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Sunday, 16 December 2018

Meet MIHC Chairman Basel El Hini

EXCLUSIVE- Meet MIHC Chairman Basel El Hini: Just five weeks into a mandate to reposition the state-owned giant, Misr Insurance Holding Company (MIHC) Chairman and Managing Director Basel El Hini (LinkedIn) sat down with us for a talk about the potential of Egypt’s insurance sector, the company’s plans to grow beyond just insurance, a management reorganization and capacity build-up plans. Among the revelations: MIHC is looking to hire a new CEO for Misr Insurance. The job description for the position (the company is looking for someone with private-sector experience) is here (pdf). Edited excerpts:

Public service roots and private sector knowhow: I am no rookie as far as public sector service is concerned, having worked in Banque Misr, Banque du Caire and as an advisor to the finance minister. I also served as deputy chairman for finance and investment at MIHC, where I worked towards a long-held out hope that the company would not only grow to a regional insurance player, but to grow outside of insurance to become the largest non-banking financial service firm in the country. Having paid my dues, I left to join the private sector in 2016. When the current public enterprise minister approached me and I found that our visions for the industry and company were aligned, I accepted the position.

Mandate to shake things up: Simply put, my mandate since my appointment five weeks ago was to develop the government insurance sector and take it to another level. This includes across-the-board development and growth of MIHC’s three segments of insurance, investment and real estate — a huge wealth with which to be entrusted. On the insurance side, I am tasked with restoring the market position of Misr Insurance and Misr Life Insurance as industry giants by improving their market share and driving value appreciation. To get there we need to build up the capacity of the human resources and maximize profitability for the state through the adoption of the latest technology and the ultimate satisfaction of the client.

Core insurance business is the biggest challenge: The biggest challenge was the fact that in the core business of the group, where newcomers to the market — equipped with industry best practices — have seen us lose our edge and market share. We need to overcome that and we need to overcome that quickly. It’s not where we should be. We have the crown jewels in Misr Insurance and Misr Insurance Life.

All actors need to focus on growing the market rather than fighting over scraps: Beyond competition from the newcomers, the sector’s biggest challenge is that insurance makes up less than 1% of GDP, which is not large by any standard. It is a low penetration ratio as an industry. It is something that everyone should work to increase rather than competing over a smaller piece of the pie. It is a view shared by many in the industry. Companies and shareholders in the market have a tendency to focus on our own profitability and market share, instead of thinking about growing the market as a whole. I intend to try to work on that in cooperation with my colleagues in the market.

We should walk and then run. I would love to break the 1% barrier. But for a country like Egypt, we should not be talking about less than 3% in the foreseeable future. And then we’ll start to take off.

The opportunity for MIHC is in the turnaround: The biggest opportunity for MIHC is in the scope of the turnaround across its insurance, investment, and other financial services. But we will need to work on multiple different fronts in parallel to make it work. Technology is key, and the good news is that there have been excellent steps taken at both Misr Insurance and Misr Life Insurance that will be felt in the very near future.

Reaching out to the private sector: On the finance side, when it comes to dealing with stakeholders, we want to work with the private sector. We don’t want to do things on our own — we’re not the best in everything. We need to bring in service providers in various aspects, including asset management, and real estate facility management. We have a huge investment portfolio and a huge real estate portfolio on the side. We have the majority of Khedival Cairo real estate portfolio. It needs to be developed and maintained — something that maximizes value and enhances profitability for the state.

HR capacity building from the ground up: Our biggest priority is our HR capacity buildup. The workforce isn’t satisfied with where their company is at the moment. They really do love their companies. It’s a goal management shares with the workforce. We need to build capacity and restore their confidence, that they can tackle this massive task in a short period.

A fresh perspective from a new CEO in Misr Insurance: We intend to bring in a CEO at Misr Insurance. My ideal CEO is someone who understands the business of insurance and the institutional organization required. The CEO has to have the leadership and management skills and can deploy them in a demonstrable way with regional or international institutions. We need a fresh perspective. We need best practices that are derived from stories of success at the regional and international markets. I’m looking for private-sector candidates.

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