The digital disruption of the insurance industry

MOHAMMAD AL HAWARI: If you look at the insurance industry, it is a huge sector. It is a $5 trillion-dollar industry worldwide, a huge contributor to the world's economy. And if you look at the players in it, they have been around for centuries. For example, the top 10 US insurance companies have an average age of over 100 years. While that's a good thing for the customers, it shows reliability, trust, that your insurer is going to be around in case of a claim, but at the same time, it comes with a lot of legacy issues. It's very hard to change and it's very hard to be creative in such an environment, with such big companies who have been doing this for 100 years, and follow the mantra of, if it isn’t broke, don't fix it.

But coming back here to the UAE, and what we are doing, it's the same thing. Our industry is a big contributor to the UAE economy. It is somewhat traditional, if you wish, if I can say, old school, relatively old school. There's a lot of innovation going on obviously with some insure-tech players, with aggregators, so forth. But it's relatively still untouched for innovation and it is still unloved. Most people only buy insurance just because they have to. I have to get my visa and therefore I need health insurance. I'd like to drive a car and therefore I have to buy car insurance.

It takes almost four weeks to sell a life insurance policy. It's complicated. You have to do a lot of forms, speak to an agent, and do your research and so forth and to get a quote. All this takes time and this is today in 2017. But there are companies out there that have managed to reduce that time down from 4 weeks to 10 minutes. That's the number one thing is figuring out or shortening that time from the time the customer comes in until the time the customer buys the policy. And making that very convenient for the customer in terms of customer experience.

So, all these factors, all these characteristics, are screaming for innovation, are screaming for change and disruption, and that's what we are doing internally here in Takaful Emarat.

Insurance on Demand

MOHAMMAD AL HAWARI: Traditionally, we used to sell insurance based on a product that fits everyone. A product that fits all. But going forward, I think it's going to be more about people wanting to customize their insurance policy according to their needs. It's no longer one size fits all. It's about what we call insurance on demand. I don't need 300 hospitals in my network, I just need 4 close to my house.

I don't need insurance for a whole year. I just need it for six months because I only drive six months of the year. So it's that concept of insurance on demand that's really needed and there's a lot of thirst in the market for it and we have already begun our journey into the digital age if you wish. Our vision is to become the first digital insurer, purely digital insurer, in the UAE and in the region.

But obviously, you need the technology around it. You have to have your digital platform available and a whole ecosystem. It's not just creating an app. I always tell our employees or whoever I meet. We are not an insurance company that wants to do an app. I want to think of us as a technology company or a tech company that happens to do insurance. So, it's a different philosophy in terms of how we want to think about the insurance industry.