Kuwait’s King of Insurance
Insurance is a vitally important part of many people’s lives, not least because it allows them to go on living with some semblance of normality should the worst happen. In Kuwait, there is only one king of insurance; CEO of Kuwait Insurance, Sami Sharif. In this latest issue of CEO Monthly, we have awarded Mr Sharif with the title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – Kuwait, and now we profile him to find out more about his exceptional work over a career that spans more than three decades.
Founded in 1960, Kuwait Insurance was one of the first companies of its kind in the country and the wider Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Over the course of more than sixty years, the company has enjoyed a strong and stable financial foundation, whilst providing clients everywhere with a vast range of general and life insurance products that are at the top of the industry. Whilst leaders may have come and gone, it is the current CEO that is the focus of this month’s issue; Sami Sharif. A visionary, enthusiastic, and inspiring leader, Mr Sharif serves as the figurehead for this new era of success and prosperity at Kuwait Insurance. Surrounded by a team of professional experts, the firm has grown from strength to strength in recent years, thanks largely to Mr Sharif’s leadership. However, despite his success in this role, insurance was not always his passion. In fact, Mr Sharif’s journey to where is today began more than three and a half decades ago.
Mr. Sharif’s career journey began in 1981 when he enrolled at Lycee Janson de Sailly in Paris, France to pursue his studies in the Preparatory Classes to the Superior Schools of Engineering. Here is where he acquired a highly recognizable level in global standard in Mathematics and Physics.
In 1983, Mr Sharif enrolled at the University of Houston, where he spent four years studying towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Space Physics. Following his successful graduation, Mr Sharif decided then to stay on with the University of Houston for his Master of Science degree, also in Mathematics and Space Physics. Alongside his subsequent successful graduation, Mr Sharif was also recognized on the National Dean’s List for his outstanding studying, as well a fellowship in the Mathematics Department at the University of Houston where, for a decade, he taught the same subject. In addition to this, he also sat for all of the Actuarial Exams with the Society of Actuaries. Within a short period of six years, he achieved the designations Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA) and Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA). If all of this wasn’t impressive enough, Mr. Sharif was also ranked as one of the top 3% in terms of speed to acquire those designations. Since then, he has fulfilled a number of roles across the world, specializing in management and actuarial services, dealing in the measurement and management of risk and uncertainty.
Actuarial science is a field that requires no small amount of asset management, liability management, and valuation skills, many of which have come in handy throughout Mr Sharif’s career before arriving at Kuwait Insurance. Immediately following his graduation from the University of Houston, Mr Sharif was brought on board by the team at AIG Life to become Chief Actuary, implementing his skills and playing his trade across Houston, New York, and the Middle East. From there, Mr Sharif slowly but surely enhanced his skills further, taking more and more responsibility within the workplace before moving on to take on new challenges as Management Consultant at the prominent management consulting firm McKinsey & Company and at Booz, Allen, Hamilton (now Strategy&). Being the first American citizen with Lebanese origin to achieve both the FSA designation, as well as a consultant at McKinsey and Company and later on an Advisor on Insurance to McKinsey, Mr, Sharif was recognized by Life Magazine as one of the top 30 most impactful Lebanese Americans in the USA. It wasn’t until 2005 that Mr Sharif achieved his first role as a Regional CEO and Managing Director.
Dutifully serving that role for four years, 2009 saw Mr Sharif achieve his role as outright CEO with AIM Consulting, specializing in actuarial and management consulting for the insurance industry. The following seven years were filled with similar roles and even more experience gained, before arriving at Kuwait Insurance in 2016. Since then, Mr Sharif has dedicated himself wholly to the continuation of the mission and values of Kuwait Insurance, providing clients with the most competitive products in terms of benefits, values, and services. In order to continue this provision through distribution channels with state-of-the-art services and an ever-growing team of staff, there is constant focus on the three main values of Kuwait Insurance: achievement, innovation, and people development.
What has made,and continues to make Kuwait Insurance successful and distinguished from the competition is the special care that shown to everyone that the firm comes into contact with. Displaying special care to clients, shareholders, and employees is the perfect way of showing everyone that no matter what place in the chain they are, they will still earn the respect and care that they deserve when working with Kuwait Insurance. Mr Sharif embodies this every single day, ensuring that the values and the mission of the firm has not been lost during his time there. Whether the client be an individual or a business, there is always direct communication and care, resulting in long-standing relationships that have stood the test of time.
Time has certainly played a role in the growth of Kuwait Insurance. Over the company’s sixty-year history, it has achieved some notable milestones along the way in becoming the insurance titan of Kuwait it is today. Just one year after being founded in 1960, Kuwait Insurance was responsible for launching the country’s first motor, marine, and fire insurance policies, whilst 1968 saw the firm issue its first life insurance policy. Twenty-four years after founding, it was listed in the Kuwait Stock Market Exchange. In the short four years since Mr Sharif took over as CEO at the company, there have also been some notable changes that continue to mark out Kuwait Insurance as a truly exceptional company.
Mr Sharif’s expert leadership has seen the firm introduce a new corporate identity in 2017, as well as become a recipient of the Best General Insurance Company award from World Finance. Capitalising on that success, and this one in CEO Monthly, 2020 has seen Kuwait Insurance receive the financial strength rating of A- (Excellent) with a “stable outlook” by AM Best Company. Today, Kuwait Insurance is one of the most formidable companies in the country, let alone working in the insurance industry. Mr Sharif’s insight, knowledge, and expertise has gone a long way in making that happen.
Now, more than five decades on from that fateful first life insurance policy was taken out, Kuwait Insurance houses more than two hundred employees across 11 branches in the country. With a full line of conventional and Takaful insurance products for corporates and individuals, the total assets of the company exceed 205 million Kuwaiti Dinar and there is little sign of that figure slowing down its growth.
However, for all of Mr Sharif’s expertise and Kuwait Insurance’s 60 years extensive history in the industry, there are still challenges to be overcome. Thanks to a soft market, non-supportive insurance regulations, a lack of insurance expertise, and a wealth of irrational competition, there are obstacles that stand in the way of Kuwait Insurance and Mr Sharif achieving bigger and better things together. That’s without mentioning the political risk given Kuwait’s geopolitical location, and the current global pandemic due to Covid-19.
Yet, in spite of all the challenges and obstacles that must be overcome, Kuwait Insurance still manage to succeed and grow. Mr Sharif’s leadership in difficult times continually sees him achieve greater heights than before, serving some of the most major companies in the country alongside his team of international reinsurers with first-class securities. Insurance is something that everyone should be concerned with, no matter what is in need of protection. Kuwait Insurance and Mr Sharif are wholly concerned with that protection, and dedicated to making sure their clients get the best possible deal. It is this concern, this dedication, and this leadership that has seen him rightfully crowned CEO of the Year, 2020 – Kuwait.
Company: Kuwait Insurance Company
Contact: Sami Sharif, CEO