Address by His Excellency the Most Honourable Patrick Allen, ON, CD at Guardian Life of Jamaica 9th Anniversary Awards Function at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel Tuesday March 3, 2009

I welcome this opportunity to address the management and staff of Guardian Life at this your ninth annual awards function. 

Over the years I have enjoyed a good relationship with the company and have always appreciated the quality service which you provide.  Based on my experiences, I am confident that Guardian Life has and will continue to extend the same courtesies to the wider Jamaica. 

My understanding is that today’s function is intended to recognize and honour employees from the administrative and sales divisions of the company, who have excelled in their professional and academic pursuits.  As we congratulate them on their achievements, we wish to also recognize their family members and colleagues whose work behind the scenes also contributed to their success. 

Seizing the Opportunity
The entry of Guardian Life Limited into the insurance industry ten years ago may have been regarded as an unwise move, given the challenges which the sector faced at the time.  But, as shrewd entrepreneurs, the leadership of the company no doubt undertook a careful and thorough due diligence and I am sure based on the results and a firm belief in the company’s ability to excel despite any obstacle, proceeded with an investment of $1.1 Billion. 

In an industry beset with difficulties in 1999, only an enormous amount of confidence and a strong commitment to providing excellent service to an increasingly discerning market could have made Guardian Life Limited interested in taking such a great risk.

That decision by Guardian Life Limited inspired hope in an industry where several of the major players faced financial ruin and clients were uncertain about the security of their investments.    It is that kind of hope and confidence in our abilities that I believe we should seek to rekindle in all Jamaicans.

Based on the success which Guardian Life has had in improving on an otherwise negative situation, I ask the question, cannot this model be replicated in the nation at large?  And, I throw out a challenge to you to determine what are the ways in which you can help to inspire hope, confidence and pride in Jamaica by Jamaicans.  

I made a bold and daring statement on the twenty-six of February:  I believe there is noting wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica. But to do that, we must recognize and acknowledge those things that are right about our country.   We must work to bring to the forefront of our national life, those morals, family values and positive attitudes that were the hallmark of our society and what will help us escape the predicament into which we have found ourselves as a nation. 

As a company involved in the business of life underwritingand providing health insurance, you must at some time have given consideration to the social challenges which the country face and contemplated the long term impact on your business portfolio.  You would have realized that the health of Jamaica; social, moral, spiritual and otherwise, has implications even for the wealth of your company. 

It would seem therefore that you would be willing partners in the transformation that is necessary in Jamaica.  We may start simply by helping Jamaicans believe in themselves and by inspiring them to achieve greatness.   As a good corporate citizen you can use your high profile image to help carry the message of ‘I believe’ far and wide across Jamaica, so that hope may be born and sustained in the heart of our youth, who now cannot see a clear and certain future. 

Incorporate I believe in your marketing campaign, in your collateral print material and in your discussions with Jamaica especially those with our young people.  It is they who we need to inspire now more than ever, as we seek to establish a solid base upon which to restore our country and build for the future. 

Benefits to the local economy

It is remarkable that the confidence which Guardian Life exhibited in 1999 and its $1.1 Billion investment in the local insurance industry has in ten years created employment for 659 persons and facilitated the establishment of ten branches in strategic locations across the island.  No doubt it is the same entrepreneurial spirit that propelled the company to establish a branch in the Central American Country of Belize. 

By extending your client base, Guardian Life has realized greater returns on your initial investment and is better positioned to create a multiplier effect in the local economy.  This principle can be modeled and transferred to other areas of life in our country.

In the ten years since your establishment in Jamaica, Guardian Life has become an indomitable force to be reckoned with.  In 2002 the company settled a total of five hundred and twenty-nine point three million dollar (J$529.3 Million) in Annualized Premium Income.  This represented the highest amount ever underwritten by a single insurance company in the history of the insurance industry in Jamaica. 

This is a remarkable feat and the employees being recognized today no doubt played a crucial role in this achievement as well as the overall success you are experiencing.  You are therefore worthy recipients of the accolades that are being bestowed upon them for your hard work. 

What these achievements by Guardian Life demonstrate is that, we cannot always base our decisions only on what is apparent.  We must have faith to grasp the opportunities that present themselves and commit to a plan with the confidence that He who began a good work in you will see it to completion.  Even in the night of our deepest and darkest despair when even everything appears hopeless, that’s the time to redouble our efforts.  The recognition by management of a job well done will be even sweeter. 

Coping with the financial economic downturn
At this time of global economic downturn and the spectre of unemployment and financial hardships at both the national and individual level, we need to find sustainable means of providing for ourselves.  This is not the time to roll over and die.  It is the time for the creative genius which is indelibly ensconced in the failure of Jamaica to rise to the fore.  This is an opportunity for us to restore some of our indigenous industries and rely more on local products and services rather than on imported products. 

The multiplier effect of this will be the creation of more jobs, greatly reduced demand for foreign exchange and a gradual improvement in our economic situation. 

I believe as a country we have the capacity to grow ourselves out of the economic hardships that have beset us.  I know that we are a creative people with a tradition of hard work.  We need to recognize and utilize our talents wisely for the greater good of our country. 

Despite how deeply the country may be hurting from the financial downturn, this is not the time to ‘shutter up’ completely and ‘batten down’ so tightly that we cannot see the opportunities that lie before us in order to take advantage of them.  Even with the approach of a hurricane, disaster coordinators will tell us to leave a small opening for the wind to escape in order that our houses do not implode from the force of strong winds. 

Nature should not be regarded in abstract terms.  I believe we should apply the rules and laws of nature to our everyday lives if we want to restore ourselves and be as beautiful as Mother Nature after a shower of rain or severe weather. 

The way forward
Based on your achievements in a relatively short time, I have every reason to believe that Guardian Life Limited will continue grow stronger. Mr. Earl Moore strikes me as someone who is not afraid of a challenge and will identify creative ways of keeping the company financially secure despite the financial clouds that loom ahead. 

The success of your company is no doubt based on the core values of integrity, respect for self and others and a commitment to do well. This is of even greater importance in a sector that is as sensitive as the insurance industry.  By adhering to these values and principles and through your carefully planned and developed corporate structures, Guardian Life has set a solid foundation on which to grow in the years ahead. 

I am sure your success also has much to do with working together as a unit (story of hunters in African jungle…we killed the elephant.)

I encourage you to continue to place integrity, good customer service and professionalism at the forefront of your operations.  Make your clients feel that the company is all about them and always treat them with the utmost courtesy and respect.

I wish to congratulate Mr. Earl Moore, President and Chief Executive Officer of Guardian Life, for the strong leadership which he has provided the institution these past ten years. And, as a new wave of challenges looms on the horizon, I believe you will overcome, as you have already demonstrated that you can emerge stronger from any adversity. 

Again congratulations to those employees who appeared for recognition today and commend them for their hard work and commitment to Guardian Life. May you continue excel in everything that you do to improve your personal and professional and corporate life – God bless you.