LEATHON KHAN: “THE FU­TURE OF IN­SUR­ANCE IS STRONG”

The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - MAKING MOVES - BY KAYRA WIL­LIAMS, STAR BUSINESSWEEK COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Leathon Khan started his ca­reer in bank­ing in Ja­maica in 1980. The un­ex­pected op­por­tu­nity was pre­sented to him by his Eco­nom­ics teacher back in the sixth form, while he was study­ing for his A-lev­els. Even then, Leathon knew with­out a doubt his fu­ture would be rooted in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor, and he didn’t hes­i­tate to jump at the op­por­tu­nity. As soon as he fin­ished school, he left home and moved in with fam­ily friends who lived in Kingston, Ja­maica to be­gin his new ca­reer.

His path de­vi­ated to in­sur­ance as in­ter­est­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented them­selves in the in­dus­try. He’s worked with Life of Bar­ba­dos (Trinidad); as the Un­der­writ­ing Man­ager at Western Gen­eral In­sur­ance Co. (Trinidad); with Ea­gle In­sur­ance Bro­kers (Ja­maica); as Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Agos­tini In­sur­ance Bro­kers, and with EC Global In­sur­ance Co. Ltd. as CEO and, later, as a con­sul­tant. He is presently the Gen­eral Man­ager and Prin­ci­pal Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Sagi­cor Life Inc.

HOW DID YOU START YOUR CA­REER?

LEATHON: All my life as a stu­dent in high school, I wanted to be a bank man­ager. That was just where my fo­cus was. My first job was with the Na­tional Com­mer­cial Bank in Half­way Tree, Kingston, Ja­maica. I worked there for two years and then I de­cided it was time to go to univer­sity. Work­ing at NCB opened the door for me to truly pur­sue a ca­reer in bank­ing. Af­ter two years at the bank I ap­plied to the Univer­sity of the West Indies (Mona Cam­pus) to pur­sue a de­gree in Man­age­ment Stud­ies. While at­tend­ing UWI I went back to the bank to work dur­ing Christ­mas break and sum­mer va­ca­tions. There was an un­der­stand­ing that af­ter I grad­u­ated from UWI, I would re­turn to the bank as a Man­age­ment Trainee, to ful­fill my dreams of be­ing a banker. When that time came, how­ever, my plans changed. I got mar­ried one week af­ter my fi­nal exam and de­cided to take off to Trinidad in 1986 with the hope of get­ting into bank­ing but I was not able to se­cure a job in any of the banks there.

It took me a few months be­fore I got the next clos­est thing, which was in life in­sur­ance. I thought, well okay, it’s still fi­nan­cial ser­vices. I ac­cepted the job and my in­sur­ance ca­reer be­gan shortly af­ter. I’ve re­mained faith­ful to in­sur­ance ever since and have had the rare op­por­tu­nity to head-up an in­sur­ance broking firm, a gen­eral in­sur­ance com­pany and, cur­rently, a life in­sur­ance com­pany, all in the same ter­ri­tory.

WHAT CHAL­LENGES DO YOU FACE?

LEATHON: Man­ag­ing peo­ple. Man­ag­ing the ex­pec­ta­tions of peo­ple, in­clud­ing cus­tomers. This in­sur­ance busi­ness is not one that is re­ally un­der­stood by the pub­lic. You have to re­ally ed­u­cate your clients and get them to un­der­stand that, just be­cause you have ‘com­pre­hen­sive’ in­sur­ance on your car, does not mean ev­ery sin­gle thing is cov­ered. The word com­pre­hen­sive is a bit of a mis­nomer.

I’d say man­ag­ing re­la­tion­ships and ex­pec­ta­tions of peo­ple can be a chal­lenge but those are chal­lenges you can eas­ily over­come if you know how to re­late to peo­ple. One of the things I’ve learnt over the years is to build good re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple gen­er­ally, and my clients.

I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced my share of per­sonal tribulations as well but, if you are stub­bornly de­ter­mined and grounded in the be­lief that “this too shall pass”, then you will pull though, by the grace of God.

TELL US ABOUT SAGI­COR.

LEATHON: For 177 years Sagi­cor has been a provider of in­sur­ance ser­vices in the Caribbean. The com­pany has evolved over the years to be­come the lead­ing indige­nous fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany in 22 coun­tries through­out the Caribbean re­gion, Latin Amer­ica and the USA. At Sagi­cor we are guided by a phi­los­o­phy and a busi­ness strat­egy fo­cussed on es­tab­lish­ing en­dur­ing and mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships with all our cus­tomers, in­vestors and em­ploy­ees, as well as the com­mu­ni­ties in which we op­er­ate. We aim at im­prov­ing the lives of the peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ties we serve.

We do this through very well-crafted in­sur­ance prod­ucts and ser­vices, wise fi­nan­cial think­ing, pru­dence in gov­er­nance and a strong com­mit­ment to cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity. This is what has made us the great com­pany that we are to­day. We re­main com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing the Saint Lu­cian pub­lic and cus­tomers across all mar­kets we serve, with path­ways to a se­cure fi­nan­cial fu­ture.

PLEASE EX­PAND ON THE PROD­UCTS AND SER­VICES.

LEATHON: Our main prod­ucts and ser­vices in­clude Life In­sur­ance so­lu­tions: en­dow­ment plans, term life, whole life, group life and health, dis­abil­ity, pen­sion prod­ucts, lim­ited un­der­writ­ing plans; in­vest­ments: Sagi­cor mu­tual funds; re­tire­ment plan­ning; home own­er­ship: mort­gages; money man­age­ment; fi­nanc­ing: loans, lease fi­nanc­ing, de­posit in­vest­ments; Gen­eral In­sur­ance so­lu­tions: prop­erty and ca­su­alty.

HOW IS SAGI­COR KEEP­ING PACE WITH THE GLOBAL IN­SUR­ANCE MAR­KET?

LEATHON: Sagi­cor leads the way through­out the Caribbean in em­brac­ing new and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies to drive our busi­ness growth and ex­pan­sion. Through a ro­bust dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strat­egy, we can dig­i­tally trans­form our re­la­tion­ship and en­gage­ment with our clients by get­ting closer to them. By util­is­ing mo­bile tech­nol­ogy and so­cial me­dial plat­forms, we can con­verge our many in­ter­ac­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with our cus­tomers, and par­tic­u­larly mil­len­ni­als.

Global fi­nan­cial mar­kets are trending to­wards dig­i­tal plat­forms at a very rapid pace as th­ese are the new tools be­ing used to con­struct and sus­tain a dom­i­nant mar­ket po­si­tion. We at Sagi­cor rec­og­nize that a ro­bust dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strat­egy is crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing our place in the in­sur­ance world.

HOW WILL LIFE IN­SUR­ANCE EVOLVE LO­CALLY?

LEATHON: Life in­sur­ance gen­er­ally has been very slow in evolv­ing with some of the so­cial changes that have been tak­ing place. Our so­ci­ety has been rapidly evolv­ing, with new tech­nolo­gies and life­styles, and things just mov­ing at a more rapid pace. Th­ese de­vel­op­ments bring with them new risk ex­po­sures and ad­di­tional con­cerns for se­cu­rity and pro­tec­tion in var­i­ous forms. The fu­ture of in­sur­ance is strong. Peo­ple are en­ter­ing the work force while for­eign and do­mes­tic in­vest­ments re­main on­go­ing. Once so­ci­ety is pro­gress­ing, there’s a need for in­sur­ance. The Caribbean’s re­cent cat­a­strophic weather ex­pe­ri­ences have also gen­er­ated a greater aware­ness among Saint Lu­cians about the im­por­tance of in­sur­ance, and I ex­pect so­ci­ety as a whole will come to ap­pre­ci­ate it more.

WHAT LESSONS CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS YEAR’S HUR­RI­CANE SEA­SON?

LEATHON: The re­gion and its peo­ple face tremen­dous risk ex­po­sure chal­lenges ahead. Our vul­ner­a­bil­ity to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters is real, and we all have seen over the last cou­ple of months how de­struc­tive and dis­rup­tive weather dis­tur­bances can be. If we ac­cept the find­ings of var­i­ous dis­as­ter risk mod­els that the fre­quency and in­ten­sity of wind storms in the Caribbean will in­crease, then this should drive ev­ery right-think­ing per­son to seek out in­sur­ance pro­tec­tion as much as they can.

In­sur­ance re­mains the most ef­fec­tive and cost-ef­fi­cient way to man­age the risks we face. De­spite this, the pen­e­tra­tion of gen­eral in­sur­ance pro­tec­tion, or the ex­tent to which peo­ple in­sure, re­mains rel­a­tively low. Un­for­tu­nately, the price and avail­abil­ity of gen­eral in­sur­ance is likely to be ad­versely af­fected go­ing for­ward. This only raises fur­ther con­cerns as to whether our peo­ple in the re­gion will be able to ac­cess the in­sur­ance pro­tec­tion they will so badly need.

Leathon Khan, Gen­eral Man­ager and Prin­ci­pal Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Sagi­cor Life Inc.

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