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Zanoni Selig

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Finance

Head Strong

CEO & Chairman, WorldWide Group

Bio

Zanoni Selig is the founder and CEO of the insurance holding WorldWide Group. He was born in New York City in 1961. He started his career working for the Royal Bank of Canada in the Dominican Republic while attending college. In 1982 he earned his BA degree in Economics. After graduation he founded the insurance broker company Selig & Asociados. This company reached a leading position in the field of personal insurance intermediation market. By 1992, he had established a general agency representing top insurance companies from the United States of America, becoming one of the top sellers in the Latin America region.Zanoni Selig has been the CEO of the company since its foundation and also serves as chairman of the WorldWide Group Board.

WorldWide Group is a leader in international health insurance with a 70% market share. What factors led the company to establishing such a remarkable position in only 15 years? WorldWide […]

WorldWide Group is a leader in international health insurance with a 70% market share. What factors led the company to establishing such a remarkable position in only 15 years?

WorldWide Group specializes in major medical plans, which differ considerably from local insurance. Normally, in the Dominican Republic, the problem is that most of the market players are major US or European companies that normally sell offshore and local companies don’t have a critical mass in order to compete with them. We have reached this position in 15 years, because we don’t really have local competition and we focus on major medical plans. We cover up to $2 million per person. We have hundreds of clients in order to do business like this. I think that our work fights against a paradigm. People have a tendency to think that this kind of insurance is something that has to be bought from big names; however, they have started to realize that WorldWide has the same products and the same kind of service and coverage, which is the reason why we have reached this position. It is something that we did in Panama, in the Dominican Republic, and something that we can do in every country.

What impact do the free trade agreements (FTAs) with the US and the EU have on the overall international health insurance sector in the Dominican Republic, and how does WorldWide compete with the international insurers?

FTAs have an impact, which in our case is a positive one. I personally think that the barriers that countries put up in the economy are not good. I am convinced that businesses need to be free and compete with each other. In our case, we may not compete with local companies, but our competitors are large international companies. We sell the same products but at better prices, and people focus on prices. We can compete with mid-size international companies. I don’t see any problem with that, as I see competition as a good thing.

How have WorldWide’s regional operations evolved over the few last years, and what have been the company’s major milestones in 2014?

We have evolved our business model. WorldWide employs two different methods when entering a market. One of them is direct, such as in the case of the Dominican Republic and Panama. We have an insurance license, and we sell directly and through brokers, which is something we are extremely successful in doing. Our other entry method is through reinsurance. In some markets, it is better for us to enter via an indirect way. An example of this would be Guatemala, which we will open through this way in January 2015. In Guatemala, we will work with a Guatemalan company that will sell our products and are reinsured by WorldWide. These are the two different entry methods that we use in order to cover the region.

What is your expansion strategy, and what other countries, besides Guatemala, is WorldWide planning to enter?

We plan to expand into Costa Rica, which is different from the other countries because it used to have an insurance monopoly for many years, and people there know little about competitive insurance. In this case, it is a promising market and we will enter it indirectly by reinsuring a Costa Rican company.

What trends do you see in demand for the international health insurance in the Dominican Republic?

The exciting trend is in the health sector, where people are looking for treatment outside the country. We have many rich and upper-middle class Dominicans who normally go to the US looking for better treatment; however, there are many lower middle-class people or people that due to their work can’t have private insurance in the US. They are looking for health treatment outside the US in places such as India, Colombia, and Chile. There are many people in the US traveling to India in order to have surgeries. Another interesting change has been the development taking place in the countries we cover. In developing countries, most people think about insurance because they have something to protect and they realize it is important.

What is the importance of the partnership with the German Investment and Development Company (DEG) for your company’s development?

WorldWide was founded in 1999, and at that time our partner was a local bank, BHD—a prestigious institution in the Dominican Republic. However, we needed a partner that can go with us throughout the entire region. DEG was created 50 years ago with an aim to invest in the private sector and in companies that promote the development of emerging markets. We are a company that has to invest part of our reserves in our countries, and we, of course, have competitors that sell offshore. DEG realized that this was an excellent investment in order to help develop the economy of the Dominican Republic and Panama.

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