Special feature: JORDAN

Interview with Mr. Mr. Mustafa Melhem, CEO GIG Arab Orient, Jordan

May, 2017

QCan you please give us an understanding of how the insurance sector developed in Jordan over the past 10 years?

M.M: 10-12 years ago we had the insurance regulator and the insurance commission which were separate entities, detached from the Ministry of Trade and considered powerful with high level regulation. There was reassurance from Europe who felt extremely secure when dealing with any insurance company in Jordan as the Insurance Commissioner had dealt with claims, premiums, and most importantly reserves.

The Insurance Commission has since been canceled and the team has been decreased to only 15-20% of what we previously had. Experts left to Saudi Arabia which has since become the most regulated county. There most definitely have been developments in Insurance in Jordan though there are a high number of insurance companies in Jordan in comparison to other small countries. There are 25 insurance companies in this country which creates a severe and intense amount of competition. The insurance industry is developed but profit margins are decreasing. We have a 25% of the total market share, we have approximately 50% of the market share of medical insurance which is very specialized. We have in-house claims management, we are available 24/7, though being number one speaks for itself so I won’t speak about our services.

As GIG we are partly owned by Jordan Kuwait Bank, and Jordan Kuwait Bank is owned by KIPCO (Kuwait Investment Projects Company) our mother company is Gulf Insurance Group, one of the most solid groups with support that spans beyond the region.

When it comes to Jordan, we need awareness. This year our focus is marketing, our main goal for 2017 is the retail area. We have high targets and we are undergoing an aggressive marketing campaign. We tailor make products dependent on our clients needs and one of these products we developed this year is a low cost product. This is a product designed for anyone and everyone, we have made it available in hospitals and our current goal is to create awareness. The cost for an individual for one simple trauma, a bone fracture for example, could be $350 JD’s. The cost for this one trauma could cover this individual for full unlimited coverage for an entire year with added benefits. We want to ensure people know of this both in Amman and in rural areas. We want to be everywhere, this year we could reach 16 branches and these branches will be small offices focusing simply on the retail business.

QIn terms of the products and services you provide, can you confirm to the international investment community what you can offer them? Would you be interested in working with U.K. companies?

M.M.: The U.K. Embassy is one of our clients and key accounts, they have chosen us for a reason. We are trusted and through word-of-mouth we gain new clients. We are the only insurance company that has the ERP – Enterprise Risk Planning (Enterprise Risk Management). Quality control at our company is ongoing on a daily basis, we have an internal auditor, we have risk management. Belonging to a big group like GIG allows us to continue to have growth, support, and a team willing to inject capital.

QGrowth is one of your key ambitions. Looking to the future, as you have been CEO for just over a year, where would you like to take GIG Arab Orient Insurance?

M.M.: In 2018 we will have a special logo mentioning “Insuring Jordan” this means that we will offer each and every demographic a product, including, for example, one catering to lower income individuals. Awareness is very important, we participate and officially sponsor all medical campaigns especially those done by the Ministry, we are also active with large companies such as Jordan Phosphate for example. Most universities in Jordan are with us as we add value. We provide them with a flu vaccine free of charge, because at the end of the day less sickness is better for everyone.

Our strategy within 5 years is to become one of the top 5 insurance groups in the MENA region. This is within context; I cannot compare The Group with insurance companies in countries with 95 million inhabitants or countries with compulsory insurance. We are the only insurance company making direct efforts as people will not come to us directly, demand is high in Abu Dhabi for example as insurance is compulsary. If we reach the top 5, I can consider us to be number 1 as we have reached this by our efforts with no assistance from the government for example in providing us growth. Our group CEO was very clear, he said “I don’t want the growth to come from organic growth, I do not want to acquire or to merge with insurance companies in order to increase our business or premium.” But in Jordan we must, in Jordan the government has made it very attractive. For example if you merge with an insurance company you will not pay income tax for 3 years and you will not pay insurance commission fees for 3 years. I could convince the group that in 3 months you would get your money back.

We have to teach people how to go to the bank, that they can sell or insure their car, they can do anything and will have a representative from our company to facilitate the process. We have a lot of ideas, most of the products that we come up with are under life insurance. Fairfax, our partner who owns more than 41% of GIG group in general, Fairfax is very interested in having the life insurance here.

QIn regards to the perception the global community has of Jordan, having success stories such as GIG Arab Orient show the world that they are operating within Jordan successfully and they are up with the world’s best in terms of financial services that they provide is important. What are some examples of how you do this?

M.M.: We are exclusive partner with Bupa International, exclusive with Cigna which was Vanbreda previously, exclusive with Aviva. They come to us because they are impressed with our services, and they can see what kind of employees we have. We really invest in our employees. I can tell you the Jordanian market needs maximum 10 insurance companies, not more than that and 8 commercial insurance companies and that’s it.