Island Heritage has new CEO

Cayman-based property insurer Island Heritage Insurance Company Ltd. has a new chief executive officer.

Garth MacDonald

Outgoing Island Heritage Insurance Company CEO Bryan Murphy, right, congratulates new CEO Garth MacDonald on his promotion. Photo: Alan Markoff

Garth MacDonald, 45, took the reins from original CEO Bryan Murphy at the end of 2007 in a pre-planned succession move.

‘I strongly feel he’s the right guy for the job at the right time,’ said Mr. Murphy, who will remain a director and vice chairman of the holding company which owns Island Heritage and Caribbean Risk Services Ltd.

Mr. Murphy, 62, said he wanted to step away from the day-to-day aspects of the insurance company.

‘Quite frankly, if Hurricane Ivan hadn’t intervened, I probably would have done it a couple of years earlier,’ he said.

Mr. MacDonald has also been with Island Heritage since its inception in 1996, and served as the company’s chief financial officer for many years. He then became the chief operating officer for two years as a stepping stone to becoming the CEO, a post that brings with it much more responsibility.

‘But it will allow me to progress my career,’ he said.

Mr. Murphy said he would help out during the transitional stage and that he’ll remained based in Cayman.

‘I will be reasonably busy with Island Heritage matters for the next year,’ he said. ‘Garth and I have always worked well together and I’m sure that will continue.

‘But it’s important to note that Garth is now in control of Island Heritage. He’ll use me when and if needed; it’s his call.’

Mr. Murphy said he was proud that Island Heritage has accomplished what it set out to do when it was formed: specialise in property insurance throughout the Caribbean.

To date, the company has expanded to 15 other English-speaking Caribbean countries, with a branch office in Barbados and agency affiliations in 14 other countries. Most recently, Island Heritage entered into an agency agreement with Nova Underwriters in Jamaica in November.

In the past three years since Hurricane Ivan, Island Heritage has doubled in size, something Mr. Murphy attributes to the way the company handled ‘what we euphemistically call the Ivan issue’.

Although Island Heritage began dealing with Hurricane Ivan claims on Grand Cayman within 36 hours of the all-clear, international insurance rater A.M. Best put the company’s rating under review because of uncertainty regarding the company’s capitalisation. Within four months, however, Island Heritage announced an $8 million recapitalisation plan and A.M. Best affirmed the company’s A-(Excellent) rating.

‘We came through [Hurricane Ivan] with our reputation in tact,’ Mr. Murphy said, adding that the way the company dealt with the disaster seemed to have increased confidence in Island Heritage throughout the Caribbean region.

Mr. MacDonald said the most impressive part of Island Heritage’s expansion to date has been the way it was accomplished.

‘We haven’t made any acquisitions; we’ve grown internally.’

Island Heritage doesn’t plan to stop expanding either.

‘The idea is to grow the business,’ he said, noting the company will now look for expansion opportunities in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, including Central America.

‘There is a lot of room for expansion in the property market in the Caribbean,’ he said, pointing to Puerto Rico as one example.

The company is also looking to establish a branch office in Trinidad, which has one of the largest populations in the Caribbean.

‘With Trinidad being a very large market, we’d look to open a branch office to service that market only,’ he said.

Despite its growth in other jurisdictions, Island Heritage remains firmly centred in the Cayman Islands, and it intends to remain so even though a majority stake in the company was purchased by the Bermuda-based Flagstone Reinsurance Holdings Limited last July.

‘[Island Heritage] has been described as Cayman’s multi-national,’ said Mr. Murphy. Mr. MacDonald noted the Cayman Island’s flag is flown prominently in the company’s foreign locations.

Although Island Heritage has always been exclusively a property insurer, Mr. MacDonald said the company might look at expanding its products – perhaps offering auto insurance – at some point in the future.

Mr. MacDonald’s ascension to the CEO post will mean some other restructuring in the company locally; for instance a new COO will be appointed to replace Mr. MacDonald. However, Nigel Twohey remains the chief marketing officer and Jon Coleman remains the chief financial officer.