(Hamilton, Bermuda, June 16, 2020) - Argus Group Holdings Limited (the “Group” or the “Argus Group”) today announced net earnings of $14.2 million for the 2020 financial year, which is consistent with the earnings reported in the corresponding period in 2019. Net equity at March 31, 2020 stood at $122.1 million. Based on the Group's financial strength and strong performance a dividend of 9 cents per share for shareholders of record as of July 27, 2020 payable on August 28, 2020 has been declared.
- Strong underlying earnings from all operating segments prior to Covid pandemic outbreak
- Financial strength supports continued investment in strategic growth and diversification
- Global humanitarian relief in the communities in which we operate during Covid crisis
Our 2020 financial report looks back over a year when, until the last few weeks, most of the world knew very little about the coronavirus and how it was yet to impact our business and our communities. More than ever, this year has revealed what really matters most, and we plan to continue to do the right thing, the right way for our customers, our shareholders, our colleagues and our community.
We rapidly responded to the Covid-19 crisis. We focused on financial and mental wellbeing. We tailored our approach to work one-on-one with our clients to design solutions to lessen the short term financial burden whilst ensuring essential benefits were provided. Rapid product and service development, launched within weeks of the pandemic, included: a new Covid-19 health insurance product to support local businesses who were experiencing severe economic pressures; coverages for mental health and prescription drugs; access to lower cost healthcare; free tele-medicine helplines and financial relief packages. Additionally, we supported the most vulnerable in the communities in which we do business so they can obtain food for them and their families. With schools closed, we purchased laptops for students in need to support their remote learning. Lastly, we helped front line workers by providing free transportation so they could commute to work. To everyone in the community who has protected and saved lives during this difficult time we say a huge thank you.
As we look back at the past year, we are proud of the progress of the Argus Group. We are pleased with our strong performance achieved against a backdrop of challenging times – even before the coronavirus outbreak – both locally and globally. Our focus has been on delivering long term sustainable value and that’s what we’ve done. Our strong results allow us to give back to our communities, not only in this time of global uncertainty, but as we have done throughout our 70-year history. We are proud of our Bermudian heritage and that over 90% of our declared dividends get reinvested back into our community. From this position of strength we are able to move forward with confidence and compassion for a brighter tomorrow, together.
Alison Hill, Chief Executive Officer of the Group states: “Nearly two years ago we recognised that a new strategic vision for Argus was needed. Social and technological changes were exposing new business opportunities; and global economic, regulatory, political and environmental pressures were driving greater risk and uncertainty. Above all, we knew we needed to build a more resilient business and develop our agility and adaptability to navigate Argus through uncertain times.”
“These uncertain times have become very real in recent months. Management and the Board could be forgiven for having focused entirely on short-term crisis management. We didn’t. We are continuing to balance stability within the Argus Group with a strategy for long-term sustainable growth. We rapidly scrutinised our strategy to become a Digital Integrated Specialist, determined where we needed to slow down to protect our colleagues and where we needed to speed-up to support our clients. But most critically, it allows us to truly live out our brand values.”
In 2019, legislative changes were enacted to reform the way hospital care is financed in Bermuda. We have been working diligently to navigate through these legislative and regulatory changes whilst keeping our promise to advocate on behalf of our clients and maintaining a financially sustainable healthcare delivery system for all. The Bermuda hospital financing reform resulted in a $20.6 million decrease on our revenue base and an offsetting decrease on our cost of claims by $15.7 million. We have worked tirelessly to retain and acquire new clients and take further steps to reduce the cost of claims to help mitigate the impact of health reform on our underwriting results.
During the year, we solidified our position for the future by completing the strategic transaction with One Team Health which will enhance cost containment measures of our healthcare business. We continue to work closely with our valued clients to ensure plan benefits fit their evolving needs and take our role as custodians of their health dollars very seriously.
Net earnings from our Global property and casualty operations were reduced by $4.7 million due to Hurricane Humberto. This was partially mitigated by growth in operating revenues and the integration of FirstUnited Insurance Brokers Limited, which was acquired in September 2019, making us the largest broker in Malta. We continue to focus our growth strategy on geographic diversification outside of Bermuda.
It has been a roller-coaster ride for investment markets during this fiscal year. Despite this, our pensions and annuities businesses have continued to grow. Client retention remains very high at 99.4%. Pension assets under management as at March 31, 2020 of $1.1 billion is down by 5% when compared with the prior year. The first three quarters of the fiscal year registered strong investment performance, which was dampened by investment losses incurred in March 2020 as a result of Covid-19. Much of the Covid impact on investment markets and pension portfolios has recovered since March.
Recent pension regulatory changes are creating further pressure on our business, and we are actively investing in digital solutions to provide more proactive, personalised contact with our clients in response to their needs. We continue to take a disciplined and focused approach in investing in our pension product to ensure that we continue to deliver the necessary long-term pension returns for our clients.
We could not have delivered such a strong year without the disciplined strategic planning by our leadership team, dedication to excellence from our employees, and continued success with our clients.
We remain committed to reinvesting in the business – balancing profitability, risk, growth and strategic investments for the long-term benefit of our customers, our shareholders, our colleagues and our community.