Freisenbruch-Meyer bucks the trend and hires more staff
Redundancies and lay-offs have become an all too familiar part of the current economic climate, but one local insurance company is bucking that trend.
The Freisenbruch-Meyer Group has announced six new appointments this month and has plans to expand its offices and take on more staff in the future.
In an interview with
The Royal Gazette, Freisenbruch-Meyer's president Michael Freisenbruch, vice-president and general manager, William Madeiros, and vice-president of insurance operations, Larry Osborne spoke about the company's performance over the past six months, trends in the industry and new product lines.
“It is a difficult economy, but having said that we are probably more inwardly-focused than some other companies, by which I mean we concentrate on what we do well and our strengths as a business,” said Mr Freisenbruch.
“We continue to find business reasons to expand and we have expanded our resources including continuing to hire good young Bermudians.
“Rather than attempting to contract in a contracting economy, our focus is on our clients and running a good business.”
Mr Freisenbruch said that the company was very proud to have been ranked the number one insurance company for customer satisfaction according to a survey conducted by Research Innovations in January 2011, with 80.8 percent of respondents saying they were 'very satisfied' with the service they received, as well as featuring in The Bottom Line magazine's Top 10 Employers That Stand Out In Bermuda Survey for the second year running.
He said that the business planned to expand into the ground floor of its premises starting in November, providing better access to its clients and more of a front facing operation as its flagship.
Mr Madeiros said that the recent launch of two new products - the executive and standard programmes - had proved a big success and the company would be producing an exit survey for all of its customer transaction next month and a 'complaints and compliments' register for clients to give feedback.
“We are finding a lot more interest from our new entrants in the standard premium than the executive one and that is a reflection of what is happening in the economy,” he said.
He commended the work the Ministry of Health had done in getting everyone around the table to discuss the issue of health care provision, but said there was still a long way to go.
Mr Osborne said that people were still finding out about the range of products Freisenbruch-Meyer offered and had a lot more scope for growth with a consistent programme for expansion and hiring, including the training and development of its employees, 12 of whom were currently studying for industry qualification exams.
Mr Osborne, who is set to retire this week after 45 years in the industry, said that Freisenbruch-Meyer had built a reputation as a good employer with a good team of people. His duties will now be shared by Graham Hillier, vice-president of insurance operations, and Heidi Grant, who will work on the commercial underwriting side. “When I first joined I intended to work for five years but I guess it is an indication of how much I have enjoyed it here that I stayed six-and-a-half years,” he said.
“There has never been a moment where I have stood still in this job - I have always been moving forward.”
At one time the three senior managers were in direct competition - with Mr Freisenbruch heading his company, Mr Madeiros at Colonial and Mr Osborne at Argus - and Mr Osborne said he never could have imagined they would have ended up all working together, but he added that they have proved to be an excellent team.
He took to his role at Freisenbruch-Meyer immediately, working in an environment that encouraged new and fresh ideas and allowed employees to express themselves, adding that he was happy to go out on a high at the top of his profession.
Starting out at Argus straight out of school at the age of 18 as a customer service representative, he quickly learnt the ropes of the business, including spending a year in Norwich, England as part of his training.
Among the biggest game changers during his time in the industry were Hurricane Emily in 1987, followed by Hurricane Fabian in 2003, and the formation of the Bermuda Insurance Institute, where he was chairman of the education committee. But his biggest satisfaction has been derived from the number of people he has helped through their careers.
The company also launched its 'Out of Office Project' in July last year where staff volunteered to work in the community helping long-serving elderly clients with home maintenance and preparation for the hurricane season. Last year's recipient was Elfreda Lines.
Freisenbruch-Meyer's new employees include Sara Araujo, who joined the company in June 2010 as health-general administrator and was appointed as group pension administrator last month.
Ms Araujo has a Bachelor's in Business Administration with a Major in Management from Mount St. Vincent University in association with Bermuda College.
Thomas Edwards joined Freisenbruch-Meyer also in June last year as assistant broker. He attended the University of Reading in England where received a Bachelor's in Business Management and Administration and is also the captain of the Bermuda national rugby team as well as skippering the current league title holders the Bermuda Police team.
Damir Armstrong joined the company in September 2010 as part-time life administrator and went full-time in January this year as life and health administrator.
Mr Armstrong attended St. Johns University, New York and received a Bachelor of Science, with a Major in Risk Management and Insurance. He is also a non-commissioned officer in the Bermuda Regiment.
Khomeini Taalib-Din joined the firm in a part-time position in March last year to work on the survey project and was offered a full-time role in June 2010 as a customer service representative.
He currently serves on two Government boards - the Child Care Placement Board and the Sustainable Development Roundtable - and hosts the Progressive Labour Party's Youth Wing radio talk show every Sunday evening.
Marco Greenidge joined Freisenbruch-Meyer in June 2010 as a customer service representative and has since been promoted to customer care supervisor.
Mr Greenidge received a Bachelor's of Commerce, Majoring in Accounting from Dalhousie University, Halifax, from where he graduated in 2007.
Meanwhile Alshantae Foggo will join on the company today as a customer service representative.