Nikolay Genchev has been the CEO and Chairperson of the Management Board of UNIQA Bulgaria since the end of 2009. He is a member of the management boards of the Association of Bulgarian Insurers and Prof. Dr. Veleslav Gavriyski Foundation. He holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski.”
Mr. Genchev, what is your short definition of insurance?
Trust in advance. The client buys a promise, hoping that they will never have to use the services of the insurer. But sometimes, there are moments when trust has to be justified.
How did you enter the insurance sector?
By chance. 20 years ago, I did not think that most of my professional path to this day will be related to insurance. A curious thing is that the only grade from my studies at the University, which is missing in my diploma due to a technical error, is my excellent mark in insurance.
What did the twists and turns
on your path teach you?
My career is like a zig-zag: audit, insurance, non-banking financial services, again insurance, back to the banking sector and then again insurance. Everywhere I learned a lot and at each place I gained many professional and personal friendships. This is the biggest lesson: people are the most important.
Business and insurance –
what is the unused potential?
Certainly, in Bulgaria insurance owes to the business, especially to the small and medium-sized business, in terms of penetration and coverage of all kinds of risks. But here we also get to the topic of insurance knowledge and trust in the industry. Partly, the reason is the insufficient information on the variety of insurance products, and I would like to emphasize the role of intermediaries – most often they are the live contact with the client and it is their responsibility to offer full protection depending on the needs of the respective business.
Who are the biggest “enemies” and “friends” of insurance?
The biggest “enemy” is the lack of trust. We traditionally believe it is better not to pull the devil by the tail; to knock on wood; if we still get hit by a natural disaster, we expect the state to help us. But it is difficult for us to trust that someone will keep their word and promise. The biggest “friend” of insurance is damages. The realization of the risks with the respective adverse effects illustrates the need for protection against these risks. When you realize how much a life-saving medical procedure may cost, you understand that it is better to have financial insurance in such cases.
What portrait of the
Bulgarian does insurance draw?
It seems that their car is much more valuable than their home, health, and even the financial security of their family. It’s as if a scratch on the mudguard of the car is a bigger problem for the Bulgarian than the broken arm of their child. Or perhaps, they just do not know that only part of the money they give for the insurance of their car could provide protection for their home or the health of their child. Yes, we are the poorest in the EU. Yet, from a certain point of view, insurance is one of the cheapest things a person can buy. But we often think of it too late.
How do you think technology will change insurance?
A million-dollar question, or even a billion. New technologies will surely radically transform the insurance business. When and how exactly, we’re about to see. But the directions are already clear, and the first examples are visible. Autonomous cars, especially those connected and sharing information with each other and with the surrounding infrastructure, will revolutionize not only the transport business, but also the car insurance industry. There will be fewer accidents and thefts. But there will be new risks. Smart homes and smart cities will also draw the attention more on preventing or minimizing risks, respectively, preventing damages. Insurers will be faced with the issue of building and maintaining ecosystems in order to provide a whole range of services. Another example is body sensors that already make it possible to detect and diagnose various health problems early, so insurers could already include them in their health products.
Your vision for the development of the insurance market in Bulgaria?
I very much hope that the technological future of the industry will allow us to skip several steps from the “evolutionary development”, so that we will begin to provide truly modern solutions to our clients. But it will come together with the next generation of clients, the digital users.
What is the brightest example of justified trust from your practice?
About five years ago, right on the Insurer’s Day, 1st October, a very serious industrial accident happened. In the village of Gorni Lom, a blast destroyed an ammunition processing plant. 15 workers who were insured by UNIQA died. The explosion was so strong that the bodies were practically annihilated. The heirs had to wait a long time before they had the necessary documents in order to be able to file their claims before the insurer.
But we, at UNIQA, knew that in this tragic moment, people are in the greatest need our financial support. So, instead of waiting, we sent our team in place and found the relatives of the deceased. Within a few days, we paid the heirs the due benefits – a total of over BGN 800,000, literally in good faith, long before the documentary set-up of the cases. That’s how we, in UNIQA, understand the meaning of justifying the trust of our clients, to be next to them when they need us the most.
What model of business leadership do you follow and create?
People come always first. What is important to me is personal responsibility and ethics, trust and mutual respect. And more: impartial professional judgement; a dignified example of behaviour inside the company and on the market; tolerance for experimentation and mistakes. We have the courage to do what no one else dares to do. We are not tired of proving that we are the best team. And we manage to do it while having fun. Well, even though it may look easier than it actually is.
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