Establishing a new venture with the goal of enabling clients to become profitable, dependable and successful is no easy task. In addition, setting up a business and helping it thrive is a different proposition entirely.
As Chief Executive Officer of Coface Israel, Carmine Mandola, understands these challenges all too well. Since his appointment as CEO, he has sought to address the difficulties of launching the business in Israel.
“Israel is a wonderful and very interesting country; however, it is extremely difficult for negotiation and new business,” he says.
“I think that my background and origin helped me to face the biggest challenges as I have experience in holding strong negotiations, dealing with well-known competitors and finding the right people to succeed.”
Having joined Israel in July 2014 during the last conflict, Mandola created the branch on his own in September 2014 before obtaining a credit insurance license in October 2014, leading to the official opening of the company’s offices in January 2015.
“At the beginning, it was very difficult because we were facing two big competitors that have been in the market for 45 years. However, we found our way to achieve success by offering new solutions, fair commercial terms and a good quality service,” he adds.
“I believe the market was waiting for a third player with innovative ideas and an international approach.”
Making tough decisions
With previous experience working in senior level roles, working for companies such as the Rotarex Group, Burgo Group, Indesit Group and FCA Group, Mandola prides himself on being proactive and adopts the mantra: “you will never win if you never begin,” believing it is the tough decisions that have enabled him to keep his businesses lean and successful in challenging markets.
Upon the launch of Coface Israel’s offices under Mandola’s stewardship in 2015, four other employees joined to begin the venture into Israel’s competitive insurance market. Now in 2018, Coface Israel currently has 25 employees and sees a turnover of ILS60mn a year.
Nonetheless, Mandola points to the value of the way his company serves its customers as paramount to the success Coface has achieved, with the importance of word of mouth at the top of his agenda.
“When you have satisfied customers, they talk about you, the company and the service in a very positive way. Most of the time people will come to us because of word of mouth from someone that has tried our product and our services,” explains Mandola.
“If all of the representation of the company, service and product is positive and it comes from customers that you have satisfied then it is much healthier because they can share their positive experiences with friends or with suppliers that can then become future customers. The process continues because they can then suggest the same service.”
As a result of the emergence of new technologies which continue to expand and grow on an ever-changing basis, businesses have a responsibility to its customers to adapt to and embrace the latest trends.
With this understanding, Coface Israel has introduced group tools such as CofaNet and Tradeliner in a bid to keep ahead of its rivals and maintain its success. CofaNet enables the firm to set up an online connection to receive its customer’s requests and allows Coface to provide feedback in a timely fashion.
Shortly, a new product will be launched as Easyliner to protect small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) against unpaid invoices and insolvency of clients when trading or exporting.
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“The major trend I am observing at the moment in our industry is linked to the fact that SME’s are asking for credit insurance in order to protect their sales and better manage their risk” says Mandola.
“This has seen Coface Israel respond to that demand with Easyliner which I believe is tailor-made for this company segment.”
Gaining market share
Over the last 3.5 years, Coface Israel’s biggest achievement has been to hold an impressive 15% market share of the insurance industry in Israel. However, Mandola is adamant that Coface Israel is not finished there.
“I believe we can expand this 15%. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done but a key target is to increase this percentage further.”
Mandola believes there are three key phases to remaining profitable and generating business when entering Israel’s busy insurance market.
“You have the phase when you first enter the market and you get some customers. The second phase, which is where we currently are, is where you achieve rapid growth. Lastly, you have to keep going with your ambition in order to make sure that your goal is stable and profitable, which is the phase where we are entering into,” emphasizes Mandola.
“It's not the end of the path. We are right in the middle of where we want to be and I hope that within the next three years, our market share will be as high as 25%.”