THE leadership of Sagicor Jamaica and Guardian Life Jamaica have declined to comment on a spat chronicled in the Trinidad Express newspaper over health insurance for the NCB Financial Group (NCBFG).
NCBFG, of which Guardian Holdings is a subsidiary, decided recently to award the contract for health insurance coverage to competitor Sagicor Life Limited. The contract was previously held by Guardian Life.
Guardian Life is part of the Guardian Holdings group in which NCB acquired majority ownership in May 2019 when regulatory approvals were final.
NCB paid US$207 million to GHL shareholders who agreed to sell. The acquisition led to increased profitability subsequently, although the pandemic was to soon cause a slowdown in conglomerate growth.
Nadine Mathews, NCBFG chief digital and marketing officer, told the Jamaica Observer that she was not at liberty to share any contract details, and would not say more than what she stated in the Trinidad Express piece.
That comment, which she gave the Business Observer permission to use, was that “NCBFG is a public company with listed securities and it seeks to serve with integrity the interests of multiple stakeholder groups including customers, employees, and shareholders.
“Transactions across the group's subsidiaries are guided by policies, processes and guidelines that ensure we live up to these obligations,” the spokesperson said.
“This transaction involved the placement of health insurance for employees of NCBFG and its wholly owned subsidiaries (not all companies in our group).
“The total number of employees covered under this plan exceeds 2,000, and employees contribute 50 per cent of the premium.
The chief marketing officer said that the decision turned on price. “Price is accordingly an important factor for both NCB and our employees.
She also noted that the bidding process was competitive and transparently done.
“The process and outcome of this transaction, involving the consideration of competing proposals, is consistent with the standards we strive to uphold. This competitive process is undertaken every year, so next year we may retain the current provider or switch to Guardian Life Ltd, or another provider.”
Staff were advised earlier this year of the change in provider and told that required premiums would be less.
In the Trinidad Express newspaper, an unnamed staff member of Guardian was quoted as saying that the Sagicor proposal was unprofitable, and that, in light of this Guardian was likely to secure the contract, again in time.
The Business Observer invited Sagicor Group CEO Christopher Zacca and Guardian Life CEO Eric Hosin to shed light on the issue, but none took up the offer.
Nadeen Mathews Blair told the Business Observer, when asked about the gap in pricing, said, “We consider pricing details to be sensitive and confidential, especially as we come to negotiate periodically with bidders. These are generally not shared publicly.”