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An aerial view of New Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo: wikicommons)

Jamaica’s insurance association head calls for deeper product penetration

An aerial view of New Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo: wikicommons)

Vernon James, who was last month elected president of the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ), says the body will be making efforts to increase insurance penetration in Jamaica.

James, the chief executive officer and managing director of NCB Insurance Company Limited, replaced Peter Levy, CEO of CIBC Insurance company. 

Speaking on June 26 at the first official event held at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, James said COVID-19 has reinforced the need for insurance.

He said, “We had a health event and many people had no life, no health insurance the low penetration of insurance. We believe the people of Jamaica, everyone should have that benefit. It’s a fair expectation, given the type of year we have had that anything is possible.”

James outlined that only 20 per cent of homes in Jamaica are insured, even though, “if a house is destroyed it also is the most expensive asset to replace.”

He noted that only ten per cent of the workforce have pension, which is another form of insurance, going hand in hand with life insurance. “These are things we will continue to work on. Peter did his innings and I will try to continue.”

The Jamaican population is also under-insured in respect to health with only 30 per cent of workers having insurance, James said adding that about one-third have individual life policies. Motor insurance, he noted, is the highest in terms of population penetration.

“When a breadwinner in a family dies, families can be decimated. When crops get wiped out by floods or rain or dust clouds form the devil, or fire, incomes get divested. When income is devastated, what do they do?” he asked.

“Just like what is happening in the banking sector to widen the net to the unbanked, we are expanding our insurance base. Micro insurance is needed in Jamaica where people cannot afford to pay for large coverage plans. We are working to get the regulations passed so those who most need it can get it.”

Referring to micro-insurance regulations which have long been in limbo, he said, “I am confident that within my tenure as president the regulations will be passed because of the work done before under Peter’s time and before.’
The association which was supposed to host the International Micro-insurance Conference this year plans to hold it in October 2021 instead.
Hopefully by then, James said, the regulations will be passed.

“The IAJ will step up its campaign on the  importance of insurance,” he outlined, adding that the body will be using social media channels to reach Jamaicans in buying age, “ between the age of 25 and 54,” many of whom spend time in the social media space.

The IAJ programme will also target children in school to sensitise them about the importance of insurance.
James said that the IAJ will also be focusing on the claims management process, an initiative started in 2019 with n new protocols.
These processes be advanced by the use of new technology, adding that the industry settles over 50,000 motor claims each year.

The IAJ will also be rolling out in the next two months the Motor Vehicle Insurance database which aims to reduce the number of motorists driving without insurance.

In due course, the IAJ head said, the database will also facilitate licensing without visiting the Tax Administration Jamaica.