Colombian insurance firm Bolivar is achieving growth through international expansion and social responsibilty
Seguros Bolívar S.A is a Colombian insurance company. Founded in 1939, it entered a market which at the time had only international insurance companies. It originally focused on personal insurance, and later expanded its market presence with general insurance, establishing Seguros Comerciales Bolívar in 1948. Today, Seguros Bolivar S.A continues to offer personal insurance, including life, health, workers’ compensation and annuities. Seguros Comerciales Bolívar SA, protects property of individuals, commerce and industry, offering fire, earthquake, homeowners’, auto and transportation insurance, to mention just a few.
Currently, Seguros Bolívar is Colombia’s second-largest personal insurance company, with a 15.1 percent market share of premiums, while Seguros Comerciales Bolívar is the ninth-largest general insurance company, with a 5.8 percent market share. As of June, 2010, earnings of both companies reached a total of $34.07m and their consolidated equity is $445m.
One of the companies’ recent growth strategies is based on international expansion. Beginning in 1997, they entered other regional markets, beginning with mass marketing through local subsidiaries. Breaking with traditional investment paradigms, Seguros Bolívar chose to manage operations by working with local strategic allies who offered knowledge of and a position in a market, either by purchasing stock or establishing partnerships.
Seguros Bolívar began activities in Venezuela in 1997, in association with Oriental de Seguros, offering transportation and automobile insurance. It later expanded into group life, payroll deduction plans, bancassurance and workers’ compensation. In Ecuador, Seguros Bolivar has maintained a partnership with Seguros Colonial since 1999, providing life insurance through covenants, payroll deduction and bancassurance. In 2008, Seguros Bolivar, in association with Oriental de Seguros, founded Eastern Pacific Insurance Company (EPIC), which currently offers automobile, health, and homeowners’ insurance, as well as bonds. Seguros Bolivar is currently opening activities in Costa Rica, where it seeks to fully replicate Seguros Bolivar’s Colombian model. Bolívar Costa Rica will be a lean, commercially-oriented organisation with a niche model focused on personal insurance.
The companies have also expanded through bancassurance, offering insurance directly to retail bank customers, through Banco Davivienda, which is part of the same economic group. Banco Davivienda is Colombia’s third-largest in assets; through the bank, the Bolívar insurance companies offer a protection portfolio to families and businesses, including fire, earthquake, life, fraud, and property insurance, as well as workers’ compensation.
Brand positioning is another important Seguros Bolívar strategy. In fact, the company is in its seventh consecutive year as Colombia’s “Top of Mind” in insurance, according to Invamer-Gallup studies. In 2009, Seguros Bolívar was ranked 20th in the Monitor Empresarial de Reputación Corporativa (MERCO) study which evaluates Colombia’s top 100 companies.
The companies always take care of their customers and seek to exceed their expectations. As a result, the Asociación Iberoamericana de Relaciones Empresa Cliente (AIAREC), which exalts human interaction as a competitive differential in service through promotion of company-customer relations, recognised Seguros Bolívar as the company with the best customer experience in Colombia and Latin America in 2009.
Another important achievement is the companies’ environmental certification − ISO 14001:2004. Awarded by SGS Colombia Signature, it recognises voluntary initiatives undertaken to achieve environmental improvements in processes and products. Seguros Bolivar is also certified in Quality System Process Management ISO 9001: 2008, and in Occupational Health and Safety Specification, OHSAS 18001: 2001.
Thanks to the staff’s commitment, process design and management systems, Seguros Bolívar won Colombia’s National Award for Excellence and Innovation in Management 2009-2010. This award is aligned with national productivity and competitiveness policies, and rewards excellent management practices with national and international recognition.
These achievements are facilitated in part by the companies’ humanistic approach, as evidenced by the group’s principles and ethical values. Internally, the companies which make up the business group refer to themselves as “the Bolivar family”. Indeed, the corporate culture has been and continues to be a key differentiator in the companies’ daily activity. Corporate culture proclaims the vital importance of people who make up the companies, and significance of their daily actions. Principles underlying corporate culture are respect, honesty, justice and discipline. Ethical values include loyalty; perseverance; enthusiasm, joy and good humour; a sense of engagement and pride, and professionalism. Corporate values – which focus on increased profits and equity growth − include generation of value, service and social commitment.
The Bolivar family considers social responsibility a matter of business ethics. In accordance with its mission, vision, principles and values, the entire organisation works to ensure sustainability of the group’s companies, as well as to build a better society and nation. Thus, social responsibility transcends obligatory, contractual, economic, legal and duties arising from each business’ activities and processes.
Seguros Bolívar has been recognised for its leadership in the insurance industry through active participation as a founding member of FASECOLDA, the Colombian insurance association. Also, as a result of their prudent and successful risk management strategies, the companies have made strategic alliances with world-renowned reinsurers, and also actively participate with other insurance companies in Colombia as coinsurers. For these and many other reasons, we affirm that Seguros Bolívar is an industry leader.
The organisation has been active in national meetings with FASECOLDA, AMV – the national values market regulatory entity – and Colombia’s national Superintendency of Corporations – another regulatory agency.
Internationally, Seguros Bolívar has participated in the OECD’s Latin American Corporate Governance Roundtable.