Aug. 10, 2016

Elian Villegas

Costa Rica

Elian Villegas

Executive President, Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS)

"Developing and implementing financial education is a key strategy for us."


Elian Villegas has worked in the financial industry for over 18 years, in numerous capacities in both the public and private sectors. He also served as a legislative counsel from 1988 to 1994. He graduated from the University of Costa Rica with a degree in law and has extensive studies in the field of political science. He currently heads up the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS).

How would you assess the decision by INS to forego the price war, and how are you protecting your profits?

In the insurance business it's important to make a good profit, but our main goal is to offer trust and the best services in the market. Over the past year our strategy has been a trifold, to improve services, reduce costs, and manage our assets more efficiently, and those changes ultimately have benefited our customers. Even before 2008 when the monopoly was broken we were facing illegal competition. Therefore, we have become a more competitive and stronger insurance company, because of the challenges we knew were coming. We continue to assess the market needs and to work on meeting the needs and wants of our customers. Consequently, so far this semester we have doubled our profits compared to last year.

Can you tell us more about your investment in public works and other projects that you have in the pipeline?

In 2015, we announced that we would invest $25 million on a road from San José to San Ramón; however, work on the road has not even started yet. This road has to be built by a trust subscribed by Conavi and the Bank of Costa Rica; they have signed an agreement and we expect them to be ready to start building the road soon. We also just announced that we are ready to invest $35 million in a road to Cartago, which will probably start in March 2017. Another project is the Mega Firemen Station, which consists of two large buildings that will cost around $25 million. It is a small project but we are excited to be part of it. These two buildings for the metropolitan area have to be ready by next year.

What steps are necessary to raise national awareness of insurance?

Developing and implementing financial education is a key strategy for us. We have a plan that involves different targets with educational resources and channels designed according to different customer segments to meet their specific needs and wants. It's imperative to start educating children at young ages. That's why this year we started a project working with schools to teach children and parents about insurance, risks, and the ways they could prevent and manage them. We are trying to develop a culture based on learning to identify, prevent, and handle risks and the intrinsic relationship between risks and insurance. This is very important because the young generation will be better protected and they will understand and pass their knowledge to future generations.

What do you identify as the main challenge here in Costa Rica?

The first challenge is education, especially for the elderly because they have not received this type of education and information. In other words, some of them don't understand that when they buy insurance they are buying protection for their future. The other important challenge in Costa Rica is health. That's why we are strengthening our health services conglomerate, especially for those sectors of the population that depend on public services. That is key because in doing so we also help the Department of Social Insurance, which is an important institution for everyone in Costa Rica. As the health system in Costa Rica is relevant in terms of social stability, we believe it is extremely imperative for us because we are a public institution and we could have a big impact in our society.