MANAMA: Bahrain's insurance market is booming and creating new jobs in the kingdom.
The market posted its strongest-ever annual growth during last year, with gross premiums surging by 34 per cent to register BD183.3m ($486.3m).
And that saw insurance companies create new jobs as the number of people employed in the industry rose from 1,224 to 1,394, of whom 62pc are Bahrainis.
A significant part of this increase is attributed to a surge in life insurance from BD37.69m in 2007 to BD51.98m last year, a 38pc increase, according to the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB).
Significant growth was also reported for classes of fire, property and liability, engineering and medical.
The underwriting income of insurance firms rose by 151pc to register BD30.4m last year compared to BD12.1m in 2007.
The number of insurance companies and organisations operating in Bahrain market during the year totalled 163, of whom 25 were locally-incorporated insurance firms, 11 were branches of foreign firms and the remaining other insurance ancillary services and insurance organisations.
"The insurance sector in Bahrain holds tremendous promise for growth, as demonstrated by the industry's strong performance not only during 2008 but in several recent years," said CBB executive director financial institutions supervision Abdul Rahman Al Baker.
The takaful industry continued to expand with overall gross premiums reaching BD27.2m last year, up from BD15.7m in 2007, a 73pc increase, the majority of which was generated by increased family takaful premiums.
The growth was also reflected in a healthy increase in employment in the insurance sector.
"We expect the insurance sector to continue its growth momentum in the coming years, mainly due to the increase in the public awareness on the importance of life and medical insurance as well as the introduction of new insurance products by the existing insurance firms" said Mr Al Baker.
Gross premiums generated in the domestic market amounted to BD183.3m last year, up from BD136.7m.
Life insurance constituted the single largest class of business, generating premiums amounted to BD51.98m last year, an increase of 38pc over the 2007 figure of BD37.69m.
The life market accounted for 28.3pc of the total premiums generated last year.
Motor gross premiums reached BD50.9m, an increase of 17pc, accounting for 28pc of the premiums market.
Fire, property and liability premiums grew 58pc to BD 30.98 while premiums from marine and aviation insurance amounted to BD7.5m.
The fire property and liability class accounted for 17pc of total premiums, while marine and aviation represented 4pc.
Medical insurance represented 12pc of insurance market, generating gross premiums worth BD21.2m up 44pc.
"The CBB is committed to advancing the promising insurance sector by ensuring a clear and transparent regulatory framework and a business-friendly environment for insurance services providers," said CBB director insurance supervision directorate Nader Al Mandeel.
This has helped attract several regional and international insurance giants to establish their Middle East hubs in Bahrain including Hannover Re, Allianz, Legal & General, Life Insurance Corporation of India, MedGulf and AXA and expand and advance the industry further.