LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED

Jamaica 2018 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eric Hosin, CEO of Guardian Life, on becoming a fully fledged, one-stop shop, always remaining proactive, and encouraging investment in critical areas.

Eric Hosin
BIOGRAPHY
Born in Kingston, Eric Hosin holds a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Technology and an MBA from Nova Southeastern University. In the industry for more than 25 years, he has been President of Guardian Life Limited since 2010. President of the Insurance Association of the Caribbean and the Insurance Association of Jamaica, he is a Deacon and Board Member of the Church of the Open Bible where he chairs the evangelism and finance committees.

How has Guardian Life evolved since 1999?

We have been operating in Jamaica since 1999. During the financial meltdown, the Guardian Holdings board decided to invest and purchased the portfolios of five insurance companies in Jamaica that were being sold by the government through FINSAC, which were then consolidated to form Guardian Life Ltd. We have been able to grow and develop over the years; our average RoE for the past five years is about 27%, and we have been able to achieve a great deal as an organization. As a start-up, we were just in group life, pensions, and individual life. In 2006, we entered the group health business and in 2017 entered the individual health business. We now have the full suite of individual and group products.

What are the benefits of having such a diversified portfolio?

The key thing here is to be a one-stop shop for life insurance, health, and pension products and services. There are more people starting up small businesses that cannot now qualify for group health coverage, which presents a great opportunity to grow this business. These start-ups, as well as individuals who are unable to access group health coverage, have also presented a great opportunity for the individual health market; our decision to enter this market has been influenced by such factors.

Can you tell us about the mobile health unit you launched last year?

One of the key things is to be proactive, and an important feature of healthcare is early detection. Our mobile unit works in collaboration with companies and other small employers to make basic health checks available to their employees free of cost. We also go into communities and offer free health checks to residents, as well as do “back-to-school" check-ups for students.

What are the challenges and opportunities in the life insurance sector?

Unemployment is falling, which is great, as it means more people have the ability to pay premiums. We try to convince our clients and prospects that having life insurance should be a key part of their financial planning, so that their goals and dreams for their families will still materialize even if they become critically ill or die. We are positive about the economy and what is happening. The country has gone through a tough time, and we are not out of the woods yet; however, we see positive signs. For example, tourism is growing, which means increased employment and growth in other sectors, such as agriculture and entertainment. When these things happen, more people are able to afford insurance.

You are also diversifying in real estate. How do you plan to grow in this and other sectors?

As the economy grows, like in any other modern city, people need somewhere to live. What we are doing here is developing this neck of the woods, but it is not just us. There is the BMW franchise, which is part of the ATL Group. We also understand that a Marriot Hotel and the IDB head office will be built nearby. Our development is in the New Kingston area and gives convenient access to all the facilities available in New Kingston, whilst being removed from the hustle and bustle of its commercial life. In the past, investing in government instruments was enough to provide a reasonable return to shareholders; however, the government has wisely sought to bring down interest rates to allow for more lending for people to develop businesses and grow the economy. This should reduce the dependence on government instruments and encourage investment in critical areas that will fuel economic growth. We see housing as one such area and are looking at other residential developments and opportunities as well.