As I assume the responsibility of leading the SURA Business Group from the holding company, starting this April, I share with you some reflections on the stage that we are now starting as an Organization and, in particular, on the challenges we face due to the COVID 19 pandemic and its multiple economic and social impacts in the world.
First of all, it is time to remember the long-term vision that has historically guided this Organization and that will continue to be key in our growth path, based on the accumulated knowledge on topics such as risk assessment and capital allocation. Today, more than ever, we are aware that the measures taken by companies must contribute to overcome the situation, but, above all, they must put people at the center, collect learning and strengthen the foundations for sustainable growth. These matters have been and will continue to be at the core of our Organization and its way of acting.
We reiterate the importance of the role of our Companies, to be together with each one of the clients in moments of volatility and uncertainty. This value generating presence materializes in a financial system that supports the population in circumstances such as those we are experiencing today; in managing trends and risks, with the capacity for anticipation demanded by the world and its change dynamics; and in the professional management of assets and investments, as well as in the development of savings instruments and sustainable social protection systems that focus on caring for people.
OUR RESPONSE TO THE SITUATION
In this context, I want to highlight the commitment and management that Grupo SURA’s portfolio companies are undertaking today to face the current environment, new and challenging for everyone, contributing to the solution, activating their continuity plans and keeping their strategy clear.
First of all, preserving employment and people’s wellbeing has been one of our priorities. Today more than 90% of Suramericana and SURA AM employees in Latin America, and 100% of the employees at the holding company, are working remotely, facilitating preventive isolation. Likewise, all protection measures have been taken with those who perform sensitive functions for the continuity of the service or processes in physical locations.
Strengthening remote channels and digital tools has been key to facilitating customer access, which today especially requires guidance support and valuable solutions to the situation.
It’s especially relevant the role of SURA insurance companies in Colombia in the health sector, which contribute to containing and mitigating the health emergency, in coordination with the authorities. Part of the actions with which we contribute to the solution are the capacity expansion for assistance and services, including a greater number of healthcare professionals (who today number about 10,000 people), as well as the implementation of virtual care technology (with more than 9,000 daily attentions) and sample taking in company-owned IPS (healthcare centers), at clients’ homes and in drive thru facilities.
We also understand that contributing to maintaining economic dynamics is essential. In accordance with the conditions of each company and the market environment, measures are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis to mitigate economic impacts in commercial teams, such as the case of SURA AM, and special plans for payment to suppliers, with emphasis on SMEs. Likewise, in Suramericana, policy underwriting frameworks have been made more flexible and actions have been implemented to simplify processes, speed up response to claims and extend deadlines for payment of premiums.
This has also been a time when savings and investment products become particularly relevant for customers, as a mechanism to mitigate the economic effects of the crisis. In the same way, we understand that the exceptional measures taken to dispose of some of the savings instruments improve the liquidity of people and their ability to face the current situation. We reiterate, in any case, the importance of them being exceptional actions so as not to affect the long-term savings guaranteed by social protection.
As a complement to business operations, we have provided extraordinary resources from the Companies and the SURA Foundation that seek to strengthen the capacities of hospitals and medical supplies, and support families whose income is affected, which translates into an initial contribution of close to COP 9,000 million, in addition to the solidarity to which thousands of SURA employees in the region have joined.
Of course, we are aware of the importance of maintaining the necessary financial strength and liquidity at the present time. We believe that the dynamics that the operations bring, as well as the financial strategy that the Group has followed, including the optimization of the portfolio in recent years and the decisions of capital allocation, place us in an adequate position.
Naturally in this scenario, the year will be impacted by lower economic dynamics and by its effects on employment, demand, market behavior and global growth. Quantifying the impact on business still requires waiting for the evolution of the pandemic to establish its depth and final scope. This invites us, however, to insist on the relevance of maintaining a long-term strategy: the response to this situation allows us to renew the trust of customers and citizens in the way that Grupo SURA’s Companies face these moments, evidencing their value proposition.
We know that we must adapt to very complex environments, but I sincerely believe that we have the knowledge, talent, corporate governance and organizational strength to face them and emerge stronger. We have a team capable of working in uncertainty, volatility and responding to the speed that the environment demands of us today.
I assume this personal and professional challenge from my absolute commitment to a purpose in which I believe and for which I have worked for 38 years in this Organization: to create well-being and sustainable development for people, organizations and society. Likewise, we will make every effort so that my learning and experiences, added to the demonstrated capacity of our human talent, allow us to make the best decisions for people, companies, shareholders and the countries in which we are present.
GONZALO ALBERTO PÉREZ
CEO - Grupo SURA