In this exclusive iPMI Magazine interview, Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Global, met with Sheldon Kenton, Group Chief Executive Officer, Global Benefits Group. They discussed in detail the future development of Global Benefits Group, recent acquisitions, and the role of Further Global in the brand.
Please introduce yourself and background in the international private medical insurance market:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with iPMIM. I recently moved into a new position as Group Chief Executive Officer of Global Benefits Group, after an almost 25-year career in the global health and insurance segment. I was most recently the President & CEO of GeoBlue, the joint venture in the United States between BUPA and the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Organization. At the same time, I served as Managing Director of Bupa Global. Prior to joining Bupa in 2016 I had a long career at Cigna Global spanning roles responsible for its business in Europe, the Middle East and Asia as well as latterly Chief Commercial Officer for Cigna Global North America with functional global responsibility for sales.
November 2018 and private equity firm Further Global Capital Partners and affiliates (“Further Global”) acquired insurance organization Global Benefits Group for 132M USD. How hands on are Further?
Further Global is a long-term, financial investor that seeks to build value in its portfolio companies over time. Further Global understands the insurance market and the opportunities and challenges that we face. Like any investor, it seeks to monitor its investment; however, the team at Further Global allows the management team to run the business as it sees fit, providing support and counsel as needed.
Further Global wants to help grow Global Benefits Group. How are they doing that?
Further Global is very supportive of GBG initiatives. It understands the capital that is required to grow in our core IPMI markets and has been willing to provide the capital necessary to allow us to improve our operations and talent. Should the right fit become available, the Further Global team is also willing to provide capital for an acquisition or other opportunity that supports our strategy. It showed this willingness when providing capital for our acquisition of Clifford Allen Associates in 2020.
Which countries does Global Benefits Group have a physical presence in?
Through our own offices and other relationships GBG has a presence in United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Guernsey, and Thailand. We also have administrative and operational capabilities in India, Mexico, Serbia, South Africa, and the Philippines.
Does Global Benefits Group plan to open more locations, and if so, where?
Our aim is to be present in the places that are important to existing clients and customers and/or which give us an opportunity to grow and serve more customers. We are constantly reviewing our global locations and operations to find these new opportunities. At this point, I don’t see any obvious gaps, but I am ambitious for the Group, and I am sure that will drive further geographic expansion over time.
November 2020 and Global Benefits Group acquires Clifford Allen. How is the acquisition panning out and will the Clifford Allen name remain?
The acquisition of CAA was completed in 2020. Over the course of the last 2 years, we have worked diligently to integrate significant parts of the operation while leaving in place the personnel and processes that have established CAA as a clear leader in the student insurance market for private secondary schools for over 30 years. The 2022/2023 Academic year saw very strong retention (99%+) of existing clients while also experiencing the largest addition of new business in over 5 years. Moving forward, we are excited about further enhancing the customer service and product experience through enhanced systems, product design and customer support. All of these efforts will continue under the CAA brand given its strong brand recognition and stellar reputation in the segment it serves. Nonetheless, we will take steps, as we review marketing collaterals etc to underscore the fact that CAA is very much a part of the GBG Group, and I am very pleased that it is!
Back in 2016 Global Benefits Group entered the insurance market in Jamaica. How is that going?
As a Lloyd’s Coverholder, GBG entered the Jamaica Trinidad & Tobago, and Puerto Rico markets in 2016. Since then, we have had profitable year-over-year growth within the Caribbean. Most recently, to add to our already comprehensive suite of products, we launched Global Choice Plus, a competitive individual international health product. Finally, to round out our product offering within the Caribbean, we will be launching a corporate group health product called Professional Plus, and Travel 360 Plus, an individual travel health product. These two products are expected to be launched later this year.
Global Benefits Group has a partnership with AXA. Can you walk us through what that partnership involves?
GBG’s relationship with AXA is multi-facetted and very exciting. AXA provides both reinsurance support for GBG and a locally admitted insurance company where admitted contracts are required in a specific jurisdiction. In the latter scenario, generally speaking, GBG provides the product and administration (including assistance etc), and we work collaboratively with AXA to provide underwriting and local insurance operation support. One of our more recent successes with AXA has been our collaboration in Mexico which is generating great results. Mexico is the biggest IPMI market in the LatAm region. Through our partnership with AXA Mexico, we launched two co-branded IPMI health products called Globalmex. GBG reinsures and fully administers and services these products that are distributed across Mexico. We have reached an accelerated sales pace with Mexico becoming the fastest growing country for GBG in the region. Since its launch in November 2018, Globalmex is one of the leading IPMI products within the country.
The past 2 years have been challenging for everyone. How do you see the iPMI market developing?
I remain very positive about the iPMI market. Whilst the last 2 years have indeed been challenging, I think one outcome has been the stark reminder that we do still live in an everchanging and unpredictable World and, as such, flexible, capable and reliable health insurance and protection is vital for the globally mobile and those generally living global lives. Although large, the iPMI market remains a complex, highly specialised niche that needs 100% focus from those that participate in it, and I think we have seen that recently with some high-profile market exits. So not only am I optimistic about the segment in general, I am extremely optimistic about the place that a dedicated, specialist provider such as GBG has within it. As always though, that will require dedication, innovation, and a laser focus on the complex and changing needs of the globally mobile.
Finally: if you could live anywhere in the world, on land or at sea, where would it be?
I have been very fortunate over a long career to have visited (and lived in) some amazing and vibrant parts of the World…and I hope to continue doing that for a good while to come. But whenever I get asked this question, I always have a simple and, probably boring, answer. For me the best place in the World to live is wherever my family is, and for me, that is my wonderful wife and two daughters.