Interview with Fadi Abu Nahl, Chief Executive Officer, Trust International Insurance and Reinsurance Company

Interview with Fadi Abu Nahl, Chief Executive Officer, Trust International Insurance and Reinsurance CompanyWhen you come to the Trust Tower in Manama in Bahrain, you detect a very positive and dynamic atmosphere. The staff is young and they come from all over the world — a small United Nations some might say with more than twenty different nationalities. They all share the same values of hard work and integrity, thanks to their efforts and those of the young CEO who has created this atmosphere. Trust International has become one of the key players in the insurance and reinsurance market in the Middle East and elsewhere. They are now present in thirteen countries and they are aiming to expand further, so you should definitely bear the name in mind.
We had the chance of meeting Fadi Abu Nahl, the young CEO of Trust International, in his Bahrain office to learn more about this success story. Meeting Fadi is like meeting a good friend; he has a heart of gold and has the gift of making people feel comfortable in his company. He is a comprehensive boss who tries to remember every-body’s birthday … buying presents, etc. One could really say that he is the type of boss that many dream about coming across at least once in their professional lives. So, leaving the floor to Fadi …
Q. Could you tell us a little about Trust Re’s background?
Trust Re was started in 1989 by our group chairman, Ghazi Abu Nahl, as an insight into the insurance and reinsurance sector with a company serving the needs of clients in the Arab/African and eventually the Asian region. The simple intention was to launch a company in a country where barriers of entry were acceptable and you could build a network of contacts and affiliates to serve your portfolio. It started as a small operation with only a handful of clients amassed through personal dealings and recommendations. As the years went by and as we got closer to the millennium, the true potential of a privately owned organization became clear to us, as well as the importance of key personal values and ethics. Today, we are proud to say that in our twentieth anniversary year we are still working within the framework of those ethics and seem to have merely refined the values that Trust Re was initially built on. We feel today in 2009 that we have a duty to serve our clients and stakeholders with the same passion that we have always had and will endeavour to accommodate comfortably all queries that are posed.
Today, Trust Re Bahrain has grown to a very full operation encompassing key principles and visions that will take us forward to become the « Regional Reinsurer of Choice ».
Q. What is the difference between re-insurance and « normal » insurance?
The « insurance » industry, as a whole, is a very vast arena of micro and macro operations that shape the way clients deal with their everyday proceedings. It is important to note, however, that the core underlying business model of both the insurance and reinsurance sub-industries are common. These are directly linked to supporting risk on behalf of individuals and corporations and offering a hedge against any potential losses or claims. Trust Re Bahrain is a fully fledged reinsurance operation; this means that we offer insurance for insurance companies. If you imagine it as a theatrical event, we are the team of specialists that you will never see. But where would you be without a light or sound man? We offer the extra facility for insurance companies of capturing the essence of risk carrying and allow them the opportunity, through their ’risk-bearing’ nature, to have a safety system in case of adverse events.
It is very simple really. Just as any individual would need an insurance policy on their car or their house, every insurance company needs insurance to protect its best interests. This is where the reinsurance industry really plays a vital role. You may ask where it stops. But at some point you have to note that there will always be ’risk’, whether you like it or not, and someone needs to carry it. Being that ’secure’ someone to carry the risk is where the true colours of Trust Re shine.
Q. One tends to associate reinsurance only with shipping? Is this correct?
In some senses I agree with you because the insurance industry really started back in London with the Lloyds operation on maritime coverage. It is the concept of the « coffee house » with which everyone is all too familiar.
Today, as you may know from your personal life, anything is insurable, from homes and cars, to medical coverage. It can even cover individual body parts, such as a football player’s foot. Therefore, to say that the maritime trade is the only line of business where we operate would essentially overlook the rest of the industry. I agree that it is the beginnings and the essence of what we are today as an industry, but as time evolves and people become more risk averse, more insurance policies are taken out. It is a very simple domino effect. Provided these risks are valuable they will most certainly require a portion of reinsurance.
Q. The high-jacking of ships off the Somali coast is causing the international community many headaches. What are the consequences for you?
It is certainly agreed that these high-jackings do have a negative effect on the industry and yes, it is « inconvenient ». However, at Trust Re we also appreciate that it is our business to carry risk and we will never be able to prevent such happenings. Trust Re does possess a very respectable marine portfolio, which will always be exposed to such externalities as we voyage the « open seas ». Provided the way we conduct our business remains constant and prudent, we could only hope that these high- jackings come to an end.
As an international community of all industries, we need to act together to prevent these « headaches ». At the end of the day, the consequences are never good. Nevertheless, we believe in our attitudes as a company and as individuals, and shall not necessarily reduce our exposure due to a few mishaps.
Q. Is your business regional or do you have clients all over the world?
When we first started operations back in 1989 we only had a handful of clients who were personal friends and recommendations. But we do pride ourselves on our relationships and, as time has shown, we build long-standing rapport with anyone who comes through our doors.
We are always willing to extend the maximum support wherever possible. Today, Trust Re currently serves the Arab, African and Asian regions as a key player in the industry. Our reputation is going from strength to strength and we are constantly looking for opportunities to grow, both as a corporation and as individuals. We have a very capable team of specialists and experts who are dedicated to see the company excel into the highest realms of success and we hope that through this, coupled with our market wide reputation, we will continue to serve clients and amass further affiliates. Trust Re serves clients in over forty countries and we strive to establish our name and develop strong relationships wherever it is deemed fit.
Q. What are the advantages of being based in Bahrain?
Bahrain offers very many opportunities for all people and businesses, whether expatriate or local. It is a fairly small but very tightly knit community based on honour, respect and friendliness to everyone alike. It is known as the « business friendly Bahrain » and still lives up to that name very comfortably. Our operation started here as it was a very strategic location for buyers and sellers to meet. As you know, it is not an oil rich nation; it is a nation enriched in culture and heritage which is conducive to people always willing to invest in the community. In the same way that the country has and will continue to serve us well, we are always looking for ways of giving back to society and the community.
From a location perspective, Bahrain is also a hub for many neighbouring locations, such as the six countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council and it is within a three-hour flight radius of Beirut, Turkey and Central Asia, which have traditionally been vacation hotspots for global world travellers.
Q. Finally, where would you like to see your company a couple of years from now?
I would like Trust Re to be recognized as a reinsurance operation that was never driven by greed, but merely directed by the strong long-term relationships that we pride ourselves on today. We grow alongside our clients and the country where we are based. We will continuously endeavour to serve the needs of our clients at every opportunity. It is our company vision and mission to be the « Regional Reinsurer of Choice » and we will always be working to be the best. I feel that you cannot solely judge a company by the amount of profits generated, but more about how the company operates with respect to its community and its clientele. When we feel a personal contact with our affiliates, we begin to realize the true essence of who we are. Trust Re is built on very strong ethics and values and will continuously use these as a reference to conquer success.