Guardrisk Group Mauritius, through its specialised offering of cell captive insurance and reinsurance services, is safeguarding the future of businesses across its home nation and further afield
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Sam Love
Mauritius is officially ranked the easiest place to do business in Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 study, the Indian Ocean island nation scores a competitive 79.58 out of 100, this total score covering aspects such as starting a company, registering property, paying taxes, acquiring credit, resolving insolvency, sourcing electricity and trading across borders.
The ranking also means Mauritius is the 20th easiest place to do business in the world, something which fills Vikram Ramlochun, Managing Director of South African insurance group Guardrisk’s Mauritian business, with optimism.
“We are in one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and the country’s business environment and investment climate has also made it one of the most business-friendly destinations in the region,” he says.
“Furthermore, Mauritius has emerged as an important platform between Asia, the Middle East and Africa for investment into the African subcontinent. The financial services sector, including the insurance industry, is an important economic pillar of the Mauritian economy and the insurance industry’s contribution to GDP is about three percent.”
Indeed, important progress at a legislative level has added even more impetuous to the nation’s insurance industry, now recognised as a respected international finance centre.
As of June 2019, reinsurance business continues to be taxed at three percent, this having convinced the OECD about the country’s responsible approach to harmonising best tax practices between the local market and offshore market.
Ramlochun is also optimistic about similar reform occurring in Guardrisk’s parent country South Africa – however, his priorities squarely lie with taking the Mauritian business forwards.
In joining the firm in 2002, Ramlochun arrived at a company which had already been active in the country for four years, the division officially setting up in 1998 and specialising in cell captive insurance and reinsurance services, provided through three licenses (Guardrisk International Ltd PCC, Guardrisk Life International Ltd and Guardrisk Insurance Management Ltd) in those early days.
In October 2016, the Guardrisk Group in Mauritius acquired another external insurance license in Mauritius making it a fully-fledged group with capabilities to write reinsurance, short term insurance, long term insurance, and also providing insurance management services.
“Guardrisk Group in Mauritius has grown from strength to strength with an annual gross written premium of $191 million as of June 2018,” explains Ramlochun. “According to known statistics, Guardrisk Group is the biggest cell captive insurer/reinsurer group in the country.
“Furthermore, all Guardrisk companies in Mauritius are Global Business Category 1 companies and regulated by the Financial Services Commission. Our clients are mostly from African countries and Guardrisk has the authority to write business in multiple hard currencies and can issue policies for all classes of risk permitted under the Insurance Act 2005.”
Crucially, Guardrisk International Ltd PCC and Guardrisk Insurance Company Mauritius Ltd PCC operate as protected cell companies and are governed by the provisions of the Protected Cell Companies Act 1999, where each cell is legally ringfenced against the performance of other cells, thereby giving maximum protection to cell owners.
This prompts Ramlochun to outline some of the key benefits associated with cell captive insurance.
“Self-insurance is the very essence of cell captive and organisations who manage their risk seriously are getting increasingly interested in this concept of insurance,” he says. “Cell captive insurance gives an organisation the possibility and opportunity to open another income stream out of proper and responsible management of risks.
“Guardrisk provides this platform in Mauritius where risks situated anywhere in the world can be reinsured or insured within a cell, and the cell owner gets an insurance vehicle without the need to set up an insurance company. The cell owner shall have rights to the underwriting results of the cell’s business and may request dividend out of the cell.”
Becoming a go-to for this form of insurance has stood Guardrisk apart in the Mauritian market for the past two decades, the Managing Director pointing to several other assets which also help the company to differentiate in what is a vibrant industry.
These include a strong suite of intellectual property, detailed knowhow, dedication, in-house operational systems, a financially strong parent group as backers and sound risk management principles, while a new licensing development has also given Guardrisk an extra edge.
“We recently converted one of our short-term external insurance licenses into a professional reinsurer licence,” Ramlochun says.
“This is also a personal achievement as there is no regulatory framework dealing with conversion of a live short-term external insurance license into a professional reinsurer license in Mauritius – we had to work very closely with the regulator to ensure this was done in the most efficient and responsible manner and to the benefit of policyholders.
“Prior to this, we were writing reinsurance business into our short-term insurance license through a derogation we obtained from the Financial Services Commission which had some conditions attached to it. Now we have a proper spread of licenses and we operate without any restrictions or limitations, and we see this as an opportunity to grow the business to the next level.”
Such an advancement falls into line with our parent Guardrisk Group’s vision to double up the business by 2022, growth in the Mauritian division seen as an important facilitator of this bold ambition.
The future will also involve adoption of new technologies, insurtech being a hot topic for Ramlochun and the company.
“I have been following this discussion in Africa for some time and I believe there are lots of opportunities out there in the distribution channels that are yet to be tapped in Africa,” the MD comments. “Having said that I also think the insurance industry and the regulatory framework in South Africa are sophisticated enough to support the insurtech principle.”
For Ramlochun, this tech-based strand of insurance will eventually leapfrog traditional models in the same way mobile has taken over from fixed-lined connectivity and bricks and mortar banking, a shift which Guardrisk is well-positioned to exploit.
“Our business model perfectly suits and supports the insurtech principle in the sense that our cells have the possibility of using external service providers to price their products, sell their products, administer claims payments and premium collections, among other things,” he continues.
“Guardrisk, in fact, embraced this concept a long time ago and has been successfully operating in this field.”
And it is this ability to change with the times that will stand both the company and the country’s insurance sector in good stead for years to come.
Asked how important a developed insurance sector is to business and individuals both in Mauritius and the subcontinent, Ramlochun’s concluding remarks focus on what he believes the sector needs to do in order to maximise its undoubted potential.
“The world is a dynamic place where changes are continuous. Businesses need to adapt to survive and these situations bring along opportunities and threats which need to be controlled and mitigated, if not eliminated.
“The insurance industry is walking the same path and new products are being devised, and regulatory frameworks are being strengthened and extended to capture growing business scenarios and protect policyholders.
“Insurance companies in Mauritius now need to have a well-established and embedded risk management framework in place. Insurers need to report to the Financial Services Commission on all the deliverables required by the insurance risk management framework rules.
“Therefore, it is crucial that the industry keeps pace and is prepared for the dynamism of the changing world, and continues to provide protection of policyholders and businesses in the best possible way.”