Re-Insurance

CEO: rapid response gives Qatar Re an edge

  • Growth story: Gunther Saacke, CEO of Qatar Re, pictured at the reinsurer’s new offices at Belvedere Place
  • New base: the Qatar Re boardroom at the company's Pitts Bay Road headquarters(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Gunther Saacke, CEO of Qatar Re (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Qatar Re is geared to be rapid in its responses to clients — and that is one of the factors that will help to extend its track record of strong growth.

That is the view of Gunther Saacke, the company’s chief executive officer, who said a culture of employees empowered to make decisions gave Qatar Re a significant advantage over many rivals.

“When you speak to any one of us, you are speaking with a decision maker,” Mr Saacke said in an interview. “We have many experts in our team and we do not make decisions by committee.

“Using a ‘two-pairs-of-eyes’ principle, we can arrive at a decision very quickly and give very fast service — we can provide a quotation within 24 hours.

“That makes us the opposite of the matrix-driven decision building by an array of committees that has become the standard in the industry.”

Brokers appreciated this rapid responsiveness, Mr Saacke added, and the company’s willingness to provide lead quotations.

“We are not a market-tracking reinsurer,” he said, adding that relying on the firm’s own pricing capabilities ensured Qatar Re would not be chasing inadequately priced business.

Mr Saacke was speaking in a significant week for Qatar Re, during which the company held the official opening of its new offices in Belvedere Place on Pitts Bay Road, an occasion attended by Michael Dunkley, the Premier, Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, and many other guests.

This came a day after Qatar Re successfully closed its first sale of debt — a $450 million notes issuance that was more than 14-times oversubscribed and which swelled the reinsurer’s capital base to more than $1 billion.

Armed also with A ratings from AM Best and Standard & Poor’s, as well as a parental guarantee from Qatar Insurance Company, whose market capitalisation is more than $5.5 billion, Mr Saacke believes the young reinsurer is well equipped to compete in a highly competitive marketplace.

“Certainly, this is an exciting time for the company,” Mr Saacke said. “We have traded paper out there for the first time and we were very happy with the demand — it was many times oversubscribed, much more than we expected.

“The reinsurance world is very conservative, so to come out with an offering in the public space for the first time and see such strong demand was a very nice surprise.

“To have the added strength on our balance sheet at Qatar Re and to be above the $1 billion mark is critically important for us. It underlines our commitment to the market and the strong commitment of the QIC group to the dedicated reinsurance operation.”

To some clients, especially in the North American market, the $1 billion capital mark was an important threshold, he added, meaning potential new opportunities for the reinsurer.

Qatar Re, which was founded in Doha in 2009 has had a branch in Bermuda since 2013. The company redomiciled to Bermuda in late 2015 and is a Class 4 reinsurer. It has branch offices in Zurich, Dubai and Singapore, a representative office in London and a service company in Doha.

The company has the top two floors of the new building next to the Bacardi headquarters on Pitts Bay Road. It expects to continue to grow its staff to around 20, as the reinsurer continues its expansion.

Qatar Re has grown quickly, with a portfolio diversified by product line and geography. In 2016, it wrote gross premiums of $1.25 billion and posted net income of $38 million.

Qatar Re’s main business line is casualty and motor, which makes up 55 per cent of its book. Other lines include property, agriculture, credit and surety, energy, as well as marine and aviation. Two-thirds of gross written premiums are sourced by European clients, 17 per cent from Asia and 14 per cent from the Americas.

Mr Saacke said the strong pace of profitable growth at the company was a testament to the quality of underwriting.

He added Bermuda was an ideal location for Qatar Re’s head office, as a major reinsurance hub with a strong regulatory regime, a strong broker presence, ready access to industry talent and in a convenient time zone for most of its clients, as well as being a good base to grow its North American business.

And with Solvency II third-country equivalence, the island also offered good access to European markets.

With the election of Donald Trump as US president and a Republican-controlled Congress, swathing corporate tax cuts are considered likely — and possibly a border-adjustment tax on imports — and Bermuda faces an erosion of its tax advantage as a jurisdiction. Asked about the potential impact, Mr Saacke said: “Tax never entered into our considerations when we moved here from the Qatar Financial Centre, which is also tax-free. We hope that risk transfer will be exempt from any border-adjustment tax and we’d like to believe that will be the case.”