Sun, 03 March 2019
Enas Asiri is the first woman to take charge of a major Bahrain insurance company. Here, she explains the story so far…
Enas is general manager of Bahrain National Life Assurance Company (bnl), a specialist in life and health insurance plans. She has held the post for 18 months following 10 years in the reinsurance industry with Arab Insurance Group (Arig).
With an initial background in medical education, she holds a BSc in Occupational Therapy, from Queen Margaret University, UK; an MBA, from the UK’s University of Strathclyde; and is a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute (FCII), UK. She also lectures part-time at Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) – Insurance Centre.
Though she has risen to great heights in her sector, insurance was not always the plan. She explains: “Like many insurance professionals, my career in insurance was not planned. I come from a medical educational background, and joining the insurance industry was supposed to be a temporary stop during my job-hunt phase, post-graduation. However, my interest slowly grew in this field and I consequently decided to remain and specialise further; complementing my medical educational background with business and insurance academics required to excel in life and health insurance operations.”
Enas began her journey as part of a Graduate Development Programme before choosing to specialise in life and health insurance. She started out in technical life underwriting and progressed to a leadership role heading the health operations at Arig before joining bnl.
On advice for others, she says: “The key to my success was, and continues to be, commitment to excellence – which is only achieved, in my opinion, by combining three things: the gaining of knowledge and experience; training and qualifying and positive attitude.”
And, while admitting that being a woman in senior management can be challenging, she is quick to point out that things are changing and people are beginning to look to ability rather than gender. She says: “Assuming a key position in any organisation is challenging, regardless of gender. Being a woman in this position adds to the challenge, no doubt. This is an international notion across various sectors; not unique to Bahrain nor the insurance industry. While this is certainly changing, the male:female ratios are not yet equal, which does put more pressure on women in key roles to prove their capabilities.
“That said, my personal experience has been very positive as I have worked with professionals who appreciate talent, ambition, intelligence, commitment and are interested in placing the right person with the right skills in the right position, regardless of gender.“
Clearly dedicated to the insurance sector, Enas says the most interesting aspect of the profession is how dynamic the industry is; and how much room there is for growth and bringing about change. “There will always be risk; there will always be the need to reduce the risk; there will always be a new way to do so – this is where innovation comes in. The development of new ideas and products is always highly appreciated.”
And she is enthusiastic about attracting and mentoring other young Bahrainis into the sector saying: “bnl is characterised by relatively young personnel with an average age of 32, and a high Bahrainisation percentage at 83 per cent. I ensure my direct involvement in delivering on-the-job training: one-to-one and/or group training sessions as appropriate; training needs analysis; and the selection of appropriate training programmes both practical as well as academic.”
For the future, Enas feels changes in both attitudes and legislation will keep the market vibrant. She concludes: “The insurance sector is undoubtedly booming in the region, including Bahrain, due to many socioeconomical factors as well as regulatory changes. The younger generation is now appreciating the value of family protection, saving as well as pension plans, more than just relying on the social and family support systems which have traditionally formed an integral part of Bahraini culture. This is expected to result in an increase, though not significant, in life insurance penetration levels in the local market. The government’s direction towards the introduction of the mandatory health insurance programme will have a significant impact on the demand as well as the operations of health insurance in Bahrain.”