Colombia 2013 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Gilberto Quinche Toro, President of Positiva Compañía de Seguros, on its customer portfolio, micro insurance offerings, and expansion abroad.

Alejandro Samper Carreño

What sectors are your customers more concentrated in?

When we first started in 2008, we reached 1.9 million customers through 300,000 companies. Today, we reach to as many as 3.5 million clients through 400,000 companies that are active in all economic sectors across Colombia; we have a presence in over 1,000 towns and cities. We have clients in sectors such as construction, energy, health, and education, among others.

What is Positiva's value-added for its clients?

During our four years of operations, we have carried out several research-oriented reports on what our customers appreciate the most from Positiva. Satisfaction with the service is among the most valued; over 85% of our clients are satisfied. In this regard, they appreciate our experience in risk prevention, the solvency levels of our company—Ps1 billion of patrimony and assets above Ps4.5 billion, the highest in the industry—the innovation and diversification of our product portfolio, and the level of new technologies.

What role do micro insurance products play in your overall activity?

Since we have state participation, we always aim to have a strong social character. Today, we have around 50,000 low-income families insured through micro insurance products. At the same time, we aim at continuing to improve our services in this segment, because our goal is to reach 2 million families. I honestly believe that such tools are key to contribute to the social and economic development of low-income families in Colombia. In this regard, we have to talk about the so-called periodic economic benefits; of the 20 million Colombian workers, only 8 million are insured by social security, and therefore there are 12 million people who belong to the informal labor market that cannot access pensions when they retire. Through the periodic economic benefits, we aim at increasing the access to pensions of Colombian workers through an economic effort they must commit themselves to—the government will also contributes to this—and by saving some money during their working life, they can ensure that they will get a pension when they retire. Positiva is one of the insurance companies that is taking part in the development of such a project by implementing products and strategies to achieve this goal.

Does Positiva have any plans to internationalize its operations?

In the short term, we do not have any plans. However, among our strategic business development plans, we aim at expanding activities abroad, and to export our expertise in fields such as risk management. In this regard, we have been looking at Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. In addition, we believe we have a huge potential to establish alliances and partnerships with already established companies in these countries, which would mean directly buying a market share and working with the insurance products already established in these markets. At the moment, we believe that we need to increase our international qualifications through different entities, and after that we will explore opportunities with reinsurance companies to develop a course of action.

What steps should be taken to make the insurance sector even more attractive for consumers in Colombia?

We have already started to increase efforts to make our industry more tangible for consumers, and try to make consumers understand that insurance products are very important at our stage of development. In addition, we need to strengthen financial education at the primary level, such as in schools and education centers. For example, Positiva has already started to carry out a social and anthropological analysis of its clients in order to better understand them, and to identify their behavior rather than market trends. That would also enable us to better design products to address the needs of consumers.

In your opinion, how will the free trade agreement (FTA) with the US impact the industry?

We have to bear in mind that today we have a strong and reliable insurance industry, where there is healthy competition among the players, which have the same goals. In this regard, we welcome foreign competition, as long as foreign players respect the same rules as local players do at all levels. Basically, it is a matter at preserving the same conditions for both local and foreign players.