The Business Year

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Johnson Varughese

CEO, Walaa

Adel Zamzami

General Manager, Aljadara Alalamia Brokerage Co.

With greater awareness of and more regulations for insurance coming into force, insurance companies in Saudi Arabia expect many more opportunities and growth in the coming years.
How has digitalization impacted the products and services you offer?

JOHNSON VARUGHESE Like any other segment, the insurance industry is also going through a digital transformation. In the case of Walaa, we are on a path of digital transformation and are investing in a major ERP system. In 2020, we were able to grow despite the pandemic since we were able to serve our customers while working from home. We have the IT capabilities, though there is a significant opportunity to expand, and we are investing in digital capabilities at this point. It will take two to three years to achieve the optimum level, as it is a journey.

What differentiates you from the competition in the industry?

ADEL ZAMZAMI The competition has several types of brokers; however, we are unique in terms of real insurance and how we approach it. We are working with pioneers in the insurance field and transferring know-how to the people or clients. We are also committed to Vision 2030’s Saudization plans and ambitions to upscale local talent. We provide our young employees with training sessions and also partner with SAMA to provide them with access to its financial academy. Our support team is experienced and well versed in the industry and is trained to identify insurance risks. We tailor and carefully choose insurance policies before presenting them to our clients.

What are your priorities in terms of the segment that will be most important for increasing your market share?

JV We are predominately a property and casualty (P&C) company, although most of our business comes from the motor because of the market segmentation. About 80-85% of premiums come from health and motor. We have a decent share of the motor market, and in the next four to six quarters, our motor portfolio will be much more balanced. That leaves us with the health insurance segment; in 2020, we wrote SAR100 million, which is less than 10% of our top line. In the coming years, we expect to have perhaps 15% of our top line coming from health. Our top line is growing, and our focus for the next two to three years is consolidating our position in motor and P&C as well as expanding our market share in the health segment. We are not seeking an aggressive growth plan, but a measured one; in fact, we are on a five-year journey.

How do you shape your competitive advantages as a brokerage company, and what are your key plans for the year ahead?

AZ As brokers, our main target is to not just provide products but also consult them on the product that best suits their needs. We also offer competitive prices in the market that put us ahead of everyone else in the industry. We want to offer our clients the best prices, quality, and efficiency. Through this strategy, we have established ourselves in the market with excellent word of mouth, as advertising insurance on social media platforms and other tools are still in the early stages and need approvals and regulations. Our focus is to shift our business model and serve sectors such as the medical field, motor, and general insurance with the hope that general insurance will make up 70-80% of our company portfolio.

Are you targeting the younger demographic of Saudis?

JV They play an important part, though product wise there is nothing specifically catering to this segment. However, as more women enter the workforce, we hope protection and savings insurance in Saudi Arabia will kick in over the next two years. Saudis will have to start saving for their future, as the cost of living is increasing. I am hopeful about the growth of protection and savings insurance as the younger generation enters the workforce.

How will the proposed unified regulation for the insurance market affect operations?

AZ SAMA’s efforts to regulate the market are laudable, and this will elevate our position globally. Our main founder was one of the pioneers, in partnership with SAMA, to put forth these initiatives to regulate the insurance market. In addition, these regulations will open doors to opportunities for new products and services. Partnerships are also something we want to venture in, especially if we want to digitalize the insurance sector. Strategic partnerships with fintech companies would help us attain these objectives and eventually have these services be done in-house instead of outsourcing them.

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