International Finance

IF EXCLUSIVE: After raising $18 mn, UAE insurtech eyes Middle East

Aqeed aims to help insurance players across the Middle East enhance ROI and customer experience

Two significant trends driving the global insurance industry include the premium growth in emerging markets and the rising importance of technology across the insurance supply chain, according to business intelligence firm, Oxford Business Group.

According to the report, UAE: Dubai 2019 by Oxford Business Group, the insurance sector in the Middle Eastern city, like other growing economies, is witnessing good growth, because of a variety of factors including a growing middle-class population. With regards to the use of technology in this sector driving insurtech innovation in the UAE, the report states it could have “a potentially disruptive trend that heralds both threats to and opportunities for incumbents and newcomers alike.” It further indicates a positive environment going forward for UAE insurtech startup firms primarily because of the growing internet usage on mobile phones in the region.

Aqeed is a break out UAE insurtech startup headquartered in Dubai that has been using Microsoft tech stack and other technologies in developing modern insurance software solutions, for the benefit of insurance agents, brokers, companies, and affinity partners. The UAE insurtech startup which was founded in 2016 by CEO Hadi Radhwan was launched officially only in May recently, after it secured $18 million in series A funding.

In an exclusive interview with International Finance, Radhwan tells us about how the company intends to use the recently raised funds to fuel its future expansion across the Middle East.

International Finance: How does Aqeed plan to use the $18 million it raised in May?

Hadi Radhwan: We would use the funds in growing our team. We do not have a fixed number but it will be in double digits, hopefully. It will also be used to expand our presence into other countries, improving our Aqeed Sales and Broker tools by adding more features, adding new products, innovating and improving our core technology, and onboarding more B2B customers.

International Finance:  How does Aqeed plan to use AI?

Hadi Radhwan: We think AI continues to be a big buzz word in the region. The UAE insurance industry remains one of the least digitalised among all industries due to a lot of inherent issues including inefficiencies in the way internal business processes have been built often duplicated, bureaucratised, and remain time-consuming. Many companies dub themselves as AI friendly, which might be true, based on which level of AI they are at. Most companies are still in level one of AI, which focuses primarily on automating redundant tasks, without any actual intelligence behind it, helping cut costs and increasing productivity, but not to the potential that AI has. However, insurance companies are run by people, and many people have plenty of reasons to resist the AI expansion; the fear of unemployment and the lack of trust in cognitive systems are the leading reasons. Before we go out and bring our AI tools to the market, we are working with UAE insurance players to educate and show how these tools are constructive and will add value. Once we have a cultural shift, we can easily improve our products and embed in them the necessary AI functionalities so that we can bring them to the mainstream market.

International Finance:  Which new geographies does Aqeed plan to enter in next one to two years?

Hadi Radhwan: We are expanding our technology products to help other insurance players in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. Our goal is to help elevate the whole insurance industry by introducing a technology that can help these insurance players both brokers and insurance companies to become more efficient, so that they can focus more on their return on investment and in enhancing the customer experience. Today, insurance remains the least likeable industry with an Net Promoter Score (NPS) of less than 40. We believe this should change, and we want to be at the forefront.

International Finance:  How does Aqeed plan to disrupt the insurance vertical? Does it have any plans to diversify into other verticals over the next one to two years?

Hadi Radhwan: As an insurtech company from the UAE our focus would be primarily insurance. However, within insurance, there is a huge value chain from distribution all the way to reinsurance. At each juncture, there are a lot of tools we can deploy to help insurance players become more valuable. Aqeed has positioned itself as a platform-as-a-service company in the insurance industry. Our goal is to help insurance players become more digital and be able to focus on what matters most for them – sales. Today the industry in the region is dominated by insurance brokers that are completely offline. We want to change that by giving them access to our platform to help them compete in a digital world demanded primarily by their customer. Our disruption would come from the fact that anyone of these players will become digital without investing a single dime in technology.

International Finance:  What is Aqeed’s primary business model?

Hadi Radhwan: We are platform-as-a-service and we charge a monthly subscription fee based on usage. The beauty of this model is that we keep releasing new features and updates to the platform without charging our customers. Coming from a product background, we believe the customer is at the centre of the product, and we listen attentively to their ever-growing pain points, and we try to incorporate their needs into the platform constantly.

International Finance:  Does your UAE insurtech startup have any plans to introduce any new products this year?

Hadi Radhwan: We continue to improve the ecosystem of our platform by improving the various modules within it. Our goal this year is to focus more on onboarding various distribution partners who wish to sell insurance to their network or customers. Using our Aqeed platform, they can power their insurance offering without investing in any technology. We are aiming to be the preferred partner in the insurance industry.

International Finance:  How does Aqeed differentiate itself from peers such as and

Hadi Radhwan: While other digital insurance players focus primarily on distribution, and target end consumers directly, by selling limited number of insurance products, we have taken a different approach, where our focus is to provide enabling technologies, like our platform, to any insurance player in the market to become digitally relevant without investing in technology, while offering any type of insurance products to the market. Today, the market continues to be dominated by offline players. However, if those offline insurance players do not act quickly, they will lose a lot of their power to other nimbler players. Furthermore, we have seen a lot of non-insurance players who have an ever-growing network of customers, who want to bundle insurance into their offering. We believe they can benefit tremendously from our platform to go to market much faster, cheaper, and better than doing it in-house.

International Finance:  What is your vision for Aqeed and UAE insurtech in terms of future digital innovation?

Hadi Radhwan: We are firm believers and adopters of technology to help the whole insurance industry. We are continuously developing our platform, as mentioned in past press releases, we started with Aqeed Sales and Aqeed Brokers, to help insurance players focus on what matters the most, focusing on bringing more sales to their companies and providing exceptional customer service. Our aim is to help them become pure digital companies in the future. While it is a long road ahead, it is a road that will be travelled, and we want to pave the way. Our technology is available across the Middle East and we are expanding globally next year.

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