Allianz Saudi Fransi Cooperative Insurance Company’s customer base in Saudi Arabia expanded by more than 141 percent in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, according to a top executive.It aspires to be among the top insurers in the Kingdom by combining Banque Saudi Fransi’s strong local insights with the global expertise of the Allianz Group, said Bruce Bowers, regional chief executive officer.He is in charge of the company’s operations in Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa Region (CEEMA).“There was also a 6.3 percent growth rate during the same period in the CEEMA region,” he told Arab News in an interview here.Allianz Saudi Fransi CEO Antoine Issa was also present.Allianz Saudi Fransi Cooperative Insurance Company was established in 2007 as a joint venture between Banque Saudi Fransi and Allianz Group.Bowers said Allianz Saudi Fransi would continue to strengthen its presence in the insurance sector by fulfilling retail and corporate customer needs through innovative insurance solutions.He cited as an example the launch of their protection and savings gold products, the Waad Series Sharia-compliant products in June last year, adding that it reflects “our efforts to satisfy customers and retail market needs.”According to Bowers chief, “there is a lot of potential in this region as the insurance penetration is still low. In Saudi Arabia, people spent in 2010 only seven euros each per year on life insurance, while in Germany the figure is over 1,100 euros. This clearly shows there is a potential for growth.”At the same time, he said products risks and underwriting risks form an integral part of their activities.“What’s important is to take calculated risks and assess them accurately...... with time policies will be priced better and this will also increase the awareness about protection,” said the regional chief.Nevertheless, Bowers said, he would continue to reinforce CEEMA’s position as a profitable growth center in the Allianz Group.He said the Allianz Group’s entry into the Saudi insurance market came in the wake of the government’s landmark legislation to open the Kingdom’s insurance sector to foreign investment.“We will continue our rapid expansion plan with the aim to be amongst one of the top Insurance companies in the Kingdom, fulfilling retail and corporate customer needs with modern and innovative insurance solutions in various lines of business through easy access to customers by various channels of distribution and highly motivated employees,” Bowers said, adding that Allianz was ranked fifth among the 32 insurance companies in the Kingdom last year.Allianz made this achievement in just four fiscal years in what he termed as a “highly competitive” market, he added.“The Saudi market — the largest in the Middle East — has witnessed a substantial double digit growth since it was opened in 2007. The premium written amounted to SR18 billion by the end of the year and the development is quite fast,” said Bowers, while referring to Allianz Saudi Fransi, which ranks among the top insurance companies of Saudi Arabia.The CEO lauded the efforts to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), which has been regulating this sector since 2006. He said 32 companies had been licensed, besides 49 brokers and eight surveyors and loss adjusters.He said SAMA’s strict regulations had helped the industry in maintaining high standards.Another factor was the introduction of a compulsory motor and health insurance scheme, which he said had boosted the growth of the sector. Bowers pointed out that Allianz provides comprehensive insurance services to corporate and individual customers.In the protection line of business (property & casualty insurance), Allianz Saudi Fransi embraces the entire spectrum of risk management supported by a diversified range of insurance products for corporate and individual customers, he said.“For the provision business (protection, saving & health insurance), the company plays a leading role in the field of employee benefits schemes as well as individual health, retirement and education savings plans,” said the Bowers.In the ultimate analysis, this sector will continue to grow across the broad spectrum of insurance business, he added.The introduction of compulsory motor and health insurance has promoted various types of insurance, besides awakening the public to its importance in Saudi Arabia, he said.Asked about the future of insurance industry in the region including Saudi Arabia, he pointed out that the Kingdom’s real GDP growth is expected to accelerate as oil output climbs higher and domestic drivers of economic activity fully rebound.This augurs well for the future of the insurance market.There will also be demand for insurance of smaller business units and also of individuals, still an untapped market, he said.“This will also enable the market players to expand their geographic presence and increase their products offering,” said Bowers. “The investment income is low not only in Saudi Arabia but everywhere else. In most markets, we are looking at technical profitability without relying on the low investment income,” he added.Bowers is a veteran with more than 30 years’ experience in the insurance industry in both life and general insurance.He has held a number of CEO positions in the Allianz Group over the past 10 years.