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What is your idea of the development of insurance market in Ukraine and your company’s development perspectives?
I believe that the market will be held by a number of international insurance groups. Sooner or later the remaining local brands will be bought by Europeans who have not yet entered the Ukrainian market. Clients will become more quality-oriented. Whether they want it or not, the majority of large corporations purchase insurance products. And as the years go by they discover that insurance may be both: a powerful protection and a total waste of money, depending on the quality of the product one buys. So if you are spending your money anyway, why not buy quality? I believe and hope that it’ll be the major trend in corporate insurance within the next few years.
If you could make three reforms to your industry in Ukraine, what would they be? And why?
My business is investment, so I have no definite “industry” to speak of.
But as here I am on behalf of BritMark insurance brokers, I’ll mention the insurance sector. A lot in insurance industry should be changed. And I would recommend to start with the basics: laws and regulations. They are over-complex and bureaucratic. It is sometimes impossible to fulfil all requirements. It is often illogical as well.
Investors are often cautious about investing in Ukraine, in part because of irregularities in the legal system. What advice would you give to companies who are thinking of entering the Ukrainian market?
I’d recommend finding a local partner. A buy-out, a franchise or a partnership – they are only the methods. The idea is: while you manage large-scale tasks, your local partner will be perfect for solving the complexities of Ukrainian bureaucracy. It’s that, or hire an experienced local team. If you focus on irregularities yourself, you will have no time for the rest. Furthermore, you have to be a Ukrainian even to comprehend and evaluate some situations.
Medical insurance is fairly popular among European corporate employers, while few local companies provide their staff with this kind of a social package. But is it really a considerable advantage for an average Ukrainian office worker?
Most large Ukrainian companies avoid medical insurance. It certainly is expensive. Those who usually purchase it - are branches of an international entity. And with them, medical insurance is not intended to be an additional allurement. It is rather a typical standard. Employees of international companies often take this insurance for granted. Or do not really care for it, being satisfied as they are. For when a seasoned auditor chooses between “The Big Four” and, for example, state service, many personal preferences will affect his judgment, but the medical insurance will hardly be the major catch. And of course, after the global crisis shook the Ukrainian economy, employees pay more attention to the future salary, rather then to future job benefits.
What I really like about the situation, however, is that some companies start purchasing medical insurance for their employees not in order to attract new candidates, but to take care of the current employees. They may not think much of it, but in case of an accident it may prove life-saving, or at the very least - cost-effective.
Have you, in your professional role, encountered any major obstacles or barriers that have made it difficult to conduct business in Ukraine? If so, how did you overcome them?
It’s in the mentality which proved to be the strongest barrier.
You may have great business with your counterpart even without speaking the same language, or when having different skills. But it’ll never be a success, if your thoughts run in opposite directions. Ukrainians: employees and partners are very different from what an average European businessman may expect. I have Ukrainian roots in my family, so maybe it helped me understand the country better.
Kyivpost, March 25, 2011
This article is also available here.