Caribbean targeted for hurricane insurance
Caribbean resort suffers major damage from Hurricane Irma.

Prone to hurricane and other natural disasters, hotel groups in the Caribbean are the focus of a new campaign launched by emergency catastrophe expenses provider Yokahu.

Yokahu, a parametric insurtech start-up, through its hurricane and tropical cyclone insurance, seeks to offer rapid disaster relief finance to vulnerable everyday people in the path of major storms, particularly those in the hospitality sector where the company wants to offer the product as an employee benefit amid the start of the hurricane season.

Citing the paucity of hurricane insurance in the Caribbean, Tim McCosh, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Yokahu, said the product was designed as a part of the company's plan to offer innovative solutions in the largely underserved area.

"When trying to understand why there was low hurricane insurance in the Caribbean we surveyed nearly 2,000 people. They told us their number one concern about hurricanes was the risk they will lose their job or have reduced income. The hospitality sector is a hugely important sector economically to the region and also a large employer. It is also an industry that is particularly susceptible to hurricanes — no tourist wants to go on vacation to a disaster zone. So it is inevitable, people in this sector that are most at risk of losing their jobs, and so we have looked to support this sector initially," he told the Jamaica Observer.

Tim McCosh, co-founder and CEO of Yokahu

"We can't prevent the redundancies but we can ease the pain and provide some money to tide people over until they can go back to work," McCosh also shared with the Caribbean Business Report.

McCosh, a seasoned insurance agent, has for the last decade been active in a number of re-insurance contracts in the Caribbean working with large entities in Jamaica such as the National Water Commission, Port Authority of Jamaica and the Airport Authority of Jamaica. Currently partnering with four major brokers across the Caribbean, Yokahu aims to increase access to hurricane protection for everyday people via its provision of affordable parametric-based policies. The brokers are BCMG Insurance Brokers Limited in Jamaica, Colina General Insurance Agents and Brokers in The Bahamas, W J M Holdings Inc in St Lucia and Caribbean Risk Group LLC in the US Virgin Islands.

Categorising the product as being completely digital, McCosh said that funds can be disbursed immediately after a hurricane or within 24 hours. Yokahu's premiums, which start at US$5 per month, provides coverage of up to US$10,000 per employee depending on the strength of the hurricane. The funds will be transferred directly to the employee's bank account or digital wallet which in the hurricane's aftermath could also be used to cover emergency expenses such as buying food and water, repairing a home or securing a power supply.

He said that while the policy currently focuses on hurricane as the sole catastrophic event, solutions for other sectors, events and geographies were being designed to build resilience for people and their businesses in the face of extreme weather events.

"When I co-founded Yokahu it was with a commitment to think differently about insurance, and to break down the barriers that have for too long prevented everyday people from accessing emergency funds in the wake of natural catastrophes. Our mission is to leave nothing off the table, and to consider all angles and options when it comes to closing the region's US$50-billion protection gap," he stated.

Commenting on the uptake of the service since its roll-out, McCosh said feedback has been really positive with the company also now in discussions with some very forward thinking employers about delivering this to their staff.

"By the end of 2022, we expect to have expanded to more than 15 Caribbean territories. We have projects in the pipeline in the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa.

"We are currently working with the Lloyds Lab [accelerator] to develop a new use case in partnerships with banks. This product would remove the repayments on a mortgage for a customer for an agreed period after an event [such as a hurricane or earthquake] with the payments covered by insurance," he said of the company's outlook, noting that it was also on the look-out for opportunities in the agriculture sector.

BY KELLARAY MILES Business reporter milesk@jamaicaobserver.com

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