Insurance faces bright prospects
Moroccan insurance has plenty of domestic potential, namely because of a new government framework regarding health coverage. The non-life sector leads but the much smaller life insurance sector presents opportunities as well.
Despite the global economic downturn, the Moroccan insurance sector is performing well. At the end of 2011, private insurance companies earned $2.8 billion in revenues from customer premiums, an increase of 9.2% over 2010. Nevertheless, the growth rate was lower than that prior to the recession.
“We are the largest Arab market, with the greatest degree of sophistication and maturity,” explains Bashir Baddou, managing director of the National Insurance Federation (Federation Nationale de l’Assurance). “We even have a re-insurance company and quality offerings.”
Non-life carries the sector
The current growth in insurance comes primarily from the non-life segment, which includes automotive, fire and casualty. Almost 70% of insurance premium revenues comes from the non-life sector, representing 2011 revenues of $1.9 billion, up from $1.77 billion the year before.
Within non-life, automotive is by far the largest segment, accounting for 47% of premium revenues ($875 million in 2011), up 6.4% over 2010. The remainder of non-life is split between casualty and fire premiums, representing shares in the non-life sector of 16.9% and 11.9% respectively.
Life insurance booms
Although the life insurance sector and related capital products is much smaller than non-life, it is showing promising signs. Life and capital posted double-digit growth between 2010 and 2011, after poor performance in 2009-2010. The 15.9% boost in 2011 means the segment now totals premium revenues of $890 million.
Life insurance has significant future potential. For the past two years, Morocco has committed itself to a policy of revitalizing its long-term savings. New financial products have been introduced and innovative tax incentives are on offer. Never before has so much interest been given to encourage savings. These are fertile waters for both life insurance and financial capitalization products.
The market leader for life insurance in Morocco is Wafa Insurance, owned by Morocco’s largest bank, Attijariwafa bank. Wafa Insurance dominates the life and capitalization segment, with 36.7% market share, claiming premium revenue of $325 million in 2011, up 25.1% over 2010.
This performance was driven by increased demand for the savings products offered by the so-called “bancassurance” companies. These are financial companies allowed to sell both banking and insurance services to their clientele. In this case Wafa Insurance used the much bigger Attijariwafa bank’s extensive network of agencies and sales representatives to market their bancassurance products.
Alas, life and capitalization insurance seems to be a zero-sum game. Wafa Insurance’s double-digit growth is offset by declines at competing insurers such as RMA Watanya or CNIA Saada. The decline in bancassurance premium revenues for some players is explained by their decisions to exit insurance-assavings products in favor of non-life products whose performance is steady.
Not only was 2011 marked by financial growth for the 17 companies active in the private insurance sector, but also by the implementation of the Program Contract, signed in 2010 by the Moroccan government and public and private insurance sector actors. According to the objectives of the partnership agreement, 90% of the population will be subject to compulsory health insurance and 50% will require independent health care insurance.
The agreement is expected to provide an additional boost to the insurance sector. It involves extending the coverage of people and goods, improving the quality of services and services, contributing more to the financing of economic activity, strengthening the sector’s presence abroad, and consolidating the insurance companies’ financial basics. In all, no less than 70 measures were defined in the contractual framework between business operators and the nine ministries involved in creating the program contract. Among these measures, the extension of minimum coverage for people and property and the improvement of the quality of benefits and services are key elements for insurance companies.
Through its major shareholder group Saham, CNIA Saada has expanded its presence to 11 African countries after the takeover of Collina. Wafa Insurance has obtained the necessary permits to operate in Tunisia.
In 2011, Wafa created a joint venture with French company Inter Mutuelles Assistance to create a pilot project that could open the African gates. Societe d’Assistance Maroc, the joint venture vehicle, targets non-resident Moroccans and African expatriates. With a target potential representing several hundred million dollars, it is also considering options in the Algerian market as well as several sub-Saharan countries, where it could benefit from the presence of Attijariwafa bank.
Market threats also exist for Moroccan insurance. According to some professionals, these threats include increased competition as new entrants arrive, as well as the implications of the Solvency II Directive on the use of retained earnings to reduce the risk of insolvency.
Nonetheless, the overall prospects seem bright as the market expands and additional services are introduced. ●