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INSURANCE| 06.06.2022

We are the pioneering global company in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica has undergone significant economic growth in recent years and is, together with Panama, one of the most developed nations in Central and Latin America. In the recent era of change which has been characterized by opening up to the global community, the insurance industry has also experienced a major transformation led by MAPFRE as the first private company in the country.

In 2008, Costa Rica ended the state monopoly on insurance, making it one of the last countries in Latin America and the Western world to open the door to the private sector in this area. This measure was one of the requirements for access to the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, which had been approved in a referendum by Costa Ricans a year earlier. In 2010, MAPFRE became the first private company to operate in the country after more than 80 years of exclusively state-run insurance.

The MAPFRE professionals who led the company in the early days of operation in Costa Rica say that the company was well received by brokers and insurance agents, as well as by the regulatory authorities and the business community, because of its capacity for innovation in products and coverage, its effective customer service, and the competence that a company with MAPFRE’s experience brings, on top of a model of lasting presence that had already been implemented in other countries in the region.

“In short, over the past 12 years we have been carving out the foundations of the company we are, transmitting MAPFRE’s principles and values, strengthening relationships with brokers, and consolidating our customers’ trust in us through the relentless work of our collaborators. We are looking forward to a future filled with opportunities to continue growing and offering an innovative, localized insurance solution that is committed to Costa Rican society,” says David Ramos, CEO of MAPFRE for Costa Rica.

Low insurance penetration, but higher revenue

MAPFRE is currently the fourth largest private insurer in Costa Rica, holding a 3.5% share in the most concentrated market in Latin America, where the state-owned insurer controls 65.6% of the total volume. Insurance penetration (ratio of premiums to GDP) in this Central American country is still low at 2.3% according to the latest data from MAPFRE Economics. This is below the average for Latin America (3.1%), a region that already has low insurance rates.

Nevertheless, because of its relatively high income levels, Costa Rica has among the highest per capita expenditure on insurance in Latin America at USD 282 per year. The weight of life business, meanwhile, is one of the lowest in Latin America, with a ratio of life premiums to total premiums of just 14.9%. This is less than half the Latin American average of 42.7%. These figures demonstrate that the insurance market in Costa Rica is still developing; however, when taken together with the country’s economic strength, they point to great potential for growth and good prospects for the sector.

A dual-axis economy

The Costa Rican economy spins on two axes. Tourism and agriculture (mainly bananas and other fruits) are the two main activities and are found along the coast and throughout the country’s peripheral areas. On the other hand, the Greater Metropolitan Area — the capital, San José, and three other nearby large towns — accounts for a large part of the country’s remaining economic activity. Located in the central valley, San José and the surrounding area is home to half of the population of this small country of 5.1 million and is where MAPFRE’s three offices are located.

Operating in all lines of general insurance, MAPFRE serves more than 220,000 individuals and some 1,400 companies and insures nearly 20,000 vehicles. MAPFRE Costa Rica employs 70 people, in addition to the 150 providers of medical care, auto, and home services. Together with the direct network, 45 agents, 180 brokers, and several financial institutions and intermediaries distribute its products, in addition to a range of other agreements in place.

Innovation and social impact, the pillars of MAPFRE’s operations

MAPFRE’s footprint in Costa Rica is closely linked to innovation. Take, for example, projects such as the partnership with Koa Health, a world leader in science-based online psychological care. With a model of effective and affordable solutions that aims to democratize access to mental health, Koa Health burst onto the scene in Costa Rica thanks to MAPFRE, forging a union that now looks to expand to the rest of Latin America.

The Group’s impact in Costa Rica also takes on a social component thanks to Fundación MAPFRE. Among its most important actions, it has worked with the National Rehabilitation Center to deliver state-of-the-art medical equipment to help patients with long-term effects of COVID-19 and spinal cord injuries recover. Fundación MAPFRE has also collaborated with Fundación DEHVI, a Costa Rican NGO that monitors the psycho-educational progress of children ages 0 to 5 and sends food packages to their families, as well as promotes home-based learning and provides parents with advice and teaching materials to complement their education.