Sagicor General Insurance Company Ltd. celebrated its 25th-year anniversary as part of a corporate awards ceremony at the Westin Casuarina Resort recently.
The company opened its doors as Cayman General Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Cayman National Corporation on 2 April, 1984.
Sagicor General President Danny Scott, who was with Cayman General from the day it opened, spoke about how he became involved with the company.
‘I saw an ad in the Compass in 1984,’ he said, adding that he figured it was just an ad for the renewal of a work permit. Much to his surprise, Peter Tomkins, a founding shareholder of Cayman National, called him into an interview.
‘After the interview, he asked ‘So, when can you start?” Mr. Scott said. ‘I said, ‘When do you want me to start?’ He said, ‘How about tomorrow’,’ Mr. Scott said he asked to start in two weeks.
‘He said ‘OK’.’
Mr. Scott said the company struggled along for more than four years.
‘Then came Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, and that put us through a test,’ he said. ‘We were the only company that did not have a complaint lodged against us with the Superintendent of Insurance. People knew then we were here to stay.’
Mr. Scott said it was the dedication of the staff – some of whom are still with the company – that helped build the business.
‘There was a period of three months where [the staff] didn’t know what it was like to have a Saturday or Sunday off because we were putting in a computer system,’ he said.
Mr. Scott also touched on the company’s nadir, which happened as a result of Hurricane Ivan.
He explained the recipe for the problem was created by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Even though it came nowhere near Cayman, it caused $26.5 billion of damage in the US and changed the way reinsurers operated.
‘Reinsurance changed and insurance changed,’ he said. ‘We could no longer get 100 per cent coverage; event limits were put in place.’
Mr. Scott said modelling experts who knew nothing about the insurance business and who couldn’t find the Cayman Islands on a map established that reinsurance values to cover a 250-year hurricane event were sufficient for Cayman.
Then Hurricane Ivan came in 2004.
‘It was a 100-year event, except it caused losses like a 500-year event because of the inland flooding,’ he said. ‘We didn’t have enough reinsurance to cover a 500-year event.’
Mr. Scott acknowledged that it was only having a bank as a parent company that saved the insurance company from failure. However, as a result, Cayman National looked to sell Cayman General and negotiations for a sale started in 2005, with Sagicor obtaining a 51 per cent share in November of that year.
The name of the company changed to Sagicor in September 2006, and Sagicor purchased the remainder of Cayman National’s shares in the company in October 2007.
The Cayman Islands Government still owns 24 per cent of the shares in Sagicor General as part of its negotiated settlement resulting from the Hurricane Ivan claim.
Prior to buying into Cayman General, another Sagicor entity, Sagicor Life, was already in Cayman. That entity has continued to operate separately from Sagicor General, but earlier this year, the company announced its intentions to bring the two companies together under one roof at the Harbour Place building.
‘Going forward, we will have one Sagicor,’ said Mr. Scott. ‘We’ll have one telephone operator; one building; one staff working together off one brand name.’
Michael Fraser, the president of Sagicor Life Cayman, said the life insurance side of the company topped its 2008 sale target and that it had had its best month ever this March.
But Mr. Fraser said the company was still preparing for the effects of the global economic downturn.
‘The weather forecast is calling for choppy seas,’ he said, noting that Sagicor was dedicated to improving its balance sheet in preparation.
Part of the preparation has necessitated some company restructuring, which has meant lay-offs. In Cayman, only one person has been laid off.
‘Throughout the group, however, there has been quite extensive restructuring,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, these are necessary actions in preparation for these choppy seas.’
Mr. Fraser said the company would also keep a very close watch on costs; look to improve customer service in spite of the cost containment measures; and look for innovative opportunities to produce insurance solutions to customers’ needs.
The evening also featured entertainment and a guest speaker, Young Caymanian Leadership Award winner Elroy Bryan, who gave a motivational speech with the theme ‘Yes you can’.
The awards part of the evening, which is to become an annual event, acknowledged the long service of Sagicor General employees who had achieved five, 10 and 25 years with the company.
Key Sagicor Life sales awards went to Claudette Bell-White as Agent of the Year; Julia Swanson as Most Improved Agent; Kenrick Hall as Rookie of the Year; Derek Bogle Insurance as Broker of the Year; and Edlin Myles as Broker Agent of the Year.
The evening was co-emceed by Sagicor Life Country Manager Claudette Saint-Reid and Sagicor General Senior Vice President Michael Gayle.