Kerry-Ann Chong, director of sales and service at Scotia Jamaica Life Insurance Company, gives an overview of the company’s newest product, ScotiaELEVATE.

Scotia Group Jamaica Limited (SGJ) is launching new products across its various business lines while removing some as it strategically phases out others.

The latest addition to the Scotia product line is Scotia Elevate which is a universal life insurance policy with an investment option in the three funds managed by Scotia Investments Jamaica Limited (SIJL). It was launched on May 5 at its downtown headquarters by subsidiary Scotia Jamaica Life Insurance Company Limited (SJLIC). The event was held under a Parisian breakfast theme.

“We listen to our customers and put them first. Our customers said they wanted higher insurance and a very simple process and not complete nine or 10 pages of an application. They said they wanted to feel well while having their protection needs being meet at affordable premiums. It has no underwriting and you answer a six-part health questionnaire and you qualify for Scotia Elevate. Also, you have the opportunity to have your savings and investments portfolio building wealth while your protection needs are being meet for a very low premium,” said director of sales and service at SJLIC Kerry-Ann Chong at the launch.

The product is the second universal life insurance product to be offered after the Scotia Affirm policy. It was first announced by SGJ in July 2021 with an expectation that it should have launched by the end of October 2021, which is the company’s financial year end. The three funds include SJLIC’s money market fund, the SJLIC fixed income fund and the SJLIC equity fund.

Sagicor Life Jamaica Limited offers ultra lifeline, child protector, ultra life and total woman as its universal life insurance products. Guardian Life Limited offers the Guardian Assure Plan while the other companies offers no product of this nature at the moment for individuals.

Scotia Elevate offers insured benefits ranging from $3.5 million to $12 million with accidental death and dismemberment ranging from $3.5 to $6 million. The premium is payable monthly and/or annually with the basic premium determined by the status of the applicant when applying for the policy. While persons still have to arrange a meet up with a Scotia advisor, Chong explained that the future plan as part of the digital strategy is to allow for persons to be onboarded online. As one of the key architects of the product, Chong pointed out that payments can be at ATMs along with ad hoc payments to complement the desired needs of customers.

“There is one thing that the past two years has taught us. It is the importance of planning for uncertainty. Our vision is to support our customers to plan for every future and realise financial wellness by taking a 360-degree approach to your finances, savings, investments and of course, insurance,” said president and chief executive officer of SGJ Audrey Tugwell Henry at the launch.

Tugwell Henry announced that SGJ will be entering the general insurance market at its annual general meeting in March. Though she didn’t elaborate on when it would launch, she did note that they were awaiting clearance from the Financial Services Commission (FSC). There were six life insurance companies and 11 general insurance companies according to the FSC’s December 2021 quarterly update.

SJLIC contributed 10 per cent of SGJ’s revenue of $40.62 billion and 22 per cent to the group’s profit before tax (PBT) of $12.67 billion in 2021. SJLIC’s revenue for the first quarter rose by 35 per cent to $1.33 billion with its PBT growing by 51 per cent to $857.31 million.

SIJL launched its US dollar and Jamaican dollar Premium Short-Term Income Funds in January to complement its already existing suite of managed funds. However, the investment arm will be phasing out its Capital Management Account (CMA) at the end of October 2023 following a strategic review. Clients received the notice recently with the letter explaining that the advanced notice was given to allow clients to determine alternative investment solutions. If clients don’t make a decision by the end of the period, SIJL will redeem the investment and hold the cash proceeds in trust for the interim.

The CMA is an interest bearing tool used for investment of funds to meet liquidity needs with funds invested secured by investments including mutual funds, term deposits, investment grade corporate bonds and certificates of deposits. The interest earned was subject to withholding tax with the effective yield paid monthly in arrears. The CMA account last underwent a review in March 2021.

The Bank of Nova Scotia (Jamaica) Limited (BNSJ), the commercial banking arm of SGJ, phased out its ScotiaLine and ScotiaLine Gold products in mid 2021 following a strategic review. This was an approved line of credit that gave users instant access to credit and allowed them to borrow as often as they wished. The interest rate was 15.75 per cent with lower rates if secured by other assets.

The product phase out came amidst BNSJ writing off $5.30 billion in loans in 2021. The bank postponed its fee hike to the end of July following backlash by the public about fee increases in January. It expanded its payroll account to allow any customer earning less than $100,000 to open the account. These accounts have no minimum balance fees and no POS nor ATM fees.

BNSJ has reduced the lower band on the interest rates offered on its auto loans since May 2020 at 8.15 per cent to 7.00 per cent on new cars. The unsecured loan rate also decreased from 17.75 per cent to 16.49 per cent over the same time frame. Tugwell Henry told the Business Observer on Tuesday that there was no general announcement on increasing interest rates at this time. The Bank of Jamaica’s MPC committee meets on Thursday to decide if it will change its policy rate from the current 4.50 per cent.

BY DAVID ROSE Observer business writer

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