PHILIPSBURG–NAGICO Insurances has settled hundreds of Hurricane Irma related claims in St. Maarten to date and has paid in the region of US $20 million locally already, Chief Strategy and Development Officer Kyria Ali told The Daily Herald on Thursday.
When asked what percentage of the claims received are still to be settled and what percentage the US $20 million that was paid out represents, Ali said these figures would be provided at the end of this month or the beginning of November.
Ali along with NAGICO Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dwayne Elgin weighed in on the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the country. They said St. Maarten has been significantly impacted both socially and economically. “Although many have compared the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria to the dreadful duo of Luis and Marilyn in 1995, the extent of damage from Irma and Maria is comparatively greater considering the improved quality of construction post 1995.”
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the extensive devastation to both private and public infrastructure created a depressed and chaotic environment which unfortunately challenged human values and morals. The destruction caused, particularly by Hurricane Irma which ploughed through the island with unprecedented wind speeds of over 200 mph, has brought the topic of building codes and the enforcement of same to the fore once again. The economy will no doubt be negatively impacted, however, certain industries, such as construction, building/hardware and auto will thrive while others, including the island’s economic pillar of tourism, will likely experience major setbacks during the rebuilding process.”
They said despite the damage and losses, the speed at which the island of St. Maarten has started to rebound is commendable. “Many businesses have reopened, after just about a month, and a level of normalcy has been restored. NAGICO Insurances is proud to have been the first financial institution to open its doors to the public and begin the restoration and healing process. We understand that our role in the rebuilding process is a critical one and are committed to delivering fast and fair claim settlement service to our policyholders just as we did in 1995 and have been doing for the past 35 years.”
As it relates to underinsurance, the two said this is unfortunately quite prevalent throughout the entire Caribbean according to a recent study. “Because the policyholder did not insure for the “re-construction value” of their property, their claim will be proportionately reduced and they will be responsible for the shortfall. NAGICO Insurances is aware of this industry issue and has over the years invested significant time and effort in educating and advising its clients, agents and brokers through letters, information sessions, its advertisements and also in person at the time the customer is purchasing or renewing their cover to always consider the impact of underinsurance.”
According to the two officials NAGICO applies a basic five step process for handling claims: receipt of loss notification/initial data entry; assignment of the claim to NAGICO’s claim professionals; contact the policyholder to gather information; assess and evaluate the claim (including estimates) and settle and conclude claim.
They said a number of channels were made available for policyholders to file their loss notifications as NAGICO wanted to make the process easy and convenient for its customers. NAGICO staffers did house-to-house visits and helped clients complete their forms as commuting on the island had been difficult in the early days following the storm.
“NAGICO’s extensive network of agents and brokers also visited their clients to determine damage and record loss notification. In addition, we made it possible for our clients to submit online notifications, which was accessible from the day after Hurricane Irma passed and was used by many of our off-island clients and those that were eventually evacuated. Clients were also able to email us and visit our head office as well as our agents and brokers to notify us,” the two said.
NAGICO has a team of more than 35 independent adjusters servicing clients. “Our suite of adjusters comprises qualified and experienced persons from the local as well as international market and they have been actively visiting our policyholders since the curfew was lifted. Our team was mobilized quite early and payments are being made to our policyholders. We expect to continue to have a steady flow of payments made as more estimates are received from our clients and we are able to complete our evaluations.”
As it relates to impact on NAGICO itself, which operates in 21 territories, the two said, some of the islands in which NAGICO operate were ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but because of staff and business continuity plans, the insurance company was able to quickly restore its operations in each affected territory and begin the claim-handling process. “The claims management process is going well on each island and we also continue to address our clients’ other insurance needs and questions. With over US $300 million in assets, NAGICO Insurances remains strong and financially secure. Our reinsurance programme is well constructed and more than adequate to cover the gross loss that has arisen from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Leading the way through the dark times is what we do.”
Asked what needs to be done for St. Maarten to bounce back fast, the two said: “A commitment from and resolve by property and business owners to rebuilding and developing the island is key for St. Maarten’s future. In addition, a drive and mindset to mitigate loss and identify opportunities coupled with a simple and streamlined government approval process is required. There also needs to be a steady flow of money in the economy: from insurers as claims are settled, from bankers as they grant new loans, from property and business owners as they employ contractors etc. and access to an ample supply of and appropriately priced building material and skilled labourers.”
The two said NAGICO Insurances remains steadfast in its commitment to settle all claims in a fast and fair manner. “We look forward to receiving the full particulars and estimates from our policyholders over the next couple of weeks so that we can continue to make settlement payments.”
As for the recovery process, the two said authorities can help the country recover through proactively and collaboratively engaging all stakeholders in recovery planning whilst accessing all sources of regional and international aid. They would also like to see building codes conform to standards that would ensure significant resistance to Category 5 Hurricanes as well as earthquakes.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/70263-nagico-settles-20-million-in-st-maarten-claims-thus-far