Also attending the launch was his deputy, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo as well two Cabinet Ministers from the Cook Islands, Minister of Finance Mark Brown and Mr Minister of Trade and Investment Board, Kiriau Turepu. Also there were government officials, members of the Samoa delegations to the FEMM meeting, as well as members of the Cook Island business community including the three local banks.
FPI set up operation in Apia some 16 years ago, and according to general manager, Namulauulu Sami Leota, one of its long term goals set at the time was to extend their operations to neighboring Pacific countries.
“That’s why the company is called Federal Pacific Insurance, because we want it to be household name in the islands whenever they think of insurance”.
He said the goal was also in line with government challenges to the private sector to get out of their comfort zone and do business outside of Samoa. This followed FPI opening in Tonga in 2004.
“As the company continues to grow, we feel that in order for us secure and continue to do business with some of the major re-insurance companies in the world, we will need to have a physical presence in the centre of the insurance world, which is London. So in 2010, we opened our London office in Lloyds Avenue,” Leota said.
“So the FPI launch in the Cooks comes as no surprise as it has been our long term goal.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the FPI launch in the Cook Islands marked a remarkable achievement, demonstrating there was opportunity for Pacific companies to branch out and invest in other countries around the region.
“The establishment of Federal Pacific Insurance here sends a clear message that FPI, with the support of its strategic partners, is willing to take the risk and face competition head-on both at the local and regional level.
“For that, I must commend its Board, management and staff. I would like to make special mention of those local staff who have been directly involved in setting up this office.
It’s pleasing to note that employment will be created for locals as a result.”
Malielegaoi also acknowledged the tremendous support FPI had received from the government of the Cook Islands, particularly relating to granting all the necessary approvals to allow FPI to set up here as a legal entity.
“From experience, this can take months or even years if those in charge are not convinced such an investment is good for them. I commend the Minister of Finance, Mark Brown for that support”.
Malielegaoi said he had always challenged local businesses to get out of their comfort zone and start looking at expanding to other countries.
“The Samoan market is too small and if they want economies of scale they have to branch out to the neighbouring countries. Today we are witnessing a successful story of that drive.”
No doubt the insurance industry worldwide continues to face huge challenges brought about by uncertainties in the global financial system.
However the insurance industry in the Pacific has remained reasonably stable and robust.
As a business operating in a foreign environment, FPI is going to face mounting pressures and numerous challenges. It will not be smooth sailing for sure.
“My advice to you is provide the best service to your clients. Stay competitive ahead of your competitors, and make your customers feel important in the work you do,” Malielegaoi said.
“As well you must ensure that insurance products and services provide true value to the customers as these issues can easily bring an industry into disrepute.
“Maintaining and observing prudential standards and sound practices in managing insurance business is crucial in sustaining market confidence and stability of the industry.
“Fundamentally the insurance industry must be effective and efficient in building market confidence and in articulating and generating new ideas and services that would benefit the customers and the economy in general.
“You must continue to protect individuals, private businesses and public entities, from being adversely affected by external forces. Equally important, the integrity in the processing and payment of claims must be maintained at the highest level (of course, I am referring to genuine claims here).”
Brown said competition was good for business and it was great to see another insurance company come the Cook Islands so that the insuring public would have another alternative to choose from.
“You must support our local rugby competition, it’s your best marketing tool,” he quipped.
Malielegaoi wished the Federal Pacific Group all the best and offically opens its office. “I wish you success and that you will continue to provide the best service and products for the benefit of the people of Cook Islands and its economy in general”.