthermore, implementing a strong risk management policy and strategy whereby underwriting, pricing, investment and operational risks are managed effectively to achieve sustainable profitable growth, said Al Baker.

The annual MEIF over the last 10 years has played a key role in supporting growth, excellence and innovation in the regional insurance industry, he added.

The session, focusing on identifying the latest developments in the international insurance industry and implications for players in the Middle East, will analyse the major trends reshaping the insurance industry in key developed markets across the world and will also discuss how the regional insurance industry needs to be reshaped for greater success.

In his comments, Riddell said the true value proposition of insurance was currently not being fully realized in the Middle East with insurance penetration in the region lagging behind other major markets across the world.

"The development of the insurance industry in the region is also at an earlier stage of its evolution when compared to the US, Europe and even other developing markets in Asia or Latin America," he noted.

"This in turn does, however, also provide an opportunity for the insurance industry in the Middle East in that regulators and insurance companies alike can draw on the experiences and best practices of other jurisdictions. As the needs of businesses and individual customers in the Middle East grow ever more sophisticated, more interconnected and more global, the insurance industry in the region must also do the same,” he added.

Expressing delight at being a part of the 10th anniversary special edition of the forum, Riddell said he looked forward to the critical discussions that will focus on reshaping the regional insurance industry for greater success.

This year's forum will include an exclusive on-stage interview session with two of the leading pioneers in the Middle East insurance industry.
Interviewed by Sivam Subramaniam, the editor-in-chief, Asia Insurance Review & Middle East Insurance Review; Jerome Droesch, the CEO of AXA Gulf and Middle East Region, the chairman of AXA Co-operative, the member of the executive board of AXA Mediterranean and Latin America Region and board member of AXA Middle East; and Sameer AlWazzan, the chief executive of Bahrain National Holding will share their unique insights into the progress of the regional insurance industry over the past decade and what the industry needs to do in order to achieve the next level of growth.

A major highlight of this year’s MEIF 2014 will also be the industry leaders’ power debate session, which will feature significant debates and discussions on overcoming intensifying competitive pressures in the Middle East insurance industry.

The debate led by Safder Jaffer, the managing director & consulting actuary - Middle East & Africa, Milliman; and featuring Jamil R. Bahou, the managing director, Crescent Global Group; Yassir Albaharna, CEO of Arab Insurance Group (Arig); Youssef Al Kareh, the general manager, Solidarity General Takaful; and Farid Chedid, the chairman & CEO of Chedid Re will discuss key strategies for balancing premium growth with technical profitability and will also analyse how leading industry players are evolving and transforming their business to overcome the challenges of increasing competitive pressures.

The 10th Anniversary edition of the Middle East Insurance Forum will also feature a special awards ceremony that will recognize excellence, innovation and pioneering initiatives in the regional insurance industry.

On the event, Mohamad El Zein said the insurance industry in the Middle East continued to make steady progress and enjoyed a CAGR higher than the global insurance industry over the last 5 years.

"The key factors that have propelled the insurance industry in the region include various demographic factors, such as a renewed focus on economic diversification in key regional markets, compulsory health insurance schemes, an evolving regulatory framework, and an increased consumer awareness level about insurance products and their benefits," he remarked.
 
Given the tremendous growth opportunities, El Zein said, the insurance market in the region was increasingly becoming congested by a large number of local and foreign players entering the market.

"The growing competition is affecting the profitability levels and the increasing fragmentation is affecting the underwriting capabilities of the companies. These fundamental challenges must be addressed urgently so that the insurance industry in the Middle East is equipped to serve the increasingly complex risks in the region,” noted El Zein.
 
“We have been associated with the Middle East Insurance Forum for many years now and we are once again delighted to be supporting the 10th Anniversary edition of this high-profile gathering of international insurance industry leaders”, he added.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | banking | Insurance | Summit |

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