Growing Caribbean Insurer Picks Tampa

Jun 9, 2008

Tampa Bay Online--June 7, 2008

The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA – The economic news in the Bay area hasn’t been good lately, but a large insurance company with roots in Barbados is bucking that trend and planning to use Tampa as the base of a major expansion.

Sagicor Life Insurance Co. established its U.S. headquarters in Tampa in November, housing its senior executives in an office tower at 4010 Boy Scout Blvd. in the West Shore area. Sagicor Life is a U.S. subsidiary of Barbados-based Sagicor Financial Corp., which is the leading insurance company in the Caribbean region, according to company executives.

The parent company had worldwide assets of $3.8 billion as of March 31, and revenues in the three months ended March 31 were $225.4 million, company financial statements show. It is listed on the Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and London stock exchanges.

Sagicor has been a small player for five years in Tampa, where a few local executives helped oversee the parent company’s international operations and expansion into Panama. However, its acquisition of a small Scottsdale, Ariz.-based insurer, American Founders Life, in fall 2005 has raised the Tampa office’s stature.

Sagicor bought American Founders Life for $58 million to get a foot in the U.S. life insurance and annuities market. It has since renamed the company as Sagicor Life Insurance Co., and it will use Tampa as its U.S. corporate office and as the base of its Eastern Seaboard expansion. Its Scottsdale office will handle the company’s administrative functions.

Sagicor Life Insurance’s president and chief executive officer is Ken Marshall, who most recently led Sagicor Financial’s Trinidad and Tobago operations.

A.M. Best, the insurance rating company, gives Sagicor Life Insurance an A-minus rating for financial strength, which is an "excellent" rating, according to A.M. Best’s Web site.

The Tampa office has about 25 executives, salespeople and support staff, and the company expects to hire about another half-dozen managers and 10 salespeople to round out the headquarters. The real job growth will come from its hiring of insurance agents in the field, Marshall said.

Sagicor Life uses about 1,000 independent insurance brokers across the country to market its life insurance and annuities. It hopes to continue adding to its independent broker ranks, but in the future, the company will grow mostly through hiring "career agents," or agents employed directly by Sagicor Life Insurance, Marshall said. Recruiting and training those career agents will be a major function of the Tampa office.

By year’s end, the company hopes to have up to 1,500 independent brokers and 30 career agents in place, Marshall said. Sagicor Life expects to have career-agent offices in Tampa, Miami and Atlanta within three months, the director of sales, Rick Miller, said.

One of Sagicor’s biggest goals will be to introduce the company to the United States, where it is largely unknown. For now, the company will avoid expensive television advertising in favor of ads on the Internet and in newspapers and business journals. Its ads are heavy on images of children playing and tidbits of wisdom, such as "Knowledge is not wisdom, unless used wisely."

The name Sagicor is a combination of the words "sage," which means wise, and "cor," which is Latin for heart.

Parent company Sagicor Financial offers a broad range of insurance products, including life, health and property and casualty lines. For now, its U.S. subsidiary is focusing on life insurance and annuities, said Sagicor Financial Chief Executive Officer Dodridge Miller, who is based in Barbados but travels extensively to the Caribbean, the United States and the United Kingdom on business.

"We believe that the property and casualty companies in the U.S. are having some particular problems that we are not that keen to get involved with, such as hurricanes," Miller said.