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Mexico 2015 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mario Vela, Director General of GNP Seguros, on promoting an insurance culture in Mexico, the outlook for the insurance market, and GNP's drivers for growth.

Mario Vela
BIOGRAPHY
Besides leading the headquarters of GNP Seguros, Mario Vela is the Chairman of the Mexican Association of Insurance Institutions (AMIS) and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Business Coordinating Council. Before joining GNP Seguros, Mario Vela worked for 15 years at Seguros, Monterrey and New York Life where he held the position, Head of Operations. He was then promoted to Distribution Executive Director, CEO and finally Chairman of Seguros, Monterrey and Fianzas, Monterrey. His previous experience includes time at American Express. He has a degree in economics from the University of Texas A&M and an MBA from IPADE.

The market grew 0.4%, while the company grew 2.7% in 2014. What do you identify as the drivers of this growth?

Last year was a difficult one for the entire market. We outperformed the market average, although it was not the growth rate that we were looking for. We had an excellent year in regard to individual life insurance. We posted strong rates in individual life insurance, where we grew by double digits. We also grew by double digits in individual access in health, as well as in the SMEs market. Where we struggled was on the group side. So far, 2015 has been a positive year for us, and we are growing at a healthy 20% across all lines of business.

About 6% of the Mexican population has health insurance. What is GNP doing in this segment to increase penetration?

In Mexico, out of every three people that are insured, one is with GNP. Therefore, we are the major player in Mexico. Secondly, we believe we have to provide our policyholders the most options on the market; hence, we have the largest network of hospitals, clinics, and doctors on the market. Then, having secured that infrastructure, we have to provide the best service. Thirdly, we have an extensive network of agents and brokers to distribute our products and services. We provide the service to government entities, having therefore, become the largest player. We believe that growth will come from new products. We are in the process of launching three new products that we will be out at the end of the third-quarter, or start of the fourth.

What are the main challenges in the market to promote an insurance culture in Mexico?

Mexico presents two challenges for us. The first, and highly familiar, is that Mexico lacks an insurance culture. This needs to be built gradually day by day. You knock on doors, sit down with the prospect, and tell them why insurance is important for them. We undertake considerable advertising, and try to position the brand for maximum recognition. That opens the doors for us meeting corporations and individuals, as well as government entities. Marketing helps to open doors; however, the best tool to do this is word of mouth from those to whom you have provided a good service. Most Mexicans are young, with 66% of the population aged below 40.

In the SME segment, you posted double-digit growth in 2014. What strategies are you pursuing to clarify the benefits of coverage and sign up clients?

We grew by 14% in the SME segment. One thing that GNP has done wisely was to create a unit dedicated to SMEs. We have a unit that conducts an analysis of their needs, and then generates the products required.

According to Fitch, the market will grow by between 6% and 8% in 2015. What is your outlook on that?

When we started the year, we expected the market to grow nominally by close to double-digit figures, meaning about 6% in real terms, depending on inflation. If you look back about 10 years, the insurance sector has grown by twice the overall growth of the economy on average. 2014 was the first year in which this did not happen. We expect to see double or triple the growth of the market going forward, as there are more players today, all of which are better prepared. This year, the industry is already growing by 6% in real terms, and we are growing by slightly more.