- Last Updated on 02 April 2012
- By Petulah Olibert
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NAGICO Executive Director Vibert Williams on conquering the insurance market
National General Insurance Company Executive Director, Vibert Williams, is poised for battle and ready to stake claim to the top spot.
Williams, an experienced insurance professional who has amassed an impressive arsenal of multi-disciplinary insurance designations throughout his 15-year career, has developed a stealthy and strategic three-pronged approach to conquering the regional insurance market: reaching a target revenue of USD$200 million; achieving an "A" rating from A.M. Best; and having a regional presence in at least 20 Caribbean territories by 2020.
"The corporate mission is set. We intend to become the largest general insurance company in each island, and by extension, the entire Caribbean, and with NAGICO's current growth rate, we are optimistic that our efforts will succeed," Williams said.
His confidence is tangible. He speaks fluently, self-assured, bolstered by company assessments and reports.
After all, the company is the largest privately owned insurer in the Caribbean; it was voted the "Leading Insurance Company" for the year 2011 in St. Maarten, its country of origin; and in 2009, it was awarded a B++ rating (just one letter grade short of 'excellent') from global insurance industry credit rating agency A.M. Best.
It is a rating that Williams does not take lightly, however.
"We are a seriously strategic company," he said of NAGICO, which currently operates in 17 territories having added four new operations last year. "We know where we want to be and how we will get there. So if you compare our financial [reports] against the financials of some of the other A-rated insurers in the Caribbean you will see that on almost all aspects we are superior."
So how does an obviously profitable and rapidly expanding company receive a B rating? Williams explained that on paper, NAGICO is an A-rated company, but several external factors had an effect on its rating.
"One of the factors that led to a B++ rating is that when we approached A.M. Best to be assessed, it was the absolute worst time in 2009 to try to get a rating—immediately following the collapse of AIG, CLICO, and British American," he said. "Additionally, A.M. Best has a three to four year waiting period before one can get an A rating. I am keenly aware, however, that we cannot realistically become number one without an A rating, so we need that rating to improve, and it will."
This is a milestone year for NAGICO, as it marks the company's 30th year of operations since it first opened its doors in St Maarten in 1982, headed by CEO Imran McSood Amjad, who is described by Williams as "one of the Caribbean's brightest insurance minds."
Since its inception, the company has not only become a region leader with annual premiums exceeding a quarter of a billion EC dollars, but also a market leader in most of the 17 territories in which it operates, and placed among the top five companies overall, Williams said.
"We also count as an accomplishment that we were tried and tested like no other regional insurer has ever been," he added. "Very early in our existence, we took multiple hits from five major hurricanes in six years, including a battering from the most powerful storm in Caribbean history, Hurricane Luis. Claims payouts from those storms exceeded half-a-billion EC dollars."
But the company pulled through, and now, because of rapid expansion, it faces the challenge of finding suitable professionals—underwriters, claims specialists, accountants, and agency administrators—to join the NAGICO team.
Its latest, and highly successful expansion effort to the island of St Lucia Williams touts as "strategy."
"St. Lucia is the largest, more populous of the OECS islands and insurance is a game of numbers," he said. "To make a lot of money, you need a lot of volume and that's what St. Lucia holds. So in terms of revenue, certainly the premium income which we could generate in a market like this is much more significant when compared to the smaller islands."
With plans for expansion well underway, and the profits raking in, Williams speaks comfortably about reaching the company's target premium of USD$200 million.
"There is no doubt that achieving this target is difficult, because it is a lot of money to be made in a relatively small market with a lot of competition, but I think it is attainable especially as the company has plans for further growth within the region," he said.
NAGICO has recently been approved to operate in The Bahamas - a USD$400 million market. The Company also has its sights set on Grenada, St. Vincent and the Cayman Islands.
Late last year, NAGICO acquired 100 percent of the shares of Trinidad and Tobago's GTM Insurance Company, and also bought over the British American operations in the Dutch Antilles.
By all appearances, it just may be a busy year ahead for Williams, who wears many hats.
Not only is he the Executive Director for New Market Development, but as the overseer of a grouping of five islands—St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica and St. Lucia—for a new internal initiative called Centers of Excellence (COE), it is also his duty to seek licenses to operate, identify potential partners, pursue alliances, arrange systems and procedures, and liaise with regulators, to get the company through a smooth start up. Furthermore, Williams is in charge of Product Development, and has already effectively crafted the NAGICO HomeOwners SuperPlus policy, among others.
And to top it off, he recently added a new title: that of "Dad" to a seven month-old son!