Simon Schembri - Customers as the number one priority

NESTOR LAIVIERA speaks to Simon Schembri, Allcare Insurance Limited Corporate Services Director and compliance officer, about the way Allcare Insurance Limited grew over the years, and the state of the insurance industry today.

Simon Schembri, Allcare Insurance Limited Corporate Services Director and compliance officer.
Simon Schembri, Allcare Insurance Limited Corporate Services Director and compliance officer.

Allcare was until recently known to be an insurance agent.  When was Allcare Insurance Limited founded? How many people does it employ?

Allcare Insurance Limited forms part of a group of companies that includes Allcare Insurance Agency Limited. The Agency has been operating in the local insurance market for more than 25 years. Over the years, the Agency has grown to become one of the leading insurance agencies in Malta. Late in 2011 the shareholders of the Agency considered that the next natural step in the company's progression would be to set up a local insurance company.

Allcare Insurance Limited, the new company, received the necessary authorisation from the Malta Financial Services Authority to carry on business of general insurance in Malta, in December 2012 and has commenced its operations as of 1st January 2013. The company currently employs close to fifty employees who are all based at the company's offices near the University Roundabout in Msida.

What is your own personal background in the sector? How did you come to occupy your position at Allcare?

I am a lawyer by profession. I worked with one of Malta's leading law firms for twelve years, where I specialised in corporate and insurance law. I have held the position of company secretary and compliance officer of Allcare Insurance Agency for the last eight years, the position of company secretary of Allcare Insurance Brokers, another company within the Group, since its inception and have been the Allcare Group's main legal advisor for a number of years. I was offered the possibility to join the executive management team of Allcare Insurance Limited and today I hold the position of Corporate Services Director and Compliance Officer of the company.

What sort of products does Allcare Insurance Limited provide? What insurance sectors does it operate in?

Allcare Insurance Limited is licensed to transact all classes of non-life business insurance. It offers a varied range of insurance products including motor, home, travel, health, and pleasure craft.  The company also caters for all business, commercial, industrial and professional insurance requirements.

Clients will be able to access all the information about the insurance products offered through the company's website which is expected to be launched imminently.  In addition, the website shall offer an online service to all clients enabling them to enquire and in certain cases acquire insurance policies through all electronic devices.

What is the ethos behind Allcare Insurance Limited? How does it approach and assist its clients?

Allcare Insurance Limited's belief is that customers are the number one priority. The company is committed to providing the highest level of customer service by offering personalized and meaningful assistance and technical help at all times.

The company believes that its customers should pay a competitive price for the cover afforded to them and that they have a right to get a helpful, efficient and professional service from the moment they first enquire about a product to the time they have their valid claims properly addressed.  

Why should clients opt for Allcare Insurance Limited? What is Allcare's greatest selling point?

The company's business decisions are driven by a set of core values - integrity, diversity, financial focus, customer focus, professionalism and teamwork. The commitment to these values distinguishes the company in the market, supports long-term relationships with customers and distributors, and enables the company to attract and retain a team of outstanding insurance professionals. In fact we consider that the company's greatest investment is in the quality of its staff. 

The majority of the employees were previously employed with Allcare Insurance Agency Ltd for a number of years. The team is now even stronger as a number of key, experienced individuals in the insurance market have been appointed to the management and technical team of the company. Many of the company's members of staff are qualified as diploma holders or associates of the Chartered Insurance Institute.

How would you describe the state of insurance sector in Malta over the past few years? Is it a healthy industry?

When Allcare Insurance Agency was set up over 25 years ago, the market was dominated by foreign insurers represented by agencies. The local insurance market today is almost completely dominated by local insurers. Local market statistics show that although the non-life market has registered very minimal growth in recent years, insurers are returning positive results. The market today is very highly regulated, and the cost of compliance is definitely one of the main challenges that are faced by insurers locally.

There has been much talk of government-induced costs as well as excessive bureaucracy that are hampering the private sector as of late, given the on-going general election. Have you felt this? What, in your view, would help the private sector flourish?

It is an undisputed fact that the Maltese financial services sector has registered excellent results in recent years and has in fact now become one of the pillars of the economy. We hope that whatever the electorate's decision is in the forthcoming election the sector will continue to receive the necessary attention so that it continues to flourish.

There has also been a great emphasis on the need to incentivize women to return to work. Proposals such as the provision of healthcare, as well as flexible working conditions such as flexitime, reduced hours, and even extended maternity leave and introduction of paternity leave has been floated. As a private company, what is your take on this?

One of the challenges that we face as an operator in the financial services field is finding enough talented individuals to employ within our team. Any incentive which could serve to increase the number of women who would be trained and experienced in our sector to remain in employment longer is welcome.

There is unfortunately still a lot of wastage of valuable know-how and experience when women leave the workplace possibly never to return.

What, in your view, is the single-most important priority that the insurance sector has that needs to be addressed in order for it to grow and flourish further?

I believe that our biggest challenge remains that of getting the Maltese insurance buyer to think more in terms of insurance cover as a priority. The amount spent on insurance premia as a percentage of the disposable income is still low in Malta when compared to the rest of Europe. In Malta, many households still buy insurance in situations where it is compulsory for them to do so.