Brysons was established over 180 years ago and has become a household name in Antigua, how did this begin?
(PR): Brysons’ footprint in the Antiguan market can be traced back to the 1830’s. Mr. Bennett was the undersecretary of Lloyds Insurance in those years and he was sent to Antigua where he established an underwriting business in the insurance sector. The Bryson family were already established here as shipwright. So the Bennett and Bryson families – both of Scottish descent – got together and started trading in the late 1830s. They established a limited company in 1896.
What has Brysons Insurance role been in the Antigua and Barbuda insurance sector? How has Brysons Insurance grown?
(MP): From 1988 when I joined, we have developed along the lines of corporate insurance services, simply because we have the in-house experience and expertise to do so. We have now transcended that, and we do quite a bit of personalized business, home and motor vehicle and other
types of insurances emanating from that. We are now one of the leaders in the general insurance industry. We also grew during the recession when the rest of the market began to tank, we introduced a new product and got into medical insurance, which we did not do before and that is a growing product for us. So, during the worst economic years we were able to show positive growth because we did something that was different.
Many companies still see themselves as uniquely general, meaning that they just do property or auto insurance, whereas we want to see ourselves as the preferred choice whether you are interested in medical or general insurance products. We also provide the top-level expertise as it relates to corporate insurance as well as personalized business. So we believe that we have evolved to being the insurance agency of choice in the country.
Of the businesses, is shipping the mainstay of the two?
(PR): Yes and no. It can be, but it is the one that is the most volatile. If you have a good year it goes up and if you have a couple of bad years, it goes down. Truly, since the global crisis in 2008, shipping has been on the lower end of expectations. If there is any kind of construction boom in Antigua, shipping is the one that would take off and do well. It is a very volatile business, whereas insurance is slower but steadier; you can depend on it every year.
What role does the cruise and shipping industry play in the country’s economy and development and how is Brysons contributing to the sector’s development?
(PR): We are agents for 95% of the cruise ship liners that come to Antigua and have a long established relationship with the Florida Cruise and Caribbean Association (FCCA), which most of the ships belong to. Developing that relationship and making sure we provide all the services required by the cruise ships that come here has allowed us to play our part in the development of the cruise sector. It is an industry that was stagnant for a while, but we expect to see a big jump in the next few years. In fact, it has the potential to double in the next 3-5 years.
(MP): Also, over the years we have taken a leadership role in working with the government to ensure that modern facilities are provided for cruise ship passengers and guests. For example, activities such as the dredging of the port and the sweeping of the harbor are necessary. Nathan Dundas, our Brysons Shipping manager has been at the forefront of continuing to push the government to make these significant infrastructure improvements.
A couple of weeks ago we had a quantum-class vessel calling at the St. John port, the biggest that has come to Antigua, and that took many years of work, not just on our side but also on the government’s side. Nathan Dundas – also the director of the Caribbean Shipping Association – has been working with the Cruise Tourism Association to make sure that all of these elements come together. The port development that is being spearheaded now has taken many years of negotiations and involvement; and we have provided an important role as it relates to the development of the infrastructure to allow for the cruise tourism sector to really rise to where it needs to be.