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Insuring a developing Mongolia

Interview - March 12, 2014
As the young Mongolian insurance industry continues to grow, Bodi Insurance is one of the companies that look to raise awareness about the importance of insurance in the rapidly developing country, as well as reach out to visiting tourists. In an interview with United World, CEO of Bodi Insurance Otgonbayar.B explains how the company looks to take advantage as Mongolia’s transforms from its nomadic tradition to a more urbanized nation with a globalised economy
As a representative of Mongolia’s citizens and as the CEO of Bodi Insurance, please share how are you improving the social welfare of your countrymen?

I’m moving forward and encouraging the government to adopt measures that will not solve the core of the challenges that Mongolia currently face but will protect the citizens hope and to ease their harsh life. If we say they’re live is dark in order to reach the light they have to at least go through the grey zone in order to reach that bright life which they seek. One of the representatives’ main roles is to distribute the funds efficiently and deliver these resources where it is direly necessary. The basic needs such as health care, warm homes, electricity should be given to the people who chose these representatives and what I say to you is not political shenanigans but my honest thought. There are differing representatives and as for me, I always strive to make time for anyone who has chosen me to come and see me. In politics, I have started from the first step and climbing my way to the top so he has been through all the obstacles and faced them full heartedly. Same with the insurance sector, I know the problems and the advantages like the back of my hand. I hope you can see from my character what type of person I am.

The government is planning to expand the basic insurance to help the citizens’ addition to the growing demand of insurance sector from the middle class as a result of their rise in income. How are the insurance companies helping the remaining or low-income people, which consist of more than 500,000?

The financial regulatory committee has to monitor commercial sales of insurance services and its activities and these commercial products have special license. Almost 60% of the products, which are provided to customers, are similar to the insurance products around the world and the government regulates the most important products such as pension and life insurance and there is only one life insurance Company. Commandments regarding such insurance have to be passed by the parliament however currently it is extremely inefficient and all the reserve are spent. Furthermore the government does not want to give control over these insurance services because one of the main reasons is because if the private sector starts providing them, poor or low-income people might not be able to get these services.

How is the private sector filling the basic insurance gap that the government cannot reach?

In regards to commercial insurance, government does not support but they are heavily watching the private companies and their activities and of course with every opportunity the government will get money and strictly regulate the companies. At the same time the government cannot actively influence this sector at the moment but in probably more than 10 years they might start getting involved in the commercial sector. I try to give the realistic picture even though it is tough however I do believe the new and young generation leaders will change this situation.

As you have told us insurance sector is still premature, how well does the public know the benefits of being covered by insurance?

From the government it is compulsory to have certain insurance such as health and driver’s reliability insurance. But these products are the main loss of commercial and private insurance companies as the laws regulating specifically commercial products, the sectors laws were passed by politicians’ not insurance specialists and it is far from functioning efficiently and in most cases leads to the doom of insurance companies. Under this non-hospitable environment the private insurance companies strive to make profit and the quality of the products are not world standard. In Mongolia there is no actuary specialist as of now and the entire market rate is made up without any economical study. But not everything is bad, we are preparing strong workforce, real actuary specialist and we have established the Mongolian Actuary Association and we are cooperating with British Actuary Association. To name but few there are many obstacles we have to solve in the insurance sector.

Can you tell us about your wide range of corporate clients, as we know many big international players started their operation in Mongolia and not to mention the giant State owned companies?

Regarding our price competitiveness, we are not so distinctive from the rest of the insurance companies although what makes us advantageous from them is we have close ties with financial institutions, secondly products vary on many aspects and corporate culture is unique. All of our shareholders have been studied abroad for example Germany, Russia and many other western countries. To name but few one of our shareholder is Bold who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs ministry and our general director is the board of directors in Golomt bank and Swedish Ambassador. Many of the financial advisors come from Sweden which means our human resource is strong at the same time we hire local employees and train them abroad which brings out strong workforce who understands the local situation with western education.

What is the human resources philosophy of Bodi Insurance? How are you taking full advantage of your human capital?

We have 130 full time employees and as I mentioned skilled human capital are scarce and even though we tried hiring employees who acquired their masters degree in America, none of them could adjust and work with us. So we started hiring local employees and train the leaders and send them for international training for example we organize seminars with Aeon, GLT and Marsch and not only do we improve their skills in their field we also encourage our employees to learn foreign language.

Can you elaborate in your Corporate Social Responsibility?

I would like to mention that all the products we provide are finished to perfection and even the packaging and gifts we provide to our clients are well thought. We have mass clients from the suburbs and the presents we give them are practical in their life. For our herder clients we provide them with first aid kits and lights which charges by hand and solar. So everything we provide for our clients considers their need and satisfies them.
Can you please share how you reach foreign clients, as we know Mongolia receives many tourists during summer and how do you reach and provide services for these clients?

One of the advantages about BODI is that we cooperate with the International organization SOS and we are the only company who is providing 1 million dollar insurance to travelers who are going abroad. This is the highest reimbursement rate in Mongolia as others can offer up to one hundred thousand dollar protection. We have been cooperating with this organization for over 9 years and as for foreign tourists who are coming to Mongolia; their protection does not cover them in Mongolia. For example when a tourist comes to Mongolia and gets an injury, who is going to take care of them probably the foreign insurance company cannot provide any services. So we provide insurance cover that protects the customer in the territory of Mongolia and in need of urgent treatment we will send helicopter and send the patient to their country and I consider this insurance as the biggest distinctiveness from any other companies here. So for all the readers I would like to proudly state that if you are planning to come to Mongolia we are the strongest and most experienced with dealing tourists from around the globe.

If a foreign company wants to invest and start their business in Mongolia, how do you find these potential clients in order to provide them with your services?

This is one of the difficult obstacles in insurance sector because there is lack of information and when we visit these entities they usually know how insurance works and how important it is. But sadly all the foreign companies bump into political and governmental pressure. And majority of the foreign companies who are coming to Mongolia are mining and construction sector and we have prepared all the services packaged and ready to be delivered in English and Mongolian. But many of the clients have already done the research. We are preparing our website and we will be launching online services soon and at the moment there is not any online service in Mongolia. Majority of the clients are poor and they don’t even have cards to pay the insurance service, which they receive, and as for foreign tourists it is always better to come to one of our branches and get extensive information about the products so they can get the most satisfying experience in dealing with our company. Once we launch our website it will be launched in English, Russian and Chinese as we can’t leave out these languages.

In the meantime, we will do our best to be your foreign voice to future clients. As you have mentioned before you need educators from abroad and you send your local employees to foreign countries to improve their skills and because the government does not provide any aid to the insurance sector its extremely important to attract foreign investors and not to mention collaborate with reinsurance companies. From your background, education and work experience and most importantly your involvement in the public sector and its well being and how much you are contributing to the public of Mongolia, I have no uncertainty regarding your future award of the most respected Polar Star medal is on its way.

I am not a person who wants any awards or medals and my only mission is to hold my word for the public and help those who need it.

As one of the young minds of the country, how you will define Mongolia in one sentence?

I want to say that many of the people know Mongolia from the historical perspective about Chingis Khaan, the great empire but I want to let the world know that Mongolia has changed dramatically. Every time we talk about Mongolian nomadic life style, we are referring to the past. The new Mongolia is turning into a settled people with modern way of living. Its cities have already transformed into international city for example you can find a KFC in every corner and probably you can’t find any horses roaming around in the city. Mongolian wealthy people are included in the top 50 and getting involved in global businesses the buildings are changing its shape into advanced level and we will be soon having metro stations. Nomadic people are not interested in insurance but when there is concentration of people then the situation of risk arises so even in insurance sector we are working based on this fact.

Our company is reaching the vast lands of Mongolian public with its 600 representatives situated in the 21 “aimags” and we seek to be the leader in the commercial sector.

This is the first time that our communication agency is in Mongolia with the most important North American newspaper. Please send a massage to the beat of Wall Street, the cradle of the last developments in science and technology – California – and the political core of the world, Washington?

Mongolia has transformed from its past, it is now a sensitive but flexible country who understand the needs of the global demand yet due to its size we do have certain involvement from the government. We learn from our mistakes and due to the population of only 3 million people we transform without any delay, our President and Prime Minister has visited our allies and expressed their interest in collaborating with them. Foreigners can get a satisfying visit to Mongolia which means we can provide a world standard service so I hope all the readers will get an idea of how Mongolia has transformed from a nomadic lifestyle to a settled and globalized economy.