Insurance is notorious for being one of the least romantic areas of finance. In the Middle East and North Africa it is also the smallest financial sector. With an over saturated market of insurance providers in Jordan, Arab Insurance sought to develop a niche with the establishment of SAFEHOUSE.
The internal brainchild of Arab Insurance has now developed into the first ever insurance retail storefront globally. With innovation and creativity at its forefront, CEO Hadi AlKurd sat down with Venture to discuss the future of the SAFEHOUSE brand and the importance of providing a personal-line for those seeking to be insured.
What provoked Arab Insurance to want to create a retail showroom for insurance?
Basically, we wanted to create a new distribution channel for personal insurance. We researched the global market regarding the sales of personalized insurance and we realized that we needed to find our edge, and that edge was to stop selling it through sales people and through cold calling.
So, what we did was that we decided to create a concept around a place where people can come in, network and get the information they need. But at the same time it is a bit different than any insurance company in that it is not rigid; it’s not a formal insurance. The place is more relaxed, convenient, and comfortable for our clients to come in and do whatever they need for their insurance.
The concept came out around 2012 when we created partnerships with Harley Davidson and we had other communities that we used to cater for their insurance needs. Once we created this community, having a conveniently located place became vital in allowing people to come in, allowing us to hold our own events in-house, and to socialize with our clients.
Has any other insurance company embarked on developing retail storefronts for insurance before?
No, not that I am aware of. Not only in Jordan, but globally. Regional and international insurance companies said they had never seen anything like this before.
Are customers receptive to this type of personalized insurance?
At the beginning, it was challenging to be honest, because the perception of insurance for clients is heavily molded by the average insurance company. However, once they started coming in and seeing the different approach taken, it started to pick up quickly.
Clients are very receptive now and they appreciate the brand. That is why if you take a look at our slogan, it is building our fan base one-by-one. For this to succeed, and with SAFEHOUSE in particular, it requires a lot of fans to rally behind it. So, that is where we are going; we are creating fans, not clients.
What was the reasoning for going with a punchy name like SAFEHOUSE?
It was the only brand name that works with insurance. As I said, the concept was to have a place, one place, where people can come in, feel comfortable, conveniently located, and at the same time they can take out any insurance they need. So, the name SAFE, as in safety, and HOUSE, this is your house.
How is the insurance sector doing in Jordan?
From my perspective, the insurance sector is not struggling. It lacks development and updated regulations. I mean, if this sector is to develop, to grow, to actually engage in incorporating technological advances like banks have done, then I do believe it would be a stronger financial sector in the region.
Do I blame the insurance sector? I cannot blame them alone, I also blame the regulators for not updating their regulations, their policies, and allowing freedom of movement. I mean if you want to be creative, if you want to develop a service and products, you need the regulations and policies that will support that. So, I cannot say it is struggling, as much as it lacks a lot of creativity and innovation.
Insurance is the smallest financial sector in Jordan, so do you see it growing moving forward?
It would grow but not with the number of the Jordanian companies available now. I mean, in a small market is it justifiable to have 22-23 insurance companies in such a small market? No. Does this affect the players in the market? It does. It affects the prices, the innovation, the service, and the perception of the client. It is congested.
What are the risks facing the insured and how do you intend to innovate and provide services for people facing ever-changing risks?
It’s long known that the most popular insurance products are motor insurance and health insurance. The awareness in the market, for example, property insurance at a personal level is extremely low. Lately we are seeing a pickup in demand for travel insurance. At the beginning, travel insurance used to be just for the Schengen visa, but now people have been more aware that, no, it’s good to have a worldwide travel insurance even if I’m not going to a Schengen country.
This is what we are trying to push. We are trying to push new products which have relatively cheap premiums, yet they are really important. Moreover, what we are trying to do is be creative by offering integrated added value. I mean we want products that will attract you and make you feel as if you belong. We want clients coming out thinking that this company is such a lovely brand and such a lovely service. That if they need to insure, because they will have to insure anyway, they will come to us because we have added value.
What is the purpose of the SAFEHOUSE app and how do you see it being utilized?
SAFEHOUSE Connect—The mobile app is not just a medical network app, it’s an app where you can get an instant quote for any personal-line insurance. You can submit your claims through the app, and there is also a community section where you can network with other members of SAFEHOUSE. In addition, there is a page where you can see all the promotions from Facebook and Instagram.
It is still growing. Every concept we come up with is still new and has a new culture. The culture of insurance needs to be pushed a little bit. We are trying to do that and we are not stopping there. This year we are launching toward the fourth quarter MyID. It is a digital medical ID profile preset. This is something extremely important for everybody; it can save lives.
Another app we are doing—as you see we are focusing on apps—and which we are also launching toward the fourth quarter of this year is our SAFEHOUSE Fan Club app. The Fan Club app has its own characteristics and it’s a highly interactive app that you can subscribe to. I will not talk more about it, but once we launch it you will see it’s an extremely interesting app.
SAFEHOUSE is relatively new. Where would you like to take it in the next five to 10 years?
I’m not planning on opening more SAFEHOUSEs in Jordan, but we are in discussions with other markets in the region whereby they are keeping a close eye on SAFEHOUSE. The model is very interesting so we plan on discussing the possibility of franchising or licensing the concept in other countries.
Within Jordan we plan on strengthening the brand itself. We will do this by continuing to offer new and innovative products whereby it’s not a pure insurance product, it is anything to do with your safety or your family’s safety. Regardless, we are going to be offering it.
This story is one of a five-part series titled Brands of Jordan. To see the previous story, click here.