As I compose my report to you, I am struck by what Argus has achieved during a time that defies all description. None of us expected that, midway through 2021, the world would still be in the throes of a pandemic – yet here we are.
Perhaps it’s the sheer enormity of Covid- 19’s continuing impact that heightens my gratitude for the manner in which every member of the Argus Group – from the Board to Management to each employee – worked to achieve the goals and objectives that we set for the year. As always, they’ve stayed true to our culture and our values.
While a first, a second, and then a third wave of infection paralysed the world, and demands for social justice echoed across the continents and fissures of inequity opened in so many of our institutions, Argus celebrated our 70th anniversary, implemented a new operating model, enabled meaningful health care reform, and embarked on bold plans for profitable growth.
However, we remain acutely focused on the world around us. On the social and economic upheaval of the past 12 months and how it impacted all of those around us. On Black Lives Matter and the increased focus on social injustice. On how far we still need to travel to achieve parity and inclusion.
We wouldn’t be true to our ‘everyone wins’ philosophy if building an inclusive company didn’t matter as much as building a profitable one. As we continue to execute our strategic plans, we’ve also embarked on our own journey to address inequity at Argus. This year we included targeted diversity and inclusion questions in our annual Employee Engagement survey and the honest and candid responses from our colleagues show that we still have work to do. As a result, I’m working with a Group-wide team of employees to ensure that recruitment and development policies, as well as other aspects of working at Argus, are truly inclusive and equitable – where every opinion is encouraged and valued, and everyone feels safe in speaking up.
It’s an iconic Bermuda institution that, during its 71-year history, has cemented its reputation as a caring employer and health care provider.
Making sure everyone wins
Because of Argus’ sound growth strategy and now 71-year heritage, we have been able to adapt quickly to the seismic economic and societal shifts of the past year. Nothing deterred us – not even a global pandemic – from our goal of building a global profitable, sustainable company that puts people at the heart of every decision we make.
We delivered attractive net earnings of $10.1 million, declared dividends of $3.9 million with a dividend yield of 5.9 percent.
For our shareholders, we delivered attractive net earnings of $10.1 million, and declared dividends of $3.9 million with a dividend yield of 5.9 percent, resulting in a dividend yield of 4.2 percent based on the closing share price as of March 31, 2021. Our share price has climbed to a high of $5 over the period, better reflecting the value of our business. We also intensified our focus on providing clear and frequent communications so that current and potential shareholders and investors understand and are excited by our plans.
For our customers, our ongoing investment in digitisation helped us to provide better, more customised service for our health care and wealth management clients. Our impressive market growth in Europe, coupled with our high retention and expansion of product offerings to existing clients in Bermuda, has reinforced our reputation for being a client-centric company.
Our broad-based response to the global pandemic included rapid product development as well as financing measures to support our loyal clients through severe economic challenges. I’m particularly proud of how our team in Bermuda worked closely with clients during the annual health policy renewal process, extending a $5 million premium rebate to qualifying group and individual policyholders that reflected lower claims activity during the pandemic.
For our colleagues, our ongoing commitment to providing a highly engaging and rewarding workplace was underscored in our annual survey by 83 percent of our employees noting they were engaged and 80 percent would recommend Argus as a great place to work.
For the sixth consecutive year, these scores place Argus in the top five percent measured against the Decisionwise global benchmark of 30 million responses.
Our share price has climbed to a high of $5 over the period, better reflecting the value of our business.
or our communities, we continued to work with local partners to promote social and economic development. We care about the communities in which we do business and strive to maintain the relationships we’ve established in Bermuda, Canada, Malta and Gibraltar. In our ESG report, you will find examples of how we supported dozens of non-profit organisations and
the manner in which we have been, and will continue to be, a prominent and active government ally in the fight against COVID-19. We were at the forefront in our support of government-led vaccination programmes, deploying manpower, donating funds to make sure these critical initiatives were successful and providing pro-bono primary care.
Our Better Health Partnership
The acquisition of The Family Practice Group and Island Health Services is one of the developments in the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2021, that gave me the greatest satisfaction.
Through the acquisition of these two Bermuda-based medical practices in June 2020, as well as the acquisition of One Team Health, our Canadian-based care and network management business, we have created a truly unique healthcare ecosystem focused on delivering quality integrated health care solutions that encourage healthy outcomes while managing health cost inflation and over-utlilisation of treatments. As David said, we are shifting the health care paradigm from sick care to health care, from illness to wellness, from treatment to prevention.
We call this triumvirate of insurance/health care/case management our Better Health Partnership. By aligning insurance and health care, we aim to make quality care more affordable to more people.
In the intervening months since the acquisition, we’ve moved quickly to integrate the practices into the Argus Group, seeing that operating efficiencies as well as our intensified focus on wellness, are having a positive impact on patients and clients.
Global growth; regional autonomy
The fiscal year that ended March 31, 2021, proved that our new operating model, which created a global and regional construct, is effectively and efficiently enabling the delivery of the short and long-term plans we have in place.
While some centralisation is necessary in a company operating across legislative and regulatory jurisdictions, the markets we do business in, and the products and services we offer in those markets, suit a more decentralised approach to running our different businesses. The reports from Argus Americas Chief Executive Pete Lozier and Argus Europe Chief Executive Tyrone Montovio, detailing the impressive progress made in these two regions, underscore the value of empowering our teams.
While Argus Americas’ signature achievement was the Better Health Partnership, Argus Europe continued to implement plans for the region’s growth and diversification through product and distribution development. A key aspect of this planning was the work done in Malta to prepare for the merger of two local brokerages. During the fiscal year of 2022, these two businesses – Island Insurance Brokers Limited and FirstUnited Insurance Brokers Limited – will merge to form the largest and fastest growing broker in Malta. This merger is very much part of our intention to leverage our existing broking capabilities in the Maltese market to further diversify, expand and strengthen our international presence in Europe. Our goal is to become a professional, customer-obsessed, digitally enabled, risk advisory broker in existing and new markets.
Thank you, Sheila
Before I close, I must join David in extending gratitude and appreciation to Sheila Nicoll for all that she has contributed to Argus. I have personally benefited from Sheila’s calm counsel and unfailing support, and Argus is the greater for having had her at the helm for the past decade.
In honour of her legacy, I am pleased to announce the establishment of the Sheila Nicoll Argus Award. This award, for a period of up to three years, will provide financial assistance to a student who is pursuing an undergraduate degree in a relevant field of study. More details will be outlined when we formally launch the scholarship in April 2022. In the meantime, we’re delighted that we have the opportunity not only to honour Sheila but to also demonstrate our enduring commitment to the communities in which we do business and to their future. Throughout our wonderful company, it is our people who make Argus the exuberantly resilient place that it is. During an impossibly difficult year, everyone at Argus worked tirelessly to do the right thing, the right way, for our shareholders, our customers, our clients and our communities – ensuring that everyone wins – all with authenticity, empathy and a strong sense of belonging. Whilst we yearn to work face to face again, the people-centric culture we’ve built and cherish shows through.
I am humbled by my colleagues’ work ethic, inspired by their innovation and creativity, and forever grateful to serve beside them and with them. A sincere and heartfelt thank you to them all – for what they do and what they will continue to do, each and every day.