Islamic insurance group Takaful Emarat’s recent rebranding exercise is part of its strategy of achieving more direct sales from customers, as opposed to relying on insurance brokers, according to the Dubai-based firm’s chief executive.
Speaking to Zawya in an interview at the company’s new head office building, Takaful Emarat CEO Fadi Hindi said the company had traditionally supplied life and medical insurance cover through a broker network.
“We issue the policies and we service the policies, but we have very little interaction with the customer,” he explained.
He added that it planned to maintain relationships with existing brokers, “but we don’t have any direct-to-consumer relationships and there were aspirations for going direct to the consumer from the board”, Hindi said.
This, coupled with its acquisition of Al Hilal Takaful – a deal that was announced in December but which is still awaiting regulatory sign-off – created the conditions for its rebranding exercise, he said.
Hindi explained that, although part of the rationale for its Al Hilal Takaful acquisition was to acquire a general insurance licence to allow it to offer a broader range of policies, UAE insurance law dictates that the two businesses must continue to operate as separate entities, with a Takaful Emarat as a parent company.
The rebranding exercise, announced on Monday, has therefore seen the former Takaful Emarate life and medical insurance business rebranded as tlife and the general insurance business operated by Al Hilal Takaful as tinsure.
Many of those working for Al Hilal Takaful will relocate to Takaful Emarat’s new Dubai headquarters in Umm Al Sheif, which overlooks Sheikh Zayed Road, once the acquisition gains formal approval. The 12,000 square foot, two-storey building was also opened yesterday.
Standing out from the crowd
Hindi said that he felt the development of a strong brand was important, given the number of takaful providers in the UAE and the lack of distinction in customers’ minds between them.
“One of the first exercises I did when I joined was to actually look at brand and understand the positioning, to know how the customers perceive and understand the Takaful Emarat brand. The problem is that there was no differentiation between us and other takaful companies,” said Hindi.
He said that some customers he talked to thought they had policies with his firm, but then said it was for a service that it doesn’t currently provide, such as auto insurance.
“Without doing a lot of heavy primary research, it was very clear that we need differentiation,” he added.
Takaful Emarat also announced the launch of a new range of health insurance, Health Plus, which will offer mandatory basic health insurance plus five higher levels of cover.
Last month, the company reported a profit attributable to shareholders of over 2 million UAE dirhams ($557,059) for the first three months of 2018, which was almost treble the 691,172 dirham profit achieved in the same period a year earlier. Gross written contributions actually fell during the period, however, by 17.5 percent to 215 million dirhams.
A report published on Sunday by insurance industry analyst A.M. Best stated that the lack of differentiation between takaful providers meant that they “remain subject to fierce price competition with larger, more established insurers that already benefit from greater brand awareness and established distribution networks”.
It argued that the lack of scale and size of takaful companies should encourage more acquisitions “to allow operators greater market presence”.
A report on the UAE’s Takaful market published by consultancy Milliman last year stated that there were 59 insurance companies – both Islamic and non-Islamic – in the country. Its analysis of the 30 companies listed on public markets found that takaful operators command a share of about 15 percent of a market with an overall value of 21.5 billion dirhams.
(Reporting by Michael Fahy; Editing by Shane McGinley)