By Marlon Madden, Barbados Today,
After suffering a US$29 million net income loss to shareholders for the first quarter of this year, insurance giant Sagicor Financial Corporation is giving the assurance that it will not be engaging in any “wholesale” retrenchment or closure of any of its branches.
During the January to March review period, total revenue declined 33 per cent to $343 million as asset devaluations dramatically lowered net investment income.
Group Chief Operating Officer Ravi Rambarran said while the company honoured its commitment not to restructure during the March – June period of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be an ongoing review of its operations to see if any “reconfiguration” was needed.
However, making it clear that the intention was not to send home workers or close any of its offices, Rambarran said if after revaluation any changes were needed it would be shared.
“We made a promise to our staff that for the first three months there will be no change and we have honoured that promise. Subsequently, we are looking at how we reconfigure in those areas where business my have fallen off.
“But let me make something very clear, we have no intention of closing down branches. We have no intention of any wholesale or material changes in our staff because the messaging we have given – and this is a very simple one we believe in – that any material adverse changes would be a shared one,” he told a Zoom meeting on Wednesday.
“It would be a shared sacrifice, it would be a shared burden but certainly that is the principle under which we have operated and we will operate as we monitor the situations, but I can absolutely [say] there will not be any material retrenchment [and] no material changes in our branch network,” he stressed.
The Bermuda incorporated company has several offices across 19 countries.
During the height of the pandemic, the company promised to honour all COVID-19 related claims under health and life insurance policies. It had also vowed at the end of March not to terminate any life insurance policy within the next 90 days and to make early payment of pensions to pensioners.
In addition, the company said there would be a deferral of payments on both residential and commercial mortgages.
Rambarran told journalists that during the relief period, less than 50 per cent of clients took up the offer, and there were “no material claims”, which he said was testament to the “decisiveness” of the various Caribbean governments in their protocols and regulations.
And while suggesting that the company was prepared to continue to offer relief, Rambarran said he did not want to commit to anything final before communicating with clients first.
“We promised our clients that we would communicate with them at the beginning of July, and our messaging remains the same – if you are willing to work with us we will work with you. But as markets have reopened, our experience during that period is that the majority of our clients did not take advantage of that concession. It was a minority that took advantage. So that is a good thing for us and we will work with that minority,” he said.
Rambarran, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Sagicor Life Inc., said one major change in Sagicor’s operation was increased digitization, which he said was ongoing as the company continue to balance health and safety with the conduct of business.
He said the company was also expected to revise some of its products, taking into consideration that disposable income would be less but there was still a need to be insured especially during the ongoing “paradoxical situation”.
He explained that the insurance firm, which was one of the first to implement a work-from-home policy, would continue to allow some staff members and advisors to work remotely until there is a vaccine or certainty of the resolution of Covid-19.
The company is also expected to increase its communication and engagement with clients, stakeholders and at the national level across the markets in which it operates.
Sagicor officials gave the assurance that despite the less than favourable performance during the first three months of the year, the company remained well capitalized and was able to fulfill all claims payments.
Group Financial Officer Andre Mousseau told the online meeting that this was especially so since the company had raised some US$450 million in capital following the US$536 million cash and stock deal with Alignvest in December last year.
“We believe that we are very well capitalized and will come through in a position of strength no matter how long this pandemic persists within the boundaries of any of the reasonable expectations. So we have the strength to stand behind our policyholders’ liabilities,” Mousseau assured.
He said given the ongoing negative impact of the pandemic and the slow pace of recovery for the various markets, the environment for new business remains uncertain for the rest of the year.
“While we expect that the outcome of 2020 will be well within the boundaries of internal stress scenarios that we have run, we know that our net aggregate and income for 2020 will be affected and we expect it will not be as high as we would have targeted at the start of the year when we were coming off a very strong 2019,” he said.
Officials said they were optimistic, though forecasting some reduction in sales for the rest of the year, but they were unable to give an indication what it could look like.
Main photo: Sagicor Financial Corporation in Babados