Bahamas First Celebrates 40 Years of ‘Firsts’

March 28, 2023

Bahamas First General Insurance Company, the aptly named first locally established general insurer in The Bahamas, marked its 40th anniversary with a cocktail reception celebrating the individuals and organisations who have been integral to the success of the company.

The event, held on 6 March 2023, brought together more than 250 guests representing the company’s local and international business and community partners, shareholders, industry peers and employees. Prime Minister The Hon. Philip Davis delivered keynote remarks at the gathering and extended congratulations to the company on its contribution to the strength of the Bahamian economy over the past 40 years.

Bahamas First opened its doors to customers in January 1983, at a time when the prevailing business model for general insurance in The Bahamas was the century-old convention of local agencies tied to overseas insurance companies, and the accepted wisdom was that a general insurance company operating solely in The Bahamas could not succeed. But as local insurance companies began to emerge in Caribbean neighbours like Jamaica and Trinidad, a group of entrepreneurs, led by founding chairman the late Robert ‘Bobby’ Symonette, was emboldened to turn the dream of creating the first locally established general insurance company in The Bahamas into a reality.

“What makes this anniversary extra special is that our 40th birthday coincides with the Golden Jubilee of independence for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” said Group President & CEO Patrick Ward. “I think the parallels of a nation moving from a Crown colony to an independent country, and a group of businessmen moving from an overseas headquarters to self-rule are quite striking. Learning to govern, grow and evolve – that is something that the founders and original leaders of our company understood with quite a short learning curve.”

At the end of its first year of operation, Bahamas First had recorded $8.4 million in gross written premiums. In 2007, the company became the first general insurance company to exceed US$100 million in premium income in The Bahamas. Today, Bahamas First is the largest P&C insurer in the country. At the end of 2022, the group’s total premium writings were $191 million. “I think it is clear that our founders’ vision has been realised and even surpassed,” added Mr. Ward.

The insurance industry leader, Bahamas First maintains its commitment to create value for its authorised agents and their clients through innovative approaches to business. The company is the pioneer of First Online, the first full-service online home and auto insurance portal in The Bahamas. “Staying current and relevant requires all business sectors to enhance the value of their services through innovation, and the insurance sector is no different,” said Board Chair, Alison Treco. “Any company wishing to remain in business into the future has to embrace change and, at Bahamas First, we realise that it is imperative that we stand at the front line of innovation.”

Bahamas First also created First Response, the first on-site accident assistance programme in The Bahamas to provide on-location assistance at the moment of a motor vehicle accident and support throughout the claim and repair process.

In 1999, Bahamas First became the first Bahamian Property & Casualty company to have its financial strength and ability to pay claims assigned a rating by AM Best. The company has maintained its initial A- (Excellent) rating ever since.

Continuing this financial stability through prudent management and investment practices and upholding strong relationships with globally renowned reinsurance partners is important in ensuring that Bahamas First and its peers continue to play major roles in climate change adaptation strategies, said Mrs. Treco. “One major development since 1983 is the increase in the severity and frequency of hurricanes.  There is little doubt that this trend is not reversing and is directly linked to climate change. The need to reverse this trend is real and urgent and I welcome and applaud our government’s stance in this regard and the focus on the impact on smaller nations. Several years ago, Bahamas First formed a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, which reports to the Board. Whilst it has a broad agenda, our current goals are to provide education to our staff on climate change and ways we as individuals can make a difference.”

Added Mr. Ward: “The work that we do as insurance professionals plays a critical role in providing financial resilience against natural disasters and gives our clients a sense of safety and security in the toughest times. Insurance plays a vital role in supporting the individuals and communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Looking specifically at catastrophe/hurricane events, over our company’s history, Bahamas First alone has settled more than half a billion dollars in claims to make our policyholders whole. In accord with our industry, we are committed to building a stronger Bahamas through the provision of safeguards for families and local businesses.