In this new feature, International Investment is highlighting some of our stand-out Q&A sessions and interviews taken from our recent Virtual Events programme and video interiews.

In this transcript taken from this forthright and revealing interview - originally broadcast live from II's Middle East Forum on November 17, 2020 - International Investment editor Christopher Copper-Ind speaks to Walter Jopp, CEO of Zurich Middle East.

CCI: How is BOD-49 set to affect Zurich International, and also the industry in general in the UAE?

WJ: BOD-49 is nothing less than a milestone piece of legislation. The Insurance Authority (IA) in the UAE introduced the new rules on 15 October, when they came into effect. And a lot of comment has ensued: from the insurance companies, from the advisory community and from the press. I don't think we're here to discuss what's right and wrong with the regulation.

I think it's important that we work together to ensure regulation that's right for the market, that fosters good advice and ensures behaviours and results for the end customerr, who need to feel protected.

And we as an industry depend on there being trust across the board. But for BOD-49, it's still early days. We're only a month into the new regulation, and we are talking with the IA to make suggestions as to what could be changed. And we do expect to see some adjustments as the regulation beds in over time. 

I think the important thing is this: whenever regulation is introduced, industries and markets adapt. Good quality advice and good advisers will always be needed. I think we'll see a rise to quality--those who can adapt to the new environment will flourish. I think it's an evolutionary change. And this is the case in many parts of the world. The rules are there now--we must adapt and evolve.

As to Zurich International Life, we are one of the major life companies here in the UAE, and our intention is to become the leading life provider in the Middle East. We've been in this market (UAE) since 1989 and in Bahrain since 1986. We're building a business that is fit for the future.

We've recently launched online tools to enable advisers to complete the full process from quotes to premiums in one app. This is much more efficient, and enables adviers to run a better business with clarity and speed for the customer. Everything is done electronically. A week-long process is now completed in 30 minutes. Our goal is to support our business partners, and ensure they can adapt to the new environment.

CCI: Presumably the timing of this launch is quite fortuitous given where we are with various levels of lockdowns around the region.

WJ: We knew about, and planned for, BOD-49 for a long time. We of course had no idea that the pandemic was just around the corner. I think the pandemic has accelerated what we already knew: the need for digitalised solutions, 24/7 access and interaction. Customers are no longer measuring us alongisde other insurance companies. They're compariing us to Deliveroo or Uber or Paypal. I think we headlong now towards paperless, towards a more streamlined industry.

What amazing is how quickly it has all become the norm. If someone had said to me a year ago, "Actually, advisers are not going to be meeting clients face-to-face, all employees are to be working from home, " I would have said it was impossible. The industry has coped very well here, and at Zurich our business volumes are at the same levels as last year.