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Fateh Bekdache

LEBANON - Finance

Every Branch a Hub

Vice-Chairman & General Manager, AROPE Insurance

Bio

Fateh Bekdache is the Vice-Chairman and General Manager of AROPE Insurance. He holds a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Southern California, and began his professional career in 1984 in retail and marketing at a department store in California. He later moved to Beirut to work as a Marketing Director for Import and Export at GAPP. He moved into the insurance sector in 1992 when he was appointed Managing Partner at LECTA. In 1996, he joined AROPE Insurance as Assistant General Manager, soon becoming General Manager. He was elected Vice-Chairman and General Manager in 2007.

"Customers are now less price-sensitive but quite demanding in terms of the quality of service they get."

What have been the milestones of AROPE Insurance and the insurance sector in general over the past two years?

Despite the slowdown in the Lebanese market, a new traffic law was published at the beginning of this year. Third-party liability insurance covering material damage became mandatory in addition to the compulsory bodily injuries insurance implemented in 2003. Unfortunately, this law was put on hold due to many legal flaws. As for AROPE Insurance, the past two years were digitally fruitful. AROPE Insurance was the first insurance company in Lebanon to develop a mobile app with unique features to provide full assistance on the go. It can be downloaded from Apple store, Google Play, and Blackberry App World. Our website was re-designed, a new mobile website was developed, and social media was activated to give us a full presence in the digital world and better communicate with our customers.

What have been your major initiatives in 2012 and what are your plans for 2013?

AROPE Insurance’s focus remains on offering innovative insurance solutions to cater to different customers’ needs, especially in the personal lines of business. On the other hand, we aim to continuously provide exceptional customer experience. To better serve our customers, our new Customer Care Plaza will be inaugurated in summer 2013 in the strategic location of Zalka—Metn, connecting Beirut and its suburbs to Keserwan.

“Customers are now less price-sensitive but quite demanding in terms of the quality of service they get.”

How do you assess competition in the insurance sector in Lebanon?

Customers are now less price-sensitive but quite demanding in terms of the quality of service they get. Consequently, what differentiates a company from another is neither product nor size but rather the service provided to its customers. Although our choice years ago was to be a customer-centric company with a good reputation in the market, AROPE Insurance’s focus remains on achieving excellent bottom-line results. In 2012, AROPE Insurance held a market share of 10.1% in the life business and 6% in the non-life business. We are ranked fourth in terms of production in the life and non-life business among 52 insurance companies operating in Lebanese territory. We are proud to be in the top one or two when ranking is based on bottom-line results. Now that the Insurance Control Commission (ICC) has started publishing detailed figures of the companies—the last report was in 2011—a clearer view of the market has been established.

What can be done to increase the attractiveness of the insurance sector in Lebanon?

Even though Lebanon is ranked high in terms of insurance awareness in the region, I believe we still have long way to go. Insurance is negatively perceived by customers and considered, most of the time, as a burden or a tax to pay rather than a tool for protection. But looking at the figures, we can clearly see the amount and number of claims that companies pay on a yearly basis. Investing in educating people about insurance is a big role that our government, the ICC, and the Association of Insurance Companies in Lebanon (ACAL) should play in order to better position the market.

How has your product portfolio evolved in recent years?

We are market leaders in motor insurance, and we are one of the big players in life insurance. Our focus is on the personal line of business as we truly believe it is the future. There is a need for such protection in our market due to the weakness of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and the absence of social support from the government. Most of the time, Lebanese citizens have to get at least their own health insurance, retirement plan, and education plan for their children to preserve their financial stability and ensure the future of their families in case of unforeseen events.

How does AROPE Insurance work with BLOM bank?

Every branch is a hub for us. We work closely together to answer all customer inquiries using a one-stop shop model. Customers go to the bank not only to execute financial transactions, but also to settle bills. Insurance has become a part of these transactions, due to the introduction of mandatory insurance and as a guarantee on bank products.

What needs to be done to enhance the regulatory environment?

Our regulatory environment requires improvement since it doesn’t properly regulate all industry activities and products, especially considering that the last amendment was published in 1999. Because of the political environment and instability, there is a slowdown in passing new laws. A new draft law for insurance has been left in the drawers for many years now.

How do you see the insurance sector and AROPE Insurance evolving in the short to medium term?

I am very optimistic. We are, in Lebanon, the masters of crisis management. We have learned that the hard way and the number one rule is to always be optimistic and look at things in a positive way. This is what we are doing in our sister companies in Egypt and Syria. We are going to keep on playing a major role in the market; we will hopefully always be one of the main players.

© The Business Year – July 2013

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