With over 20 years of experience working in the insurance industry, Farid Saber joined the Gulf Insurance Group with the sole intention of enhancing a first-class service and achieving the group’s vision, ‘To be the most admired insurance brand in the MENA Region.
It was just over two years ago that Farid Saber was lured away from AIG insurance to become assistant Group CEO at Gulf Insurance Group (gig). His previous experience with a number of firms within Kuwait and the GCC made him the perfect candidate to oversee the group’s ongoing expansion in the Middle East.
Established in 1962, ‘gig’ is listed on the Boursa Kuwait and has two main shareholders. The KIPCO Group, a holding company based in the MENA region and Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, who both collectively own 85% of the company. As Farid pointed out, it is thanks to this strong financial backing that ‘gig’ is able to aggressively pursue its expansion plans.
“Fairfax Holdings is based in Canada but has interests in a number of countries including the US, Europe, Latin America and China. They are our technical support and advise us on our daily business, and it is this support from our shareholders that is really helping us to grow in the region.”
With a mandate from their shareholders to achieve a rather substantial 10% growth year on year, the company’s expansion is divided into two areas. As well as the normal organic growth, the group is also very active in acquisitions and, over the past 10 years, a new business has been added to the ‘gig’ family almost every year – the latest direct acquisition being AIG Turkey in 2017. Although this kind of process generates a great deal of value, by bringing in new skills and opening new markets, there remain a number of considerable challenges in the region, as Farid explained.
“The political situation in a number of the MENA countries can prove difficult to navigate,” says Farid. “We have interests in Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Egypt, Turkey and this, obviously, creates a bit of a risk for us in terms of growth and managing our resources on the ground. However, we are also present in some expanding markets such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, so it is really just a question of managing interests carefully and individually.”
Many of these countries vary wildly in their regulations and, therefore, trying to expand via digital channels can also prove difficult. With this in mind, ‘gig’ is constantly trying to reach out, in order to open up these channels, which Farid believes can only have a positive impact.
“We are always working closely with the regulators and a large number of our CEOs are active in both their local communities and local insurance federations, to try and influence change.”
‘gig’ also takes a pro-active role in training individuals when entering a new market. With people skills often lacking, the group prefer to train from the ground up and offer intensive programmes to bring individuals up to their required standard.
With the insurance industry currently experiencing significant change in the region, especially thanks to the new digital transformation and the growth of online comparison websites, Farid and his team are heavily focused on this area.