Hristo Charkov, General Manager of GrECo Bulgaria, talks about foreign direct investments, fair competition and our multi-lingual team in Bulgaria.
How do the current political developments and economic conditions in Bulgaria influence the insurance industry and clients’ risks?
CHARKOV: Before the COVID-19 limitations and negative effects have been imposed the insurance industry was dominated by an extensive and fruitful penetration development. Following the latest global developments we do already expect an economy slowdown mostly triggered by industry (automotive and related subcontracting processing) lay ups and shut downs. A recovery is to be expected after this economic slowdown, but might take several years.
In which economic segments do you expect increasing investments in the coming years?
CHARKOV: We expect major investments in the sectors of automotive, construction and real estate. However, those might take several years to happen due to the current economics slow down.
What are the biggest risks foreign companies doing business in Bulgaria need to consider?
CHARKOV: At the moment the measures taken by the government as an reaction to COVID-19 pose a significant threat to foreign investments. In general the corruption and vulnerable economy have a significant negative impact on foreign direct investments. In this environment a trusted advisor is vital.
How do Bulgaria risks differ from those in other countries?
CHARKOV: Risks are similar to other countries – it is a question of different risk awareness in each and every economy and the level of proactivity of major insurance players. Risk management is still a terra incognita for 99% of regular business practices. As for the risk exposure we do observe problems with FLEXA and natural catastrophe risks due to also lack of standard risk management approach.
What are the main facts of the insurance market in Bulgaria?
CHARKOV: The total insurance market accounts to 1,5 billion EUR, with 75% Non-Life and 25% Life. 65% is a broker business, but you can hardly distinguish between corporate and retail share – as per estimation of GrECo the corporate share is not more than 300 million EUR.There is still a “paradox” where retail clients get policies by so called “brokers” and corporations and large firms go directly to insurers where they get commission kickbacks on contrary to standard market practices in developed countries. This eliminates fair competition and leads to averse risk advisory and lack of appropriate insurance solutions.
The Bulgarian market itself is not an inventive one – we do follow to 100 % the EU imposed policies for IDD for example, means that what is practice for regulation in western countries similar is applied in BG too.
Please describe GrECo Bulgaria’s incoming business servicing capabilities? How many and what languages are spoken in your international team? How many years of experience does your team have in international client servicing?
CHARKOV: We are able to service fully in English and German, as well as to some extent also in Russian. We have in total more than 50 years in overall experience servicing international customers.
Can you tell us about your most complicated case when dealing with international clients?
CHARKOV: Complications are mostly deriving from the fact that the leading broker does not always get the full servicing mandate. This makes it hard for us to acquire additional lines as we have to deal with issues such as undercover kickback requests, false bribing practices from our competitors etc.
Where do you at GrECo Bulgaria focus on when advising clients and what special expertise have you developed?
CHARKOV: We are the most profound specialty brokers in Bulgaria with focus on transportation & logistics, general aviation, employee benefits and some P&C specialties such as product liability and several financial lines. This is how we distinguish ourselves in the market, we believe to have a strong advantage over our competitors.
GrECo Bulgaria EOOD
Hristo has been heading the Bulgarian office of the GrECo Group in Bulgaria and has been supervising all client relations since 2014. After his graduation at the University of Munich, Germany with MA in Insurance, Risk and Banking and in 2004 he had multiple roles in the area of Sales and Business Development in the insurance market in Bulgaria, Austria and Germany for multinational insurers.
He has a proven track record in Specialty Lines such as Transport & Logistics, Aviation, Marine, as well as LoI Property & Casualty and Risk Management and is fluent in German, English, Russian as well as some capabilities in Chinese and Estonian.
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