Bonaire) Guardian Group: Securing the Future

As one of the biggest insurance companies in the Caribbean region, the Guardian Group has been providing its customers peace of mind and an easy life by insuring and securing their properties, assets, and their financial future for over 171 years. Now, the market leader has made it its mission to help implement and ensure pension plans on Bonaire. That is, if the Bonairean and Dutch government will finally issue decrees that will force employers on Bonaire to offer their employees pension schemes. 

Start small merge fast
What started out as a small branch office of Standard Life of Edinburgh, Scotland in Trinidad in 1847, became the Caribbean insurance giant by merging with other insurance companies and acquiring shareholdings and portfolios throughout the Caribbean. Bonaire was added to the list when Guardian Holding Limited (GHL) cemented its roots in the Dutch Caribbean by the acquisition of the Fatum Holding NV, owner of the Fatum Group in the former Netherlands Antilles. GHL and all its subsidiaries rebranded as Guardian Group in 2013. Although the companies in the group are allowed to remain separate legal entities, this single brand unified them under one banner and gave them all the same new identity. Guardian Group’s small office in Bonaire is headed by manager
Yvonne Badloe. Together with two colleagues, a small firm of insurance brokers, and the back office support of Guardian Curacao she manages all the insurances and mortgages the Guardian Group has to offer on Bonaire. Since she has been working for what used to be Fatum for almost 25 years now, she knows all her customers by name and can tell you exactly what kind of insurance they have. Due to all these different people and subsequently their different demands and wishes her job never gets boring.

As an all-round insurance expert, she gives advice, explains the rules and always tries to find the best solution for her customers. Putting the costumer in the center like that and seeing the world through his or her eyes in order to become the customer’s preferred choice in financial planning and insurance is totally in line with the company’s mission, vision, and core values mentioned on the website. The fact that the Aruban wing of the company wants to help Bonaire with the introduction of a general and compulsory pension for all employees who are not yet covered by a pension scheme fits right in. Moreover, as director Jacques van der Scheer explains, the Aruban Guardian Group started the discussion about pension schemes 15 years ago and assisted the government of Aruba in its implementation of a mandatory pension in 2012.

A new Mission
Bonaire has a population of 19,549 (Statistics Dutch Caribbean, 2018). More than a quarter (5,274) of the inhabitants are 55 years or older and thirty to forty percent of these elders are living below the poverty line because they only have the fixed monthly income for elderly people (AOV) of USD 593. Taking into account that research (Regioplan and Nibud) has shown that a single person needs an income of at least USD 1.100 to make a decent living, the population is ageing, and the fact that pension schemes are not mandatory in Bonaire growing old without pension arrangements is actually a financial disaster and cause for severe economic downfall. In that light a Bonairean Pension Act would only seem fair and by no means a luxury.

According to director van der Scheer the current situation on Bonaire is comparable to the one in Aruba six years ago. To resolve pension-related problems the Aruban government stepped in and took three measures. First of all, they decreed a mandatory pension plan for all. Secondly, they raised the minimum retirement age from 60 to 65 with effect from 1 January 2015. Third, they revised the Aruban civil servant’s Pension Fund (APFA). The last two measures are not really relevant for Bonaire, because the retirement age has already been gradually set at 65 and the financial prospects for the public sector’s Pension Funds (PCN) have improved. The first measure, however, a mandatory pension scheme for all, needs to be enacted into law before a company like the Guardian Group can send its experts to assist the government in its step by step implementation. “Just like a table won’t wobble when it has three legs, a stable and sustainable pension policy is built on three pillars: the AOV, a mandatory collective pension scheme in cooperation with the social partners, and individual tailor-made pension arrangements”, clarifies the director. “The power of the Aruban Guardian Group-team is its knowledge, expertise and experience, because we’ve already done this on a large scale. We’ve organized meetings for many Aruban companies and their employees, for example, to explain the ins and outs of a pension scheme. We have given all the necessary information and made it understandable on all levels. And we can and are willing to do the same for Bonaire. So we can make it our mission, share our experience and help implement a mandatory collective pension, if the Bonairean government will see it through.”Of course there will be employers who will resist and oppose the plans by arguing that the costs of doing business will increase even more. A mandatory pension plan, however, will not only secure their future as well but will also ensure that more than a quarter of the population will be able to keep on using and buying their products and services. Therefore, contributing to a collective pension scheme by both employees and employers might even benefit them on the long run.

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