Salem Al Mannai: A Catalyst in Intuitive and Affordable Insurance

Salem Al Mannai | Group Chief Executive Officer | QIC Group
Salem Al Mannai | Group Chief Executive Officer | QIC Group

We as humans have access to limited resources for risk management when it comes to a situation where we dip into accidents or similar consequences. What cannot be provided, we try to obtain. Insurance is one such instance that comes into play when we cannot manage the casualties that we face; it gives us reassurance and a stance to regenerate on the contrary.

Unpredictability and predicament are fundamental to life; hence insurance is a prerequisite today. The arbitrariness of life these days has no covenant, even more than before. This brings the rise of the InsurTech Industry today. The insurance industry is predominantly backed by federal service providers, with privately held enterprises holding a minor stake. Ever-changing customer behavior, digital disruption, regulatory pressures, and the competitive marketplace leaves this industry to be a very volatile one.

Owing to the same, the Property and Casualty Sector, P&C, of the InsurTech market is not any different; challenges faced here are the same, if not more. But the ability of P&C carriers for protection has continuously increased over the last few years. The insurance business is adding capacity because of the prominent companies offering newly developed online services. These shifting dynamics have heightened price-based competition, fueled market development into new geographies, and compelled insurers to provide enhanced services.

Sustaining these changing dynamics of the market is Qatar Insurance Group. Qatar Insurance Company (QIC) is a publicly listed flagship insurer with an outstanding performance history of over 50 years.

Since its establishment in 1964, QIC has demonstrated its ability to consistently navigate individuals and businesses through economic cycles by offering a diverse portfolio of both personal and business lines of insurance products, combining distribution with excellent service delivery. And today, the firm stands even more successful because of the never give up attitude of its CEO, Salem Al Mannai.

To know his achievements and the sector better, CIOLook had an interview with the radical of the InsurTech Industry.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position as CEO of Qatar Insurance Group. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

Being a postgraduate of the University of South Wales in the UK, I have held various key positions within Qatar Insurance Group, the most recent being the Deputy President & CEO of the Group. I started my career in the retail department of QIC in 2001. Subsequently, I was appointed as the Head of Energy, Marine, and Cargo Insurance. And in 2013, I assumed the responsibility of Deputy CEO of QLM. In 2015, I was appointed as Deputy Group CEO of the MENA region. Later, based on my knowledge and experience, I was assigned the position of Deputy Group President & CEO of the QIC Group in 2019. And in January 2020, I was appointed QIC Group CEO.

Tell us something more about Qatar Insurance Group and its mission and vision.

Our mission is to be recognized as the world’s largest and most trusted insurance group while continuing to meet our obligations to shareholders, customers, employees and society.

Our vision is to maintain our drive for growth and excellence through innovation, diversification, and responsible leadership. Through existing and new strategic alliances and partnerships, we aim to create the optimum framework for continuous profitable development.

For example, in 2022, QIC Global, the subsidiary of Qatar Insurance Group, announced its intention to align its core companies under the Antares name (the name of QIC Global’s London and Asia-based Lloyd’s business, a well-known and well-regarded brand that has been chosen to reflect the international nature of the wider group’s client base and global operations.), creating a single identity to unify the brand across respective entities.

Enlighten us on how you have impacted the insurtech industry through your experience in the market.

QIC has made great strides in integrating technological advancements that address some of the inefficiencies that exist along the value chain, for example, we were among the first in the last 10 years to implement new digital propositions in the mobility space and health insurance, such as using AI modules in claims handling to improve processing efficiency and reduce operational costs.

This digital transformation has evidently resulted in efficiency gains and better service provision; however, the sheer pace of the change created a skills gap. That’s why companies must invest in finding and onboarding people with the right skills and mindset who can come in and challenge traditional approaches and test the limits. With this in mind, we launched QIC Digital Venture Partners (QIC DVP): a unit that is tasked with fostering a culture of innovation and accelerating our activities in insurtech, through building new ventures, partnering with BigTech and investing in insurtech startups. QIC DVP marries the different capabilities of QIC Group, specifically (Anoud Tech and QIC Global/Antares) together with insutech’s entrepreneurial mindset to boost the MENA insurtech ecosystem and to become the risk book of future digital MGAs while helping provide the right management tools and tech capabilities.

Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives Qatar Insurance Group.

Innovation, diversity, and excellence are some of our main values. We believe that a diverse workplace that brings together people from different backgrounds, nationalities, and genders who can draw upon their unique experiences and perspectives, leads to increased innovation, strategic thinking, and problem-solving.

We value every employee and acknowledge their distinctive contribution, effort, and opinions. Our Group is being built on teamwork, respect, and mutual trust, and each person at whatever level she or he may operate is empowered and encouraged to be responsible for their actions. We acknowledge innovation and reward excellence.

We encourage a safe workplace, comply with all laws and regulations, and strive to meet the expectations and requirements of our customers whom we regard as trusted partners, whose constructive feedback and candid critique is valued, and we endeavor to integrate into our business model.

Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?

These days people expect to be able to acquire services on the go through their mobile phones, therefore, in order to address this consumer demand, we launched the market leading digital insurance offering where you can directly contract insurance in 2 minutes. We are proud to be the reference here for many regional players.

And to expand those capabilities beyond QIC, we launched Anoud Tech in March 2020, a wholly owned IT services subsidiary of QIC Group. Its best-in-class insurance IT platform called Anoud+ provides insurers with an efficient and comprehensive way to manage all aspects of their insurance programs. With fifteen international insurers as clients, Anoud Tech has become an insurtech infrastructure player. It is also the first Qatari company to export internally developed IT solutions to insurance companies in Europe and the Caribbean. Those achievements have earned Anoud Tech a placement in ACORD and Alchemy Crew’s list of top 10 leading companies with great current and future ability to change the industry through insurtech.

To better work with our regional partners, we exposed most of our insurance products and services via APIs and have developed client management platforms and interfaces to facilitate communication and workflow between our organizations.

What change would you like to bring to the Insurtech industry if given a chance?

The insurtech ecosystem is still in its early stages in the MENA region. Our goal is to play a leading role in boosting innovation and entrepreneurship by connecting the different market players, such as insurance incumbents, regulators, venture capital and insurtech new founders.

We also aim to bring more insurance product innovation and digital proposition innovation through QIC DVP’s new ventures and by leveraging our Lloyd’s London and reinsurance capacity (Antares) and QIC’s dominant presence in the GCC region.

What according to you could be the next significant change in the insurtech industry? How is Qatar Insurance group preparing to be part of that change?

Enabled by smart phone and internet penetration rates globally and within the region, consumer browsing and purchasing patterns have witnessed a paradigm shift from offline to online.  A shift that was further accelerated by a pandemic that forced corporations, retailers, and users to embrace digitization.

Insurtechs worldwide followed a pattern of disruption similar to what we saw with Fintechs. The first wave happened on the distribution side of the value chain where the rise of marketplace, comparison sites and aggregators helped users quickly compare between insurers and obtain a quote.

The second wave of disruption, which is currently underway, is in the Direct to Customer (D2C) space, where incumbents are either innovating towards online offerings or working with insurtech companies that are providing digital capacities that enable incumbents reach online users, particularly, digital native generations (Millennials and Gen Zs).

The third wave will see insurtechs leveraging digital and data to provide an entirely new experience to the customer, one that offers sustainable pricing and profitability through better underwriting and risk management, on-demand, or usage-based insurance propositions, and embedding insurance into an extended ecosystem around the customer’s lifestyle and daily activities to offer ubiquitous insurance protection.

There are three strategic mechanisms by which QIC is able to innovate, expand and impact the insurtech ecosystem: Anoud Tech provides insurance incumbents with a software and licensing delivery model called “software-as-a-service” or “SaaS” that enables them to adopt and integrate digital insurance solutions; QIC DVP builds new ventures and invests in insurtechs and; Antares our specialty reinsurance subsidiary that offers a broad range of reinsurance and alternative risk transactions, as well as commercial and retail insurance products distributed through a network of respected insurance intermediary partners and Lloyd’s of London.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for Qatar Insurance Company?

As we progress further into the digital age, the demand for digital solutions that improve speed, efficiency and simplicity will continue to increase. Our goal is to become a digitally enabled and technology-driven insurance company that enables different propositions and expands the MENA insurtech ecosystem. Our specialty reinsurance, Antares, could provide us with greater flexibility to add new corporate entities and insurance-related services that will help facilitate a future where we are the standard defining tech platform for insurance incumbents in the region.

Also, with QIC DVP, we will have built leading insurtechs in several verticals and expanded the MENA insurTech ecosystem by creating, investing in and nurturing insurtechs.

What would your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the insurtech industry?

The best solutions and innovations are born out of a deep knowledge of the insurance space, so it is important to talk to customers and to truly understand their pain points. Also, partnering with the right players is critical. Approach our QIC DVP team and get valid feedback and to potentially partner and get financed. My other suggestion would be to participate in the second MENA InsurTech Startup Challenge.