By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A top NAGICO Bahamas executive said yesterday that the underwriter was encouraged by its prospects in the Bahamian market, having beaten all its performance targets to-date.
But Vibert Williams, chief development officer for the NAGICO (Netherlands Antilles General Insurance Company) Group, said the prohibition against underwriters selling policies directly to the public had constrained its growth and tempered its expectations.
Mr Williams, who is also managing director of NAGICO Insurance Bahamas, told Tribune Business that this nation was unique in the region in that regard. NAGICO has a presence in 21 territories in the Caribbean. and entered the Bahamian market back in 2013.
“The Bahamas market is unique in the region in that insurance companies are prohibited from selling directly to members of the public,” Mr Williams said. “That is unique; nowhere else does it happen in the region like that.
“That presents lots of opportunities. Agents and brokers are happy with those state of affairs, but it does also present a little bit of challenge and may even increase the cost slightly on the consumer.
“How, and if, that can be changed is not for me to say, but it is one of the things that has constrained how we grow in the market and helps temper our expectations.”
Mr Williams, who was a presenter yesterday at a Bahamas Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) market seminar at the Nassau Yacht Club, told Tribune Business: “The sort of practice where your can’t sell directly is not something we have seen before. It doesn’t mean we are a major direct writing company. Most of our business, even in the Caribbean, comes through agents and brokers ,but we’d still at some point in time like the opportunity to approach the market.”
Nevertheless, Mr Williams said NAGICO’s performance in the Bahamas thus far has been “encouraging”.
“We set realistic expectations. The Bahamas is a big market with tough competitors, so we did not set overly ambitious targets,” he explained.
“We have been here actively trading since January 2013. We got our license late in 2012. From then to now we have surpassed all of our targets, and we look to be on track again to have an even better 2015.
“A combination of realistic expectations as well as good support from our agent and broker network has made us very comfortable and encouraged about our prospects in the market.”
To effectively ‘get around’ the prohibition on direct selling, the likes of Bahamas First and Security & General have either aquired or set up their own insurance brokerages and agencies.
RoyalStar Assurance’s largest shareholder, Sunshine Insurance, also owns an insurance broker, while Summit Insurance and Insurance Company of the Bahamas are both ‘tied’ carriers - placing/underwriting business for Insurance Management and J. S. Johnson, respectively.
The Bahamian insurance market, especially on the property and casualty side, is an agent/broker driven sector, and has been since inception.