35 Years Helping The People Of Argentina Protect Their Most Valued Assets
Javier Caamaño Malagón
These new initiatives are resulting in closer customer relationships in areas such as insurance for automobiles, homes, and companies. These are three of MAPFRE’s most popular lines of business in Argentina, with more than 200,000 vehicles and around 10,000 homes and 13,000 commercial premises now insured. Last year the company’s market share was 2.2%, which reflects one of the main characteristics of the insurance industry in Argentina, which is its low concentration. With 193 insurance companies operating in the market, it is the most atomized market in Latin America.
The figure for total insurance premium revenues in Argentina was USD 11.841 billion last year, which represents about 3% of the country’s GDP. Although the industry has seen growth during recent years, that percentage is slightly below the average for Latin America, which is generally a region with low insurance levels.
The origin of this situation is the episodes of economic instability that have characterized Argentina’s recent history. Decades of inflation rates with two, three, or even more digits, and frequent currency devaluations, have made it very difficult for the people of Argentina to spend and save, while also eliminating the kind of certainty that an industry such as insurance requires in order to grow. These economic difficulties are reflected, for example, in the very low weight of life insurance products in the total volume, at only 12.6%. This is because in a situation of instability, the people of Argentina have opted to insure their material assets, while avoiding options that require a more long-term perspective.
Of course, this phenomenon is not exclusive to the insurance industry – it can be seen throughout the finance sector. Recent studies by the country’s central bank show that 20% of the adult population do not have a bank account; many use it to receive their salary and withdraw money on the spot, while others opened an account for a specific transaction and have forgotten about it. This is a country where, in addition to chronic inflation and cyclical currency devaluations, people still remember the “corralito,” a process which forced many of Argentina’s residents to watch their bank savings disappear. It is therefore not too surprising that one of the most popular forms of saving is to buy U.S. dollars and stash them away at home.
MAPFRE has gone through all of these same phases in the country, while helping to mitigate the risks that the people of Argentina have faced. The company has never failed to come through on its obligations, even during the major crisis of 2001, that seriously affected most of the country’s financial system. Staying true to a philosophy that people all over the world have had to put into practice, but especially those in Latin America, the company overcame its difficulties, and not long after that critical time, in 2003, it doubled down on its confidence in Argentina, by launching a territorial expansion of its network of offices, until reaching the point where there are now 200 locations.
The company has more than 550 direct employees, approximately 4,300 intermediaries, and 2,200 providers (repair shops, electricians, towing vehicles, plumbers, etc.), all distributed across the entire country, from north to south and east to west. To give some indication of the size of that network of professionals, there is a distance of almost 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) between the MAPFRE office in Ushuaia, which is the world’s southernmost city, and its office in the capital city of the province of Jujuy in the foothills of the Andes. This is about the same distance that separates Madrid and Moscow.
MAPFRE has been achieving growth since its arrival in Argentina in 1986 based on its reputation for high quality services. Today, the company continues to add new customers. They have placed their trust in MAPFRE, and in turn, the company is responding to their needs by participating in the digital revolution. Throughout MAPFRE’s 35 years in Argentina, even during difficult economic times, the company has maintained its conviction that Argentina will continue to exhibit its great potential in the future.