Insurance in Jamaica: An Interview with the Founder of Caribbean Assurance Brokers Ltd.
Our September Expert Insight section benefits from an interview with Raymond Walker - Founder, Chairman and CEO of Caribbean Assurance Brokers Ltd. in Jamaica.
Over the last 34 years, Raymond has led a distinguished management, sales and marketing career. He was introduced to the industry as a Salesman at the then Life of Jamaica (LOJ) and quickly moved up the ranks to Vice President of Marketing. After a successful tenure at LOJ, Raymond then moved on to Blue Cross of Jamaica, where, as the Executive Vice President of Marketing & Services, he further realized that advocacy and the ultimate representation of any client would be best achieved via Insurance Broking and not so much within the confines of an insurance company. This idea truly resonated and reinforced Raymond’s desire to establish an Insurance Brokerage.
In 2005, he gathered a team of dedicated professionals, who shared his vision and together they formed Caribbean Assurance Brokers Ltd. (CAB), a multi-line insurance brokerage, offering the full spectrum of General, Employee Benefits, Individual Life, International Health, International Life, Travel and Credit Union Members insurance products and services to cover all possible needs while providing the best terms with greatest value for money.
As Chairman of CAB’s Marketing and Business Development Committee of the Board, Raymond frequently reviews strategies and initiatives designed to differentiate CAB from its competitors. Some of these initiatives have not only allowed CAB to create valuable market niches but have also expanded the company’s reach and scope well beyond the shores of Jamaica.
Please tell us a little about the typical insurance matters that Caribbean Assurance Brokers Limited deal with?
At Caribbean Assurance Brokers Limited, our role is to act on behalf of our clients by identifying and providing advice in their area of interest. We place a high value on our client’s needs, and so, as a multi-line insurance brokerage, we enroll in all areas, whether it be Employee Benefits, General Insurance, Individual Insurance or International Insurance.
How do you manage the diversity of your services so that there is synergy between each offering?
We place a high value on a strong team approach, which ensures that our clients benefit from the collective expertise of our diverse specialists. In addition to several types of meetings, there exists a range of cross-selling opportunities throughout the company. There are weekly internal CAB-inet meetings that we use to discuss the week’s plans from each area, Management meetings at the beginning of each month, used to discuss the performances of the previous month and our monthly Staff meetings, where we use the opportunity to keep all staff members informed and involved in all product lines. These meetings were designed to ensure that everyone is aware at all times, and along with our cross-selling advantages, they assist in keeping the synergy between each offering within the company.
What would you say are the specific challenges of assisting clients with insurance?
In the insurance industry, one of the greatest challenges recognized is that not many clients understand the intricacies of risk. The average person may only consider the cost, not realizing that the cheaper option may not necessarily be within their best interest. At Caribbean Assurance Brokers, we take the time out to educate our clients, which is key, because we are aware that some persons do not even recognize the importance of insurance, which at times, makes it difficult for us to get clients to allocate sufficient time for a wholesome discussion on their risk profile. Moreover, it is perceived that even with sophisticated clients, there is still a fundamental mistrust of insurance. People tend to want to see the ‘fine print’.
What strategies do you implement to minimize financial burdens in regards to insurance packages?
At CAB, we operate within a much lower cost regimen than our competitors because we generate at least 65% of our own energy needs via Solar Panels. With electricity being a major cost driver in Jamaica, we are able to operate at lower margins I.e. lower commission rates. This is critical, as margins in terms of commission rates impact the premium, so we can offer competitive products at lower rates.
What are the particular challenges that insurers in the Caribbean have been facing over the past year in relation to changes in what customers expect in terms of products and services?
The brokerage arena is characterized by fierce competition, and once there is a competitive arena, people will shop around. Clients expect to receive the greatest value for the smallest outlay. Fierce competition leads companies to lower their rates to maintain their clients, while other companies lower theirs to pull clients. Also, extremely fierce competition is likely to come from some of the very same insurance companies for which we solicit business.
It is also observed that the increase level of awareness of a more sophisticated market in the Caribbean is driving expectations of our clients to the extent that they are demanding first-world products and services at third-world premiums.
Can you tell Finance Monthly about your involvement in the community and its impact?
In June 2006, our Social Club Outreach Committee decided that part of its mandate would be to give back to the community in a very real way because we felt that as a new company, we needed to not only do well but also to do good. Therefore, any contribution that we made towards national development would not only give great personal satisfaction to the staff, but also generate a very positive response in the community in which we operate. We make most of our contributions to the development of young minds at the Reddie’s Place of Safety, which has been a haven to orphans, as well as abandoned and abused youngsters. This program continues to date, which involves the provision of groceries to the Home each month along with several interactions with the children during the holiday periods. The children have now become an integral part of the lives of our Team and are involved in all of CAB’s social activities.
In addition to the Reddies Place of Safety, we have awarded scholarships to two members of the community. One has graduated from high school, now attending University and the other has graduated from high school and is now an honour student. Caribbean Assurance Brokers remains committed to these children, as we believe the future success of Jamaica lies with the development of the hearts and minds of the nation’s youth.
What makes your company unique?
Caribbean Assurance Brokers Ltd has exclusive rights to certain products, namely our International Comprehensive Health Insurance Programme (ICHIP) and our short-term Medical Travel Insurance Product, Assured Travel. Our ICHIP Programme allows clients to access first-world medical health services. The plan carries a zero deductible option locally and globally, except for the USA. It provides up to $2 million worth of coverage each year and requires no medical examinations and no age limit amongst other premium benefits.
Our Assured Travel Product provides Travel Insurance to clients with the convenience of direct payment online, and access to an extensive International Provider Network of Medical services with 24-hour emergency access anywhere in the world.
Another value proposition that CAB has introduced to its clients is our loyalty program, which will assist in our customer retention, expansion and acquisition.
In recognition of our amazing and loyal clients, we have recently launched our Caribbean Assurance Brokers Loyalty Programme (CABLP), where our customers are given their personal loyalty card which provides them access to receive discounts, savings and cashback at over 200 merchants and providers locations island wide; which includes leading supermarkets, wellness centers, retail stores, hotels, pharmacies, hospital, restaurants, gym and much more. This is our way of giving back to our valued customers and another winning competitive edge.