Saturday 28 November, 2020

Sagicor to focus on capital adequacy under COVID-19 conditions

Christopher Zacca, President and CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica.

Christopher Zacca, President and CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica.

President and CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica Limited, Christopher Zacca says that the company is putting on hold original plans to invest significantly in infrastructure and real estate in 2020.

The group will instead focus on investments, which will enable it to maintain and improve capital adequacy and solvency levels.

Sagicor Group includes insurance, investment and banking subsidiaries.

Sagicor Group delivered a historic profit of $15 billion in 2019, with all business lines performing well, Zacca outlined.

It is, however, now faced with significant challenges.

Commenting on the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) in Jamaica, Zacca said Sagicor has run several stress tests, with varied negative scenarios and the results were all positive.

One test and the scenario under which the company is currently operating is looking at three months of dislocation, Zacca told a press briefing via video conference on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, preliminary first-quarter results showed improved revenues in January and February. For March, the results are expected to reflect a downturn, particularly in corporate banking, Zacca said.

“The second quarter is the real challenges facing us,” he added.

Nonetheless, the group was strongly capitalised and had a balance sheet showing $140 billion in assets, Zacca said, noting that this can easily be liquidated if necessary.

“Everything we have done is to shore up our capital adequacy which remains at very high levels, and our solvency. We applied strong scenarios in terms of capital adequacy ad solvency,” Zacca said, again referring to stress tests undertaken.

Regarding investments for 2020, the group president said the original outlook is now under review.

“In 2019 we were looking at investing in infrastructure and real estate in order to further diversify our portfolio, but at this time we have to be very circumspect and conservative in terms of how we deploy capital. We are looking at options which are more liquid.”

Zacca noted that the company continues to innovate, adding that Sagicor E-life, an innovation which allows staff to sell insurance online, is now the bread and butter of the insurance segment. In 2019, net premiums were $26.5 billion, up 11 per cent year over year.

Advantage General, a 60 per cent acquisition made in 2019, is also being upgraded to provide services on a digital platform, the CEO said.

Zacca disclosed that 60 per cent of the company’s staff are now operating from home, and that several new protocols have been implemented to keep staff safe.

The lock down of St Catherine, he said, was a good test of the new provisions put in place for remote work, as most of the company’s employees were housed in the parish.

The CEO emphasised that the group’s core business remained strong. He also applauded the achievements of the year ended, which included the launch of the island’s first equity listed funds.

“COVID-19 is a challenge but we are a strong and solvent company with a committed team,” Zacca stated.

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