World Investment News (WI): Antigua is internationally recognized as a safe harbour and international financial hub in the region. What strategies are being implemented to ensure the country's position to keep attracting international investors to your shores?
Lyndell Francis - Butler (LFB):Our current government is committed to ensuring the country's international reputation and it is working hard, not only to secure our leading position in the region, but to increase opportunities for investors and the socio-economic development of Antigua and Barbuda. We live in a comfortable, safe environment and we make sure that our citizens' needs are covered. To achieve the latter, there are several initiatives that the government has championed throughout the years to improve socio-economic conditions for our citizens, with housing being the most important. Years ago, a survey indicated that our housing stock was low, and as a result, the government has worked to improve housing availability on the island. Education is also another critical area on the government's agenda. It is presently working tirelessly to improve infrastructure on the island, particularly roads and utility services. In regards to energy production, the most important question today is how to get energy from sustainable sources and move away from fossil fuels. Finally, our internet infrastructure is constantly being improved, which has resulted in strong internet connectivity throughout the island.
(WI): Can you tell us about the development of the insurance sector in Antigua & Barbuda in the past few years and the main areas of opportunity and latest trends in the sector? What would you say are the most important segments for your company currently, and those with the most important growth potential?
(LFB): The insurance sector has been growing at a steady rate in Antigua and Barbuda. Companies are now strongly regulated to prevent anyone from coming in or leaving the country, without complying with the normative in place. The Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC) is monitoring the insurance sector very closely to ensure that all the players within the market comply with the rules and regulations. Although as a sector we operate on an act of Parliament, we also comply with the requirements of the FSRC.
The fastest growing sector within our industry is that of medical insurance. We have a network-based policy which caters mainly to employers, so that they can insure their employees. What we have found was that there was a greater demand for the latter service which has resulted in the medical portfolio to growing astronomically. Some of our clients would not be able to afford their medical bills if they didn't have medical insurance and we recognize that this is the strongest point of our business.
(WI): Competition within the insurance sector is abundant. Nevertheless, State Insurance Company Limited has been able to maintain its position as a leading financial institution. What has been your strategy to achieve this and what are the comparative advantages that set you apart in the market?
(LFB): We think that innovation is the key. We always try to tweak our products so that they differ from what our competitors offer. We were the first company to offer a motor vehicle policy that included coverage for accidents under the "acts of God" category. We have distinguished ourselves for adding specific coverages to our policies and offering more to our customers. We also work hard to make sure that all of our clients have a good experience when they come in to the office. Over the years we have always worked to improve our customer service. As a result, our clients rated our customer service as being of a very high standard in a survey we conducted a couple of weeks ago. In addition, the genesis of State Insurance is also a key advantage for us. We started as a department of government and offered insurance to persons who were unable to afford insurance. When we started, the majority of our clients were in lower income brackets. However, our portfolio has changed over the years and we now have customers from all income brackets. Nevertheless, clients who have moved from the lower to the middle-income bracket continue to be our strongest supporters.
(WI): Regarding the international market, what is your presence in the region, do you have plans to expand internationally?
(LFB): State Insurance Company Limited will be our springboard to operate in the region. Therefore, expanding internationally is part of our long-term plan. We are planning to have a presence in the OECS region in the next five years and then expand into the rest of the Caribbean region. In the long term we want to expand our reach internationally, and we are currently taking small steps to achieve this.
(WI): Your reputation as a trustworthy company and a reliable business partner has recently attracted more high-end customers. What are the products that you offer to this segment of the market and how is the expansion of your services and products to these new customer profile reflected in your overall business strategy?
(LFB): We recognize that pricing is always a factor and our strategy is built by taking prices and competition into account. The strategy that we have implemented has been to create interesting products for the higher income bracket customers in order to attract them. An example of this is our moto comprehensive policy. For the latter, we had a special premium for high-end clients. We found that our competitors had significantly higher prices for premiums so we decided to offer a special premium to our high-end customers. Over the years we have realized that the strategy also enhance our property portfolio and we now have properties valued ay over USD $5 million. I think that our financial strength and our reputation has given them the confidence to come to State Insurance Company. Our strategy going forward is to ensure that our clients recognize that they are the key to our success. As a matter of fact, today we are having a corporate lunch with our high-income clients to let them know that we appreciate being their partners of choice.
(WI): We know that you're investing in rebranding the company -apart from rebranding the logo and the image -. What are the key steps that you're taking in this rebranding?
(LFB): We have revised our mission, vision and core values, and will be launching our new corporate identity in an event tomorrow evening. We are also focusing on ensuring that the experience our clients have when they come to State Insurance Company is so positive that it encourages them to recommend us to all of their friends and family. We have ads in the newspapers and a great social media presence, however, a great one on one interaction with our clients is the best kind of marketing we can ask for.
(WI): Will the company make some digital efforts and also launch online products in this rebranding campaign?
(LFB): It's something that we are presently working on. Our digital platform will probably be launched in the second quarter of this year and it will give our clients the ability to transact business online and to get updates on what is happening with their account, especially if there's a claim.
(WI): China is the number one development partner of the country. What opportunities for further cooperation with Chinese investors are available for Antigua and Barbuda in general, and for State Insurance Company in particular, and how are you capitalizing on this lucrative market?
(LFB): When international investors come to the island, they regularly invest in properties and we are available to provide them with all types of policies. State Insurance Company has a very strong reputation for only using A class fees and charges. We have the vision that both local and international investors who makes us their Insurance company of choice, are confident that if there is a claim it will be honoured. We work hard to ensure that we have the required financial strength to settle any claims or eventualities that might take place.
(WI): Given that you have the attention of over 14.6M Chinese high-profile readers, what message do you wish to convey to them, and what can they expect of State insurance Company Limited?
(LFB): Our company is a trustworthy institution, financially and technically strong. All partners, notably our reinsurance partners, are international and they have developed a powerful reputation. Conducting business with State Insurance Company will be a win-win situation for the Company and potential clients and investors.