Closing the life insurance protection gap and instilling a culture of financial literacy and security is a challenge for any insurer. The Continental Group’s Mr Ashok Sardana spoke to us about the gender wealth gap, earning a DIFC licence and being an advocate for financial stability. By Ahmad Zaki The Continental Group’s foray into the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) represents an opportunity to expand and grow its business both internationally and in the UAE. “Under Dubai Financial Services Authority regulations, we can be more innovative and efficient while simultaneously strengthening our controls. The sophisticated regulatory framework will enable us to become more agile and provide specialised, bespoke solutions to our global clients,” said Continental Group founder and managing director Ashok Sardana. “While maximising the opportunities the licence brings, we intend to build a community of advisers, collaborators and clients with a shared appreciation for trust and transparency,” he said. The group now has its headquarters in the DIFC and existing outposts in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Geneva, Hong Kong, Delhi, Bombay and Port Louis. It also has a roadmap for its business around the globe – to build multi-generational relationships as an advocate of financial planning and a trusted partner for financial security and inclusion. “In 2023, we are looking for more dialogue with partners, collaborators and clients to create a greater, measurable impact. The leadership team is determined to foster a culture of integrity and empowerment – a culture with greater responsibility toward client experience and one that draws extraordinary talents to join our cause,” he said. Narrowing the wealth gap In many parts of the world, women are in charge of purchasing insurance for their families, but the gender wealth and protection gap remains quite wide. It is a peculiar problem that insurers are trying to solve, and Mr Sardana believes that the first step is awareness. “The first order of business is to acknowledge the presence of gender gaps. So, we have raised awareness at every opportunity, through different channels, including our webinars and podcasts,” he said. The group has been actively advocating for financial freedom and independence, financial inclusion, ESG investing, and wellbeing, through its podcast ‘Dollars, Dirhams and Our Two Financial Cents’. “Also, we have personalised our advocacy for gender equality by educating our clients and their families on the need for financial literacy and planning. We share real-life incidents of financial difficulties faced by surviving members when the person who was solely handling the finances passes away.” However, societies around the globe are also shifting towards more gender parity, which will contribute to a solution. “We have observed that women are now increasingly geared toward financial independence, with many building competencies and moving up the corporate ladder.” Facing down inflation Inflation has become the topic of the moment, and consumers are already starting to feel the effects. With many people still feeling financial bereft post-COVID, it has become more challenging than ever to plan for a stable financial future. However, the group advocates for financial literacy, planning and freedom that is independent of economic cycles such as inflation and recession, as a way to create stability in uncertain times. “We posit that, regardless of external economic circumstances, financial planning is paramount at all times. When that practice is ingrained in day-to-day life, one can develop resilience against any external change or bump in the road,” he said. “We are more inclined toward building lifetime, multi-generational relationships with clients, helping them through customised solutions as per their unique circumstances and requirements. That objective remains the same irrespective of how financially stable or secure the client is.”

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