Leathon Khan started his career in banking in Jamaica in 1980. The unexpected opportunity was presented to him by his Economics teacher back in the sixth form, while he was studying for his A-levels. Even then, Leathon knew without a doubt his future would be rooted in the financial sector, and he didn’t hesitate to jump at the opportunity. As soon as he finished school, he left home and moved in with family friends who lived in Kingston, Jamaica to begin his new career.
His path deviated to insurance as interesting opportunities presented themselves in the industry. He’s worked with Life of Barbados (Trinidad); as the Underwriting Manager at Western General Insurance Co. (Trinidad); with Eagle Insurance Brokers (Jamaica); as Managing Director of Agostini Insurance Brokers, and with EC Global Insurance Co. Ltd. as CEO and, later, as a consultant. He is presently the General Manager and Principal Representative for Sagicor Life Inc.
HOW DID YOU START YOUR CAREER?
LEATHON: All my life as a student in high school, I wanted to be a bank manager. That was just where my focus was. My first job was with the National Commercial Bank in Halfway Tree, Kingston, Jamaica. I worked there for two years and then I decided it was time to go to university. Working at NCB opened the door for me to truly pursue a career in banking. After two years at the bank I applied to the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus) to pursue a degree in Management Studies. While attending UWI I went back to the bank to work during Christmas break and summer vacations. There was an understanding that after I graduated from UWI, I would return to the bank as a Management Trainee, to fulfill my dreams of being a banker. When that time came, however, my plans changed. I got married one week after my final exam and decided to take off to Trinidad in 1986 with the hope of getting into banking but I was not able to secure a job in any of the banks there.
It took me a few months before I got the next closest thing, which was in life insurance. I thought, well okay, it’s still financial services. I accepted the job and my insurance career began shortly after. I’ve remained faithful to insurance ever since and have had the rare opportunity to head-up an insurance broking firm, a general insurance company and, currently, a life insurance company, all in the same territory.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE?
LEATHON: Managing people. Managing the expectations of people, including customers. This insurance business is not one that is really understood by the public. You have to really educate your clients and get them to understand that, just because you have ‘comprehensive’ insurance on your car, does not mean every single thing is covered. The word comprehensive is a bit of a misnomer.
I’d say managing relationships and expectations of people can be a challenge but those are challenges you can easily overcome if you know how to relate to people. One of the things I’ve learnt over the years is to build good relationships with people generally, and my clients. I’ve experienced my share of personal tribulations as well but, if you are stubbornly determined and grounded in the belief that “this too shall pass”, then you will pull though, by the grace of God.
TELL US ABOUT SAGICOR.
LEATHON: For 177 years Sagicor has been a provider of insurance services in the Caribbean. The company has evolved over the years to become the leading indigenous financial services company in 22 countries throughout the Caribbean region, Latin America and the USA. At Sagicor we are guided by a philosophy and a business strategy focussed on establishing enduring and meaningful relationships with all our customers, investors and employees, as well as the communities in which we operate. We aim at improving the lives of the people in the communities we serve.
We do this through very well-crafted insurance products and services, wise financial thinking, prudence in governance and a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility. This is what has made us the great company that we are today. We remain committed to providing the Saint Lucian public and customers across all markets we serve, with pathways to a secure financial future.
PLEASE EXPAND ON THE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES.
LEATHON: Our main products and services include Life Insurance solutions: endowment plans, term life, whole life, group life and health, disability, pension products, limited underwriting plans; investments: Sagicor mutual funds; retirement planning; home ownership: mortgages; money management; financing: loans, lease financing, deposit investments; General Insurance solutions: property and casualty.
HOW IS SAGICOR KEEPING PACE WITH THE GLOBAL INSURANCE MARKET?
LEATHON: Sagicor leads the way throughout the Caribbean in embracing new and emerging technologies to drive our business growth and expansion. Through a robust digital marketing strategy, we can digitally transform our relationship and engagement with our clients by getting closer to them. By utilising mobile technology and social medial platforms, we can converge our many interactions and communication with our customers, and particularly millennials.
Global financial markets are trending towards digital platforms at a very rapid pace as these are the new tools being used to construct and sustain a dominant market position. We at Sagicor recognize that a robust digital marketing strategy is critical to maintaining our place in the insurance world.
HOW WILL LIFE INSURANCE EVOLVE LOCALLY?
LEATHON: Life insurance generally has been very slow in evolving with some of the social changes that have been taking place. Our society has been rapidly evolving, with new technologies and lifestyles, and things just moving at a more rapid pace. These developments bring with them new risk exposures and additional concerns for security and protection in various forms. The future of insurance is strong. People are entering the work force while foreign and domestic investments remain on-going. Once society is progressing, there’s a need for insurance. The Caribbean’s recent catastrophic weather experiences have also generated a greater awareness among Saint Lucians about the importance of insurance, and I expect society as a whole will come to appreciate it more.
WHAT LESSONS CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS YEAR’S HURRICANE SEASON?
LEATHON: The region and its people face tremendous risk exposure challenges ahead. Our vulnerability to natural disasters is real, and we all have seen over the last couple of months how destructive and disruptive weather disturbances can be.
If we accept the findings of various disaster risk models that the frequency and intensity of wind storms in the Caribbean will increase, then this should drive every right-thinking person to seek out insurance protection as much as they can.
Insurance remains the most effective and cost-efficient way to manage the risks we face. Despite this, the penetration of general insurance protection, or the extent to which people insure, remains relatively low. Unfortunately, the price and availability of general insurance is likely to be adversely affected going forward. This only raises further concerns as to whether our people in the region will be able to access the insurance protection they will so badly need.