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Helvetia Turkey: the jewellers of the Bosporus

Erdal Hadatoglu and Erhan Ergünes represent Helvetia in Istanbul. In our portrait the pair talk about their everyday lives, the Turkish mentality and how they differentiate between real gold and kitsch.

27 October 2016, text: Jan Söntgerath, Fotos: zVg

Erhan Ergünes (left) and Erdal Hadatoglu of Helvetia Turkey with a view of the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul.
A strong duo on the Bosporus: Erhan Ergünes (left) and Erdal Hadatoglu represent Helvetia in Istanbul.

As Head of Marine Turkey, in February 2011 Erdal Hadatoglu established a “Liaison Office” for what was then Nationale Suisse in the throbbing metropolis on the Bosporus. “Istanbul is one of Europe’s most important trading centres, so it offers tremendous potential for a specialist transport insurer,” says Hadatoglu.

It quickly became clear that the Turkish market is also very attractive for the engineering sector, so since September 2013 he has been sharing his office with Erhan Ergünes. They got to know one another at a meeting of local insurers and Hadatoglu rapidly persuaded Ergünes to take the job of Head of Engineering. “I was particularly attracted by the possibility of setting up something new and by having direct contact with local and international customers”, Ergünes explains.

Don’t lay it on too thick

Their day-to-day work primarily involves making contacts and maintaining relationships. The risk assessment, contract generation and claims settlement take place through the head office in Basel. When it comes to the acquisition of customers, a lot of the groundwork is done through word-of-mouth recommendations, according to the two advisers. Status symbols could certainly play a role in that context, says Hadatoglu from experience. “We have to demonstrate that Helvetia is financially healthy, as that generates trust.” This also includes a nice office overlooking the Bosporus and a business lunch in a smart restaurant. But, he stresses, Helvetia still stands for Swiss modesty and high quality. So the motto is, don’t lay it on too thick, he says laughing.

Profitability comes before prestige

They are both very selective when it comes to choosing customers. Their aim is to insure only the best risks, in spite of the competitive environment. They both operate according to the same principle: We do not take on any orders simply because they are prestigious - they have to be profitable. Nonetheless there are also some very prestigious orders in their portfolio. For example, Helvetia is one of the insurers for the new Istanbul Airport construction project worth billions – currently one of Europe’s biggest airports with a capacity of 150 million passengers per year.

More jewellery shop than bazaar

Erdal Hadatoglu and Erhan Ergünes are proud to represent Swiss virtues such as trust and reliability in Turkey. The Turks have a much more laid-back mentality. With Turkish negotiating partners it’s a bit like at the bazaar: “What you get can be first class – or maybe not.” In contrast, Hadatoglu compares their services, as a long-established Swiss insurer, with a jeweller’s shop, where all that glitters really is gold.

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