In 1905, an ambitious young man named Alter Levin founded Guaranty for Life – Jerusalem's first insurance agency. Alter was known in Jerusalem for plying the alleyways of the Old City and urging people to "take responsibility for their lives" by purchasing life insurance.
He exhorted people not to leave destitute widows and orphans behind", says Ariel Munin, owner of El-Ad Insurance Agency. "Of course there were no insurance agencies in Palestine during the Ottoman period, many years before the British Mandate and State of Israel. Alter Levin sold English, French, and Italian insurance company policies. At the end of World War I, Alter returned to Jerusalem and continued developing his insurance agency until he met his end in a ‘mysterious’ way and the agency closed".
Thirty years later, Alter's grandson, Mordechai Munin, decided to continue his grandfather's tradition. He reopened the insurance agency in Jerusalem, this time under a new name – El-Ad. Over the years, El-Ad became one of Jerusalem's largest and most prominent insurance agencies.
The venerable insurance agency is now run by Ariel Munin, Mordechai's son and Alter's great-grandson. Ariel has deep respect for the family history. At the El-Ad office in Jerusalem he shows us original insurance policies from the previous century, framed and hanging proudly on the wall. The windows of the office, which is on the 11th floor of a building in the city center, offer stunning views of the Holy City. The vista encompasses the historic Sensor building, which housed Alter's opulent office during the 1930s.
"It's amazing to see that the idea that guided my father's grandfather is still relevant a century later", says Ariel Munin. "Today everyone knows we have to take responsibility for our lives and insure ourselves as much as we can against any possible misfortune".
What really lies behind the idea of insurance?
"In the modern world, people themselves have great economic value as family breadwinners, and if disaster should strike, the family could suffer financial collapse in addition to the horrible emotional pain," Munin explains. "What's more, people accumulate property and capital nowadays, and an insurance policy is the Western world's best available mechanism for distributing individual and family risk across large numbers of people. When we consider our insurance needs as a family, we realize we have the option of minimizing potential risks by purchasing a policy".
El-Ad Insurance Agency has 55 employees and serves thousands of clients, including many families. The agency offers its clients the finest and most effective insurance protection in all sectors: life insurance, health insurance, pension, savings and, of course, auto, home, and business insurance.
"Because the entire world is moving in the direction of specialization, as in medicine and law, we at El-Ad realized that if we want to cover our clients' needs and provide them with the most professional information possible, we would have to build teams of specialists within the agency for each specific sector", Munin says.
Another unique area of expertise at El-Ad is that of English-language service, provided by a special department that works with the local Anglo community. Munin explains: At El-Ad we identified a need among English-speaking clients, and many years ago we opened up a department of native English speakers who provide optimal service in the language in which the client is at ease".
What's your view of the insurance industry today?
"The insurance industry encompasses many more fields and is much more complex than it was in the days of my great-grandfather and even of my father, Mordechai, who still runs the agency with me. Digitization is starting to play a central role in sales and service capability. It's worth noting that insurance isn't just selling a product and then thinking no more of it. Today you can't just buy a policy and let it sit in a drawer without reviewing it from time to time. Life is dynamic and families' insurance needs change every few years, and so clients need insurance agents to guide them – from their first steps in the work world, through marriage, building a family, and growing their property and their businesses".
"Our approach at El-Ad is that a good insurance agent doesn't just know how to tailor the policy to the client's needs, but also keeps guiding him over the years. He should be there for the client whenever necessary, and ensure that the policy provides him with the maximum amount of money when claims are filed," Munin continues. "Over the years, plans change and you occasionally have to suggest an update when you review the policy prices and scope."
Munin adds that El-Ad's uniqueness doesn't lie solely in the fact that it is one of Jerusalem's largest agencies, or that its expert teams provide comprehensive professional knowhow in all sub-sectors. Rather, El-Ad is distinctive for wielding its power vis-à-vis the insurance companies when claims are filed, ensuring that clients receive their full entitlements.
"The insurance companies have become strong economic entities that don't necessarily see the small, individual client – and that's what we're here for," says Munin. "Of course our size enables us to make big investments in technology, which allows us to offer our clients fair prices as well as digital service at the highest level."
El-Ad currently insures thousands of Jerusalem families; in addition to its large-scale individual insurance activity, the agency insures a wide variety of businesses, self-employed people, tech companies, and industrial firms, to which it offers professional liability insurance, directors and officers liability insurance, and cyber insurance. El-Ad also specializes in commercial vehicle insurance, and insures such large organizations as Hadassah Medical Center, Hebrew University, and the Jewish Agency.
To conclude, Munin says he's optimistic about the future, and convinced that professional and innovative insurance agents will still be managing familial risk for many years to come. Likewise, El-Ad, whose roots extend so far into the past, will also continue providing risk-management services well into the future.