Insuring success in Serbia’s challenging marketplace

The adoption of modern business practices and customer-focused products could help the Serbian insurance market flourish in challenging conditions

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UNIQA is earning a reputation for its high-quality services in spite of the demanding conditions of the Serbian market

Author: Gordana Bukumirić, CEO, UNIQA

15 Feb 2018

At first sight, the Serbian insurance market may seem extremely challenging. Still, I have always supported the notion that one should approach difficult situations from a different perspective. That’s why, at UNIQA, we continue to regard the Serbian insurance sector as a market of opportunities.

On closer inspection, the Serbian insurance market can be easily broken down into 19 insurers, competing in a market where 34 percent of the total premium is related to motor third-party liability insurance, only 14.6 percent of citizens have life insurance and just seven percent of the population has household insurance. Further, it’s a market where online sales account for less than one percent of purchases, with clients often preferring to buy insurance in branch.

In such a conservative and traditional business, UNIQA has found success with a young and creative team of individuals who continually strive to push the market’s boundaries by identifying the latest solutions and developing the most innovative products.

Leading light
As part of an international insurance group with more than 200 years of history, UNIQA has a great responsibility to the market in which it operates. Fortunately, my team appreciates the multicultural diversity of the region, providing the best-in-class service to customers throughout Serbia. As a result, UNIQA has become the market leader in one of the most crucial segments of the Serbian business environment.

While figures show Serbians have traditionally bought insurance in branch, UNIQA aims to bring the market into the modern age, meeting the changing lifestyle requirements of Serbia’s predominantly uninsured population. As such, almost 80 percent of all the proposals and policies we provide are created via internally developed web applications, which enable processes to be carried out in the field and as soon as the client requests them.

By operating online, we give clients a forum where they can voice their opinions and concerns without having to venture in store. Customers are also given the opportunity to outline their specific requirements or make suggestions, which ultimately allows us to adapt to the needs of the market, rather than tell the market what it needs.

UNIQA adapts to the needs of the market, rather than telling the market what it needs

Most of all, this helps us to develop well-structured business processes that are simple and socially responsible. As a result, we have developed products that are tailor-made to our customers’ needs, such as private health insurance. This particular product has revolutionised the Serbian insurance market.

I take great pride in the fact that we are leading the market in the development of private health insurance, helping to establish the standard for what is a highly significant product. We are also working alongside our partners to improve and develop private health practices, ensuring our clients receive the highest quality of service and care.

But, in order to truly achieve our goal, UNIQA must continue to meet the standards set across Europe in terms of strategic management and service provision. With this in mind, I’m happy to say that UNIQA is earning a reputation for its high-quality services in spite of the demanding conditions of the Serbian market.

Building the right team
During the years I have worked in the insurance industry – in which I’ve held many posts – I’ve learned that success requires a lot of time and devotion. Nothing happens overnight, and a lot of effort must be invested in everything from the smallest detail to the biggest project. Put simply, if there’s no devotion to the primary goal, results will inevitably suffer – no matter which field you choose to pursue. This devotion should focus on colleagues as well as clients, ensuring every member of the team feels integral to the operation.

I believe the main pillar of a thriving company is its team of experts. It’s these people who are the propelling fuel, force and pillar of strength of each single business. Therefore, a company’s staff should be its most prized asset. Employees are the ambassadors of the brand, the face of the organisation that reflects its efforts and values in the best possible fashion. It is the staff who ensure companies meet their daily goals and deliver excellent service to their customers.

At UNIQA, we have worked hard to develop a harmonious and well-coordinated team, one that consistently provides a stellar service that can be trusted by our customers. This team has been built on the belief that all of its members should be knowledgeable and exude an air of positive energy, healthy ambition and proactivity.

People tend to say a winning team should never be changed, but I strongly believe success stems from support and development. Each of us, irrespective of our job titles, must be equally important to the company, responsible for each point scored and each new client landed. The degree to which a company’s employees are knowledgeable, skilful and capable determines how far it will ultimately go.

Online sales account for less than one percent of insurance purchases in Serbia, with clients often preferring to buy insurance in branch

Non progredi est regredi
Every great leader must know how to bring the best out of employees, how to motivate them and encourage them to develop further. This knowledge must extend to business partners, colleagues and clients. While no leader is the same, I believe work, creativity, persistence and perseverance are the best qualities of a manager.

One matures and changes on a daily basis, confronting new challenges and learning from each experience. Certainly, in business, one should never be satisfied with the current state of affairs. To quote an old Latin proverb: “To not go forward is to go backward.”

Experience is the best master, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the old ways are the best. Here at UNIQA, we are striving to bring the Serbian insurance market into the modern era by moving away from the traditions of selling in branch. With an annual premium of €106 per capita, it’s clear the Serbian population is ready to set aside money for insurance purposes – it just needs the right push.

By listening to what customers actually want, UNIQA can deliver products that truly reflect the market’s needs and, in turn, bring an outdated Serbian insurance market into the 21st century.