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UIB: Think global, operate local

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Nov 2017

Asia Brokers

UIB Holdings Chairman, Bassem Kabban, discusses their approach which encompasses partnerships, carefully selected hubs and recruiting the right people. 
Q: You had said UIB Group is focused on serving your clients in carefully selected hubs, as well as geographical areas where your clients have invested in during the last 10-20 years. Can you elaborate on this?
UIB’s focus is on operating a global network of offices that are strategically located to service major international client’s needs worldwide.
   UIB continues to maintain its independence as, in the main, an entity that is privately-owned by its management team, who are focused on putting its clients’ interests above all else. 
   UIB adopts a hub-and-spoke approach to looking after clients across the globe. We have built a series of local client facing insurance and reinsurance offices around the world enabling us to provide a completely bespoke and professional level of service whether we are working with buyers, brokers or insurance companies. These local offices are embedded in the local markets and serve clients fully with all aspects of the local “service” and “placement”.
   Our size, and the skill of our local staff, makes us small enough to be a true partner rather than a faceless machine, yet large enough to provide quality service and to exert pressure on the insurance and reinsurance markets.
   We can utilise our hubs to allow us to secure alternative quotes for our clients if appropriate. This enables us to offer clients our global expertise to deliver the best solutions backed by the best security. 
   UIB’s business model is different from others. We support retail brokers and clients in more than 85 countries, and we have a physical presence in 20 countries. 
   In addition to our local offering, we overlie our hub-and-spoke approach with the placement of specialists in three core geographies: Singapore, Dubai and London. Each of these centres not only has the best staff for delivering local solutions, but also our key placement specialists to enhance and deliver international reinsurance solutions for risks not retained in the local market. Again, our size is a clear differentiator as these three teams are able to work together to cover the globe effectively as one seamless unit. 
   It is also important to note that whilst we have 18 “spokes” and 3 key “hubs”, our international reinsurance support extends well beyond this. All of our offices remain in close contact and are able to help each other with the markets which write international business from within their territory. 
   UIB is also different in that it maintains full transparency in its dealings with its clients. 
Many independent local brokers approach UIB for support when they need to compete in their own markets against the major international brokers. 
Q: How are JV partners and MOU partners strategically linked in partnership with 
UIB group?
Not all of our business follows the above model. As well as an integrated and well-joined up network of our own partners, we also have a series of third-party relationships with whom we trade.
   These relationships are the real testament to a business such as ours. People and entities that trade with us clearly always have a choice, and they choose to work with us. In London, 85% of our business revenue comes from third-party relationships and we are proud of the fact that these entities continue to work with us ahead of the many other partners.
   Certain third parties form the cornerstone of this side of our business. Sompo Holdings and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance are longstanding partners, and we are truly honoured to have them as shareholders as well. We have spent many years focusing on these, and other Japanese relationships, and we know that we are privileged with genuine and unique partnerships that transcend business into friendship. 
   Outside of Japan, we have other key partners across the globe that we are also very proud to work with.
Q: On your Japan relationships, we understand these are historical and have developed significantly. How has this helped UIB?
UIB is proud to have a special bond with the Japanese market. After 30 years of working closely with Japanese clients – mainly trading houses – we have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that allows us to use our network to service their ventures/investments outside of Japan. We have earned the trust and the confidence that our Japanese clients place in us, and become their broker of choice. 
Q: What are UIB’s investments in core business capabilities? 
The tools of trade are predominantly our people, their skillsets, their industry knowledge and their trading relationship with carriers. 
   We speak at least 18 languages fluently. We have a team of engineers who understand all the technical detail of the risks they survey; this team is so highly regarded in the industry that they are often asked to perform surveys at locations where we are not even involved in the insurance transaction. Our claims people are dedicated to each area of the business and sit with their colleagues who are serving or placing the risk. 
   On every product line we cover, we have staff who fully understand that area of business. For example, the colleague responsible for driving forward the development of our cyber offering was employed, having finished in a Masters in risk management that focused on cyber security and risk management.
   Of course, we also have available all traditional models and tools and we work closely with AIR, JBA and RMS. Additionally, we have an ever-growing team of colleagues focusing on the complexities of the different international regulations and regulators, with complex banking systems, with sanctions, and of course with Brexit.
   Lastly, UIB Asia celebrates 20 years in Singapore this year, and we are proud to have so many of our clients’ and reinsurers’ loyalty supporting our business, allowing us to offer a high level sustainable service. We THANK YOU ALL! A 
UIB sees stable renewal rates in Asia 
UIB Asia CEO Bengt Johnsen shares his thoughts on the year-end renewal, the needs of clients in Asia and their support for regulators. 
Predictions for the year-end renewal are that the Asia-based clients will continue to benefit from attractive capital and capacity and therefore current market rates are expected to continue into 2018. The “new normal” in rate development forces industry players to look at ways of servicing the business more cost efficiently.
   Through investment in capabilities and actuarial/IT/modelling tools, we have been able to bring innovative solutions to our clients in Asia by attracting good security behind both multi-year structured, as well as conventional treaty reinsurance solutions.
Different needs
The reinsurance needs of our clients in ASEAN tend to be a bit different to the needs of the clients operating in the larger economies, such as China, India, Japan and Korea. Therefore our proposed capacity and solutions varies accordingly. 
   UIB Asia’s primary area of business development is Asia, but we are somewhat unique in bringing together Asia-based capacity and the Scandinavian Treaty client, which has given our markets a different diversification and portfolio mix.
   UIB Asia Singapore is one of the three reinsurance “hubs” and an important part of the group with our clients’ and shareholders’ focus on growing in Asia, and we are here to service the needs emanating from their investment and expansion plans.
   Our Facultative & Specialty capability are providing expertise in complex Aviation, Construction, Energy and Oil and Gas business, as well as major Property business across the region. 
Supporting regulators
We support regulators within ASEAN and believe they will see the long-term benefits in free flow of capital and capacity from markets here to support the clients. 
   National retention drives seem to be the focus in recent years, but there are some challenges that regulators also need to consider on behalf of the industry players, such as possible further consolidation, capital and capacity offered to Asia and the expected return from it, which will be closely compared to what they can get from other countries/continents, in particular for natural catastrophe perils. 
   Capabilities and available talent in the region needs to be there to meet expectations of our clients and prospects, and again regulators can help with some flexibility in this area. A 
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