70% OF PAID CLAIM REMAIN IN PANAMA

Panama 2019 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Luis Young Virzi, Executive Vice President of WorldWide Medical, on expanding operations in Latin America, targeting new sectors, and Panama's changing healthcare sector.

What does Panama represent to WorldWide's portfolio?

The company started in the Dominican Republic 20 years ago, and then stablish its headquarters in Panama as the hub for further expansion. Panama was better adapted to host central offices, thanks to its connectivity, local economic and political stability. This is how we have developed the health market in Panama. We expect to close the year with approximately USD25 million in premiums, nearly 40% of the total premium of the group. The other premiums come from the Dominican Republic and three other markets, which we opened as a joint venture with other insurance companies. We introduced our innovative international major medical products to Guatemala, Paraguay, and Bolivia. We will continue to expand our operations into other countries in Central and South America following this same philosophy.

How have you managed to stand out from the competition?

I believe that our priority is to provide a boutique/concierge style service to our clients. We are a company that has managed to thrive with fewer than 60 people in Panama. We are, therefore, close to our distribution channel and our clients. We have an excellent relationship with brokers, allowing them to have a close relationship with all departments in WorldWide Medical. They can reach the people they need to with a single phone call. That makes a difference to the intermediary and final insurer. In 2018, we were awarded the Excellence Award by CAPECOSE, a great distinction in the insurance industry. In addition to being distinctive from our competition in providing service, we also excel in having innovative products. We are constantly introducing new benefits into our products, so they remain updated in the market.

What new sectors would you like to target?

The major medical product targets a certain segment of the market. Economically speaking, it is middle to high classes of the pyramid and international companies looking for the best health and disability coverage for their executives. These parts of the pyramid represent the population that have access to a policy at a relatively high premium. We are good at what we do, and we want to maintain our specialist leadership in that part of the market. Therefore, in order to attract these companies to our business, we have good relationships with our brokers and we continually provide solutions for our partners. We mostly cover executives. The practice in Panama is to provide a different scale of coverage for them.

What is your commitment to the development of the health sector in the country?

If you look at the Latin American markets, local health systems are not well developed. This could be because some countries do not have the critical mass of demand, and in others there is no investment. However, we bring two important things to the countries we enter. One is making sure the money spent on health remains in the country. For example, in Panama, 70% of our paid claims remain in Panama. The remainder is abroad, in the US and elsewhere. That 70% is maybe over USD15 million, all solely from ourselves. This provides for hospital growth, new investments in the health sector, new hires, and new developments in the whole sector. We take this same methodology to other countries in order to develop their healthcare systems. By opening new operations, we help improve the health systems in those countries because we promote local investment. Our philosophy is to enter the health ecosystem in every single way.

What are your main targets for 2019?

This will be another year of several challenges. We grew 15% in total premiums in 2018, and we expect the same for 2019. Additionally, we expect to grow at three times the pace of the rest of the industry. We are also introducing new products this year. We want a better product in terms of coverage and benefits for those seeking improvements. On the other hand, we continue to look at opportunities for our expansion plan in Central and South America. I see 2019 as a continuation of our good performance, as well as a year when we consolidate our presence in Guatemala, Paraguay, and Bolivia.