Bahamas First –
Insuring A Better Bahamas
In 1982, the prevailing business model for general insurance in The Bahamas was the century-old convention of local agencies bound to overseas insurance companies. But, in that year, a group of entrepreneurs had a dream to create the first locally established general insurance company.
The company was incorporated in September of that year with a majority 75% Bahamian shareholding. Formed as a result of the dynamic and visionary leadership provided by the founding Chairman, the late Robert Hallam “Bobby” Symonette, the company commenced trading on 1 January 1983. Appropriately enough, the name of this new venture was Bahamas First General Insurance Company Ltd. Although the Bahamas Insurance Act in force at that time required a minimum capitalization of only $140,000, Bahamas First General was formed with an authorized share capital of $2.5 million – of which $2 million was issued and fully paid.
One of the benefits to this country and the Bahamian people was that Bahamas First General committed to retaining and investing the majority of its future earnings locally. Traditionally held overseas, unearned premium and claims reserves, which could amount to millions of dollars, would be retained in The Bahamas. In the case of the new company, such reserves would exceed $4 million by the end of 1983. The company’s contributions to job creation and building the international image of the local insurance industry would continue throughout its history.
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In an announcement to the press at the opening of the company, Mr. Symonette explained that the new company was an Associate Company of Royal Insurance (UK)., at the time one of the largest international insurance groups in the world. Apart from its equity participation, the Royal provided the company with technical assistance and reinsurance protection. With the assistance of its international affiliates, the Company was able to put in place a solid infrastructure which provided a platform for future growth and development on a scale unparalleled in our market.
“Many people will be wondering whether a brand-new Bahamian insurance company will have the financial strength to be able to with stand the ravages of a hurricane, and this is only natural,”
said Mr. Symonette.
“However, you may rest assured that our reinsurance programme provides our policyholders with complete security at all times.”
In its first year of operation, Bahamas First General recorded $8.4 million in gross written premiums and declared a net profit of $316,747, which was only a little short of the $406,000 anticipated in the offering prospectus. It soon became first general insurance company to exceed US$100 million in premium income in The Bahamas. Today, it is the largest P&C insurer in the country, delivering best-in-class products and services to respond to the changing needs of individuals, households and businesses.
The founders envisioned a company that would put customers first by providing innovative and customized insurance solutions through a strong network of authorized agents. The first two agencies to share this vision were Nassau Underwriters Agency (NUA) Ltd. and Basil Burnside Ltd., both of which represented The Royal. The network has grown over the years to include a large number of Group Agents, Independent Exclusive Agents and Independent Non-exclusive Agents/Brokers – creating a powerful agency network and infrastructure that has made Bahamas First General the first choice for general insurance coverage everywhere in The Bahamas. Bahamas First General is also the pioneer of First Online, the first full-service online insurance portal in The Bahamas.
In 1996 Bahamas First Holdings Limited was formed, incorporating the shareholding base of Bahamas First General and its affiliate NUA.
Since 1999, Bahamas First General has earned an AM Best financial strength rating of A- (Excellent) with a stable outlook. The maintenance of this rating is a result of the company’s strong capitalization and credit policies, leading market presence and effective management structures.
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