Q&A: Leena Parwani, Founder & CEO – iCare
Over the past few years, Dubai has come to hold an especially high economic status among its neighbouring cities in the GCC and Middle East, ranking among the top international cities that provide good living conditions and economic uptakes.
Dubai has particularly attracted high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), who arrived to invest and reside within its vast man-made islands and iconic skyscrapers, enjoying a lavish lifestyle and endless options to spend their high disposable incomes.
But they say those who have vast amounts of money are exactly the ones most keen on taking care of it.
This awareness and need brought an abundance international banks, privately owned banks and independent financial advisors to offer wealth management, insurance and saving plans, among other financial services.
One of the boutique financial advisories is iCare, headed by Leena Parwani. TRENDS sat down with her to discuss the insurance and wealth management market in the region, the shared demands of HNWIs and the new approach to insurance.
iCare is a Dubai-based company, but are operations limited to the city or the UAE?
Our offices are based in Dubai, but we’ve got associates who have offices in Singapore, Canada and elsewhere. We have a client base in different countries like India, Qatar, Oman, Tanzania and Turkey, but around 30 percent of iCare’s clients are from the GCC region.
This global approach also allows iCare, despite its small size, to source out global solutions to local problems. If somebody has a problem here, I can get them a suitable solution from anywhere in the country, not necessarily restricted to here.
What are the top demands of your clients?
While most insurance companies sell pre-designed products, I work differently. There used to be a market where you have a product and find a suitable client to close the sale, but I would rather do it differently. I find a person, listen to his problem, then go back and design a product for him, I don’t know how to sell a product but I know how to solve a problem.
Different people have different demands and problems; I can say that I never dealt with the same problem twice. A common concern among all clients is what happens to their loved ones after they are gone – and to the whole empire they built. This fear is there for everybody, but I would say the magnitude is different.
If we can group them, what are the main issues of HNWIs – those who already have the money they need for a good living?
Sixty per cent of the millionaires here are self-made. They want their empires to survive and be transferred to the next generation. The same goes for donations and charities; some HNWIs are great donors, they donate a lot; they’d want to create a legacy and keep giving even after they are gone.
I have a client whose son appears to be incapable of making the business as successful as his father, so iCare is helping him give away the business to the key people in the company, those who remained loyal to him for years. We’re helping him with how to transfer the business slowly to them, to maintain his legacy for generations to come.
There are different saving methods. What are the best in your opinion?
Some people are simply comfortable with saving through fixed deposits and I can advise them on which fixed deposits would provide maximum returns if they are not interested, or fear, stepping into bond or stock investments.
On the other hand, some are willing to take a higher risk for higher returns and end up putting their money into equities and issue bonds, etc.
Banks are also another common means of saving money, but with banks you always have the ATM card. The kinds of plans which I motivate people to go for include a full saving schedule plan and if you withdraw before your goal time, you would get a penalty on it – unless there is an emergency, of course.
(This interview first appeared on www.aficionadome.com, a TRENDS sister website)