Based in Saudi Arabia, United Cooperative Assurance Co. (UCA) is an insurance firm with a difference in that it is taking a wholly personable approach to standing out in an extremely competitive commercial arena. We spoke with Waheed Khayyat, Chief Information Officer, to learn more about the ways in which UCA sets itself apart.
Looking to make a name for itself in the insurance industry, UCA has set about things in a phenomenally positive and affirming way. Headquartered in beautiful Jeddah, with two more offices in Riyadh and Al Khobar, the company seeks to distance itself from less admirable competitors, in a bid to become the utmost preferential firm in the entire Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, thanks to exemplar customer service and a reputation for being the very model of professional conduct,
“The mission of the company,” Waheed explained, “Is to increase awareness and develop an understanding of the cooperative insurance culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and, most importantly, to build a successful partnership with clients, staff members and agents. UCA’s value proposition falls into providing insurance services under the ‘general’ line of insurance business (e.g. motor and cooperative health insurance), however, UCA plans to expand in the future and enter the life insurance market, as well as adding more insurance products.”
With a plan in place and a clear and defined methodology decided upon, all that’s left is to wait and see if UCA can make the impact that it hopes to.
Insurance has been around, seemingly, since time began, so what can UCA hope to do that will make a significant difference? In short, it plans to take full advantage of any and all online and digital innovations that will afford customers the opportunity to take a little more autonomy, save time and, most importantly, feel as though they have found the best deal possible. While the manual methodology worked for many years, everybody needs to be seen embracing new technology now and insurance firms are no different. Plus, UCA acknowledges that reducing the margin for error is of the utmost importance,
“Insurance operations are complex by nature, therefore, completing core tasks and activities in the old ways and without exploiting the opportunities that new digital technologies can offer, can make us prone to great danger and losses.”
Promoting ‘operations efficiency’ is a priority for every business, especially in industries that involve high complexity and risk, such as the insurance sector, and the financial sector in general. Operations digitalization is the answer, and many aspects of UCA’s operations, such as policy administration, claims management, accounting and customer service, experience great quality and efficiency improvement through the use of digital technologies. Additionally, digitalization opens up unprecedented ways to communicate, and to understand customers’ behaviour and needs through online channels.
“UCA currently operates locally across the entire Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The sales activities go across all cities and regions of the kingdom, which extends over 2,150,000 km².”
Having always remained a stable and secure industry, the insurance sector took a small hit in 2017, scaring certain established operations and giving rise to whispered talk of how the drop in the oil sector could carry on affecting more markets, but UCA retained a positive mindset and continued looking to the future. It’s a move that has paid off, with 2021 being cited as the deadline for a huge market jump and a reversal of fortunes.
Having not fallen into the trap that many of its competitors did, UCA did not immediately change tack in the face of some financial waves and decided not to switch blindly to sales mode, and surrender to the prevailing temptation of the market status at the time. Rather, UCA saw the situation as an opportunity to correct the entire business strategy, and support it with modern ‘digital strategy’. This was a prudent decision, as those that did rely on hard sell techniques discovered to their peril that it was not a technique that would lead to growth but instead, would weaken the entire industry. UCA took an entirely different route and is still here, growing and ready to tell the tale,
“UCA is nimble and agile in its nature, it can move forward and transform faster than other rivals transform.”
Acknowledging that customer trust is everything within the insurance industry, UCA has conducted a thorough and honest audit of itself and its working practices, identifying two areas ripe for improvement that both boil down to the same thing: a major need for a fast and total digital transformation. One area that was not cause for concern, however, was the contingent of professionals that make up the staffing body of the organisation.
“People are the real asset for any business, and we are currently planning to establish a ‘UCA Academy’ to provide a continuous learning and educational environment for all UCA staff that aims to develop the employees’ skills and competencies.”
It’s true that you get back what you put into people and, in the case of UCA, rewarding hard work and expertise has resulted in a crack team that is ready and willing to help customers to source the best product for them. What’s more, by appreciating what a team of professionals does on a day-to-day basis, when change is inevitable, they adapt and grow with a company, rather than resisting the new direction. Everything takes on a far more fluid and organic feel, which is what UCA is all about; insurance made easy, transparent and natural. This forms the basis for the future as well.
Insurance services, by their very nature, are preoccupied with the future and what could potentially happen. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense that UCA dedicates plenty of time and resources to preparing for what’s on the horizon.
Through enhanced marketing strategies, reduced operating costs and improved IT infrastructure, UCA has effectively trimmed the fat, leaving behind a slick and client-focused operation that is ready to make good on a new philosophy,
“The IT infrastructure improved significantly, and the IT role shifted from being a solely support service provider to a true strategic business partner that is capable of collaborating with the business managers to drive the operations’ processes re-engineering, using modern yet mature technologies. The new philosophy to rebuild and disrupt insurance operations is called ‘D.A.R’, which stands for ‘Digitalise operations’, ‘Automate processes’ and ‘Robotise manual activities’.”
UCA also prepares for the future by making sure that it, and therefore its clients’ support, is securely guarded. To do this, the company turns to SecuTech Arabia, one of the most sought-after Physical Security Solutions Designer in Saudi. As the company states: “Protecting our client’s business entity through a security network is our number one priority. At SecuTech Arabia, we ensure that our designed security solutions meet the requirements of any of our customers who are handling single or multi-site operations where optimization and enhancement is the key.”
“We have been serving UCA for almost a decade now,” Rauf Anwar, National Sales Manager for SecuTech Arabia, told us. “This relationship is based upon one thing, and that is that we at SecuTech Arabia are never short sighted about UCA’s Security requirements. Since UCA has always welcomed ever-evolving technologies, we have designed some of the best access control and surveillance solutions by combining enriched security with the most intuitive user experience at UCA.”
Coupling an intrinsic understanding of the insurance industry within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with a desire to be everyone’s preferred agent and a commitment to a digital transformation programme, UCA has concocted itself an all but guaranteed successful future. There’s no such thing as a safe bet, according to the insurance sector, but UCA appears to be as close as you can get.