The premiums of Basler Osiguranja in Serbia grew twice as much in 2012 as in 2011. This year Basler celebrates the 150th anniversary of operations in Europe and the 5th anniversary in Serbia, where it represents the only Swiss greenfield investment.
This insurance company operates only in Serbia and Croatia of all ex-Yugoslav countries, which is one of the signs that Basler has recognized our country as crucial in the region, Vladimir Medan, chairman of the Managing Board of Basler Serbia, says to eKapija and voices his satisfaction with the results they achieved in our country, adding that they plan to increase their market share to 5 percent by 2020.
- The Swiss are very cautious and they always thoroughly analyze the market before making a decision. This greenfield investment in Serbia is a proof that there is a vision that in the following period, our market will take a significant place in the region. The insurance market in Serbia is extremely shallow, but considering the size of the population and the potential, we can reach the level of EUR 2 billion even with the average development in line with EU standards. It is up to us to decide whether or not to take that opportunity.
eKapija: You are celebrating the fifth anniversary of operations in Serbia. How was it in the beginning?
- When we started our business here, we had 20 employees and a different approach than other insurance companies. We entered a narrow niche - medical malpractice insurance. That was a novelty in the Serbian market, but not for our clients. They quickly accepted our products. However, considering that the target group is small, we moved on to another step and expanded our offer to include travel insurance for trips abroad, after which we entered the segment of other types of property insurance and started offering auto and casco insurance in mid-2011. We completed our offer in 2012, and now our clients can choose any type of life or non-life insurance. We've also entered the segment of combined life insurance.
eKapija: What were your results in 2012 and what are projections for 2013?
- Thanks to the Swiss stability of the financial system, Basler has managed to grow its business every year since it entered Serbia almost five years ago, thus achieving the company's goal to reach the market share of 1 percent during that time. The total amount of premiums in the first nine months of 2012 exceeded RSD 350 million, which is twice as much as in 2011. We hope for a dynamic growth in 2013 as well. Our primary goal - a 1-percent market share, has already been achieved, and the next objective is to increase our share in the Serbian insurance market to 5 percent by 2020. We are not going to make any risky moves because we are not focused only on profits, but also on security and stability.
eKapija: You were the first company to offer professional liability insurance in Serbia. What are the results?
- We were first focused on doctors and medical staff only, but we later decided to offer that type of insurance to all other employees as well. What we notice is that the insurance against different kinds of professional liability gains in popularity in the Serbian economy too. Companies headquartered abroad mainly request from their workers, managers in particular, to insure themselves against professional liability. That means that if a manager accidentally causes a damage to a third person while doing his or her business tasks, the insurance company will indemnify the person who has suffered the damage on behalf of the manager. We've already had such cases in Serbia. That is a market segment that will experience a sudden expansion in the near future.
eKapija: Non-life insurance in Serbia is still much more popular than life insurance. What may be the reasons for this?
- Life insurance depends on two factors: standard and awareness. The average monthly wage must be in excess of EUR 500 in order for people to consider investing in their security and future. On the other hand, it is necessary to raise their awareness of the need for insuring life. I also believe that tax incentives are necessary because they encourage domestic savings. Japan and South Korea have managed to develop their economies by utilizing that idea. Development of the life insurance market would lead to the creation of a significant pool of domestic savings that would stimulate economic development in Serbia.
eKapija: Considering your university career and experience in the economy, what would you suggest the Serbian government do to help the domestic economy?
- What is very important is to encourage domestic production, that is, to help small and medium-sized businesses satisfy domestic demand with their production. In that way, two goals would be achieved. Products of domestic SMEs would substitute imported products, whereas their employees would boost spending and domestic demand. Then the market would become more attractive to foreign direct investors. When it comes to them, it would be good if they were large systems. They would revive small manufacturers in Serbia. Nevertheless, it is a time-consuming process and we must know that there is no such thing as magic wand.