Falcon Insurance positions itself during the pandemic | 12 October 2020
A relatively brand new addition to the local financial services sector, Falcon Insurance is celebrating its 5th anniversary in quite a tumultuous year of pandemic, lockdowns, restrictions and global economic crisis.
Nonetheless, Falcon Insurance is forging ahead with its contingency plan in hand to better position itself in the local, regional and international markets as well as to provide novel products for its customers.
The managing director of Falcon Insurance, Darren Roberts, talks about extending the company’s portfolio, its main developments in 2020, and Covid-19 in an interview with Seychelles NATION. The company presently offers a range of insurance covers for property, health, liability, motor, marine and yachts and professional indemnity among others.
Seychelles NATION: Falcon Insurance has been operating in Seychelles for five years, how has those five years been?
Darren Roberts: “We have had a very good strong start and have performed really well in the market here, and I think we have earned our place as one of the well-known quality insurance companies serving the local community. Our strengths have always been property, motor, marine and business, and now with Covid-19 it has heavily moved towards the health insurance coverage.
“Falcon is a Seychelles-based business and our business model employs local talent. It is a model based on nurturing and growing these talents.”
Seychelles NATION: It is a bitter-sweet anniversary marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts, how is Falcon Insurance managing the situation?
Darren Roberts: “The insurance industry is not like any other industry and it has been affected greatly by Covid-19. The issue with insurance is that we are intrinsically linked internationally through reinsurance and various other markets including foreign exchange which has led to economic strain.
“But Falcon is growing through this uncertain period. We take the view that we want to offer the highest quality, internationally recognised insurance locally.”
Seychelles NATION: How far does Falcon’s medical insurance take into account Covid-19?
Darren Roberts: “We have included four Covid-19 covers to our medical insurance policies, including medical evacuation. So if Covid-19 does return to Seychelles, our policy holders are protected with a robust medical policy, 100% backed by the international medical insurance giant AXA.
“All our policies will cover medical costs although quarantine does not fall into that cost per se – isolation may, depending on the circumstances. If you develop Covid-19 and you have complications, what our medical policy does is allows you to go to a hospital of your choice worldwide, depending on the choice of policy chosen. If someone develops life threatening complications which cannot be treated locally, it will also cover medical evacuation to a health facility overseas.
“In addition, Falcon Insurance has also launched a child only medical policy. Prior to this, children could only be added to their parents’ or guardians family package. These new developments just give people a real peace of mind, especially in these uncertain times.”
Seychelles NATION: What are some of the measures being undertaken in light of the new normal?
Darren Roberts: “Initially like many local businesses we had a very rushed contingency plan having to plan a lot in a short amount of time when the border closures and lockdown was announced. The good thing was, we already had a disaster recovery procedure in place which was adapted to the unique challenges of the virus. We now have what we feel is a strong and practiced contingency plan which can be tweaked now and then, should the need arise.
“We also invested heavily at the birth of our business with a very extensive and robust computer system, our clients can actually go on to our website and input all of their details so they do not have to come into the office for face to face transactions. We can transact with our customers remotely, wherever they are – we can e-mail them their policies and they can effect online payments.
“In light of the economic downturn, Falcon is furthermore assisting many of its policy holders in regards to their payment plans. We recognise that this is an unknown and unforeseen circumstance so we are reacting to that. We are also redeveloping our policies now which will really help the local economy to keep going.
Sadly, we have lost some business since people are not renewing their policies at the moment. We deal with a lot of guest houses and hotels which have been financially devastated by the downturn and not surprisingly costs are cut as we simply wait for the tourists to come back, rightly or wrongly insurance cover to some of these establishments has been a casualty of financial cut backs.
“Falcon and Seychelles has also lost a number of expatriate clients who have left the Seychelles, with their contracts being ended. But we were ready for this, the key for us now is to react fast and diversify in order to create new business opportunities.
“The tourism industry has obviously been hit very badly and we are now looking to bring new policies to the market such as sickness and unemployment cover, redundancy covers and loan protection policies to provide some form of financial protection and comfort to customers.
“We are reacting and using this period of uncertainty to really show our clients that we are here providing peace of mind to the people and businesses of Seychelles and aim to help in our own way.
“The good news is, I really do believe that there is so much talent here and even with the downturn in tourism industry, the local workforce in that industry has transferrable skills that can be brought over into financial services.
“Covid has highlighted the financial issue we face with having so much of the economy reliant on tourism that I really want Falcon and our industry counterparts to champion the financial services sector of Seychelles, there is no reason why we cannot become one of the jewels in the offshore services market globally, which will also benefit the economy with greater stability, remembering that financial services does not need ports or borders.
Seychelles NATION: What are your plans for foreign/offshore business?
Darren Roberts: “Seychelles is only so big and it was never Falcon’s goal to look at Seychelles only; we want international business. Covid-19 among other conditions has given us a lot of opportunities to bring international business into Seychelles.
“This would mean significant numbers of new insurance business coming into Seychelles and stimulating the economy, it would also bring much needed foreign exchange coming into the country and we will create more job opportunities for local people.
“Falcon has already begun piloting new lines of business to offshore clients and the figures from the last few months have been very positive; we are definitely starting to get some great traction. I think that good news stories like these show that it is not all doom and gloom – there are opportunities out there, we just need to rethink how we transact business and seize the moment.
“One example of this, the UK is really struggling with lack of insurance capacity at the moment. The big insurers over there are going through Brexit and many other economic issues including Covid-19 and there is a distinct lack of capacity for certain types of risk in the UK and Europe, and we have taken that opportunity. We have strengthened our policies here so that they meet the standards of the UK and while we cannot advertise our services or sell our policies in the UK or Europe, clients from these regions can now buy certain insurance policies from us in Seychelles
The fact we are now gaining international clients not only puts Falcon on the map it also creates a positive reflection on Seychelles as an international trusted insurance market
“We are hoping to grow the offshore market and not just to the UK but we would like to venture into Africa and the Indian Ocean territories. Our goal is to make Falcon one of the gems in the Indian Ocean for insurance. Hopefully rather than buying insurance covers in different countries, people can come and buy insurance here.”
Seychelles NATION: What would differentiate Falcon from other insurance companies in the region?
Darren Roberts: “I’d like to think that we would come with a UK service and standards approach and coming from the UK, I like to think that I have brought some of those skills and knowledge with me. It means we can create new policies and ideas for the evolving market here. Our international approach is backed by the likes of Lloyds, Swiss Re and AXA which are huge, well-trusted insurance brands. That makes us a little bit unique.”
“Currently the majority of our clients are locally based. I think the misconception is that we are a big international brand but we are not. We are a Seychelles born and bred insurance company, and 90% of our clients are local and obviously we do have some expatriate businesses that comes in organically.
That said we do not want to just take the market share of our competitors, we want to stimulate the market and bring in new products and grow local business.”
“This is our home and the local clientele base is the most important part and through bringing in new premiums for the offshore, we will be able to lower the prices here because we will get the balance coming in from elsewhere. From this we can then introduce policies that did not exist here before because we did not have the critical mass required for the pool of insurance premiums.
“One of our main concerns at present is the cost of claims locally with repair costs increasing weekly due to the forex issue. At some point if this continues, Insurers will either dramatically increase premiums or make cover very restrictive for risks such as motor & marine insurance.
“We understand that this is not the fault of our policyholder but that of the market conditions created by an unforeseen event of the pandemic. Our philosophy at present is to try and offset these increases in claim costs against new offshore premium in order to retain current pricing.
Seychelles NATION: So what is the plan for staff and are you planning any redundancies?
Darren Roberts: “We have a great team at Falcon and they are the reason for our success and we need to remember this in times of difficulty, we have no intention of any pay cuts or redundancies and will do everything in our power to ride through this period of uncertainty. Falcon has made sure we have diversified and been innovative in our approach to ensure policy holders and the team are secure. Right now we have 15 employees and consultants but we hope to reach around 25 – 30 over the next few months, if everything goes to plan.”
Seychelles NATION: It sounds very promising, can you summarise?
Darren Roberts: Falcon is a strong and flourishing business that has a great future ahead despite the current economic difficulties and I believe that having the flexible and fully supportive local team around the company’s management has allowed us to be proactive in our products, policies and service standards.
We are continuing to forge ahead with our plans and development and I strongly believe we will become one of the ‘Seychelles Blue Chips’ creating job opportunities locally with many more product developments and business strategies to follow.
Interview by Elsie Pointe