Analysis: International PMI and the Arab Spring

International PMI

Peter Pallot reports on how iPMI providers helped expats in a crisis

The recent political upheaval across the Middle East and Arab states has had a huge impact on the many expatriates that live in the troubled states. Peter Pallot finds out how international insurers and assistance providers came to their rescue.

Wherever it ends up, the Arab Spring keeps rollin’. Uprisings that started six months ago in Tunisia and flowed through to half a dozen countries (with variable unforeseeable outcomes) are still being compared to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

A crucial difference was that thousands of foreign nationals were and are potentially at some risk in the Arab revolution. By contrast, Westerners living in the East Berlin’s expat compound in 1989 joined in the celebrations.

There is an opportunity here for those modelling international medical insurance plans and intermediaries selling them.

When serious civil unrest breaks out, expatriates first look to their governments for help. This is of variable quality. A source of extra reassurance is to have an assistance company, operating either directly to help you as an insured, or through a “political evacuation” benefit bolted on to an international insurance plan.

One such is the emergency political evacuation cover offered by Interglobal.  Three years ago the insurer arranged for security group red24 to provide all its members with security advice as appropriate. Much of this is similar to that given by official sources. But those on InterGlobal’s top plans are entitled to actual “hands-on” help in a hazardous situation.

Stephen Hartigan, the insurer’s chief executive, says: “It’s worked for us. We’ve had inquiries from our competitors as to the scheme and we say ‘it’s good but we should say it’s an exclusive arrangement we have with red24.

“It’s of value to our customers as we’ve shown in Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Japan – Japan because it’s not just designed for civil unrest, but for natural disasters as well.”

Political emergency evacuation cover, whether of the Interglobal/red24 type or through direct provision by a security firm, is clearly in demand. Revolution popping up like wildfire is one reason.  Employers ever more anxious about the expanding duty-of-care framework is another.

Just how much assistance companies, security firms and insurance companies directly and indirectly helped expats caught in Middle East turmoil is difficult to gauge.  There are hundreds of assistance companies worldwide, mainly small, and scores of ex-SAS types working as security advisers.

But a good idea can be gleamed from International SOS, the world’s biggest assistance company by some margin and genuinely global, while the minnows stick to countries, regions or continents.

The organisation acts for 66% of Fortune Global 500 companies.  It employs 8,000 people including 970 full time doctors and 200 security specialists, has offices in 70 countries and a network of 32 clinics in very remote areas where even basic medical care is nonexistent.

In addition it runs 500 remote-site security projects, for example, catering for oil workers in far-flung spots.

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