Canopy going into individual life insurance
Canopy Insurance Limited generated revenue growth over the prior year in all business segments and remains focused on revenue diversification and the pursuit of strategic partnerships.(Photos: Naphtali Junior)

Canopy Insurance has disclosed plans to enter the individual life insurance business as early as the second quarter of next year.

Individual life insurance refers to a life insurance policy covering a single life, in contrast to group life insurance, which covers many lives.

"We started with group health primarily and as we went along we recognised that there are customers who are asking for group life, so we do group health and group life, you pair them together and you're doing a good pack of business," Canopy's Acting CEO Oliver Tomlinson, who's been appointed in the interim role, told the Jamaica Observer.

"The idea now is to say how about looking at some other products, some individual life- type products that customers would be very interested in," he added.

"My idea for Canopy is to make sure that the company is covering all my clients, I like to say, from the cradle to the grave and even beyond."

Canopy is a technology-driven health and life insurer, powered by GraceKennedy and the Musson Group.

The company was formed following dissatisfaction by GK and Musson with the value they received in exchange for their monthly group health and life insurance premiums.

Now that the company is looking to diversify its business, Tomlinson assured that the existing business will not be ignored or left behind.

"We're going into individual life kind of business. That's a paradigm shift, it's a game-changer for us because we are primarily business to business. Now we're going to go business to individual. But we're not going to ignore that section; the employee benefits division is strong and we have to make sure we secure that, but there is much to be gained," he said.

The acting CEO explained that the ultimate goal is for Canopy to become a one stop shop for insurance products.

"The truth is that you want to have deeper share of quality for all your clients and, in my opinion, you become a bona-fide life insurance company when you offer a suite of products that persons can say 'when I come to Canopy I will get all that I need for insurance'," he stated. But he advised that he is restricted by his licence, which prevents Canopy from delving into general insurance.

Notwithstanding, he told the Business Observer that Canopy will also be moving into annuities, pensions, and individual retirement in the future.

In the meantime, Tomlinson is hopeful that the addition of individual life to Canopy's offering will help the company capture and retain a greater market share by virtue of how individual life policies are administered.

"The truth is that in our existing business group health we've been able to, in the past four years, get about 10 per cent of the market, but with business to business you on-board persons on a massive scale and those contracts are typically one-year contracts and as they renew, persons can move them from one company to another, but with individual life you stay. We never encourage persons to move their individual life policy from one company to another; that's bad for the industry. It's more costly for the customers too," Tomlinson explained.

He admitted he's not sure how much of the market share Canopy will be able to take with its individual life offering, but revealed that when the roll-out happens next year Canopy will have three or four new products.

"If you go into the individual life line of business you may think that in the first year you have done very well because you have $200 million in revenue, but that could be .001 per cent of the market, so I don't like to look at market share for that and because we're not going in with all the products that exist in the market… I'm going with two or three, so there's no way I could compete on that scale."

In the meantime, he stressed, "People buy insurance from people who they know and who they trust, so who's leading the company is very important. Although I'm new to Canopy I've been in the insurance business for a little while."

Tomlinson was the first CEO for JN Life Insurance where he worked for eight years. Prior to that he spent seven years at NCB Insurance and has served as president of the Insurance Association of Jamaica.

When quizzed about the lengthy timeline for bringing the individual life products to market Tomlinson disclosed that, although the company is advanced with a lot of the plans, "a lot of it is IT development. Also, we have to wait on our regulators to approve policies and that can be a lengthy process. We are currently awaiting approval for a critical illness policy. We have two other whole life and term life policies to be submitted shortly and the fact is that the critical illness policy that we are awaiting approval for was submitted from as far back as March, but we know that's the timeline. It's a part of the process, I don't fight it. I would love if it was quicker, honestly, but I've been in the industry for a while and I understand."

According to GraceKennedy's second-quarter report for the period ending June 30, 2022, "Canopy Insurance Limited generated revenue growth over the prior year in all business segments and remains focused on revenue diversification and the pursuit of strategic partnerships. The company remains challenged from a profitability perspective, driven primarily by medical inflation."

TOMLINSON...the idea now is to say how about looking at some other products, some individual life-type products that customers would be very interested in
Andrew Laidley

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