The Hand-in-Hand Mutual Fire Insurance Company Limited is living testimony that there’s a silver lining behind every dark cloud. In 1864 Georgetown was a rapidly expanding wooden city; as such, the fear of fire was always present. Unfortunately, that fear was realized when two disastrous fires occurred on April 3rd and July 4th; crippling the commercial area of Georgetown which would amount to approximately one billion dollars in losses at present day value. As a result, expatriate companies decided to double their already expensive premium rates of 3% to 6% of the sum insured.
Consequently, a group of local businessmen collaborated and established The Hand In Hand Mutual Fire Insurance Company Limited on October 25th 1865, although the first policy was issued six days before. However, expatriate businesses refused to insure with Hand In Hand for the first five years. Monies were raised for social activities and mortgages were granted, which provided individual relief. Millions of dollars remained in Guyana as an alternative method of investment was utilized.
On August 10th 1878, the foundation stone was laid at the north east corner of the company’s greatest achievements: the Head Office building. The building enhanced the beauty of Georgetown. To this date, some of the original furniture still remains in the Boardroom. Similarly, additional office space was constructed during the 1970’s; and in 1984 a new building was completed, adjoining the original, at the corner of Robb Street and the Avenue of the Republic.
The Company survived three great fires: the Werk-en-Rust fire of 1913, the Georgetown fire of 1945 and the 1962 fires precipitated by riots. After the 1945 fire, the company made no profits and entered into reinsurance treaties with overseas reinsurers. Nevertheless, the company has managed to grow significantly; from just four employees in 1879 to over 150 employees currently and 15 branches throughout Guyana.
In order to maintain its innovativeness and lead the insurance industry, the Company accepted fire and general insurance from all diverse groups without any biasness. In the 1870s before the company reinsured and only provided coverage for a limited number of risks per block, the Board considered the formation of the British Guiana and Trinidad Mutual Fire Insurance Company in 1880 and the Demerara Mutual Life Assurance Company in 1891. Those companies were formed by some of Hand In Hand Directors with the expectation that they would fulfill the demands of an expanding market. However, On June 23rd, 1966 Hand-in-Hand inaugurated a new Life Company as an independent and fully owned subsidiary to coincide with the country’s Independence.
In 1992 the Company entered both the Motor Insurance and Marine Insurance markets. In 1999, the Company purchased majority shares in The Guyana Cooperative Insurance Service (GCIS) and in 2002, The GNCB Trust Company.
The Hand In Hand Mutual Fire Insurance Company Limited is the oldest property insurer in Guyana and is the founding member of the Hand In Hand Group of Companies which comprises of:
The Company has grown rapidly as a group. In 1995, it sought to develop synergies towards becoming a fully-fledged financial services provider by acquiring a 15% stake in Citizens Bank Guyana Inc. Hand in Hand has also expanded its local presence through its acquisition of 67% of GCIS in 1998. This investment gave rise to a strong relationship with Citizens Bank with mutual rewards that persist today. In 2002, with this serving objective in mind, Hand in Hand acquired 90% of the shareholding of GNCB Trust Corporation (now renamed Hand in Hand Trust Corporation Inc).
The Hand-in-Hand Mutual Fire Insurance Company offers a complete range of Property, Accident, Marine, Liability and Motor Insurance including performance and bid bonds.
HIH Life was established in 1966, coinciding with Guyana’s Independence. The Life Company, prior to 1991 concentrated on mostly Individual Life business. In 1991, attention was directed towards the development of another line of business, Group Insurance (Life, Medical, Pension). This line of business grew rapidly. Resources were directed towards enhancing the capabilities of this new section.
HIHL is now a leading provider of Group Insurance in Guyana. Of recent HIH Life has been making big strides in the Individual Life market as well. HIHL offers a complete range of Life Insurance, savings, investment type, whole of Life and Endowment policies, and pension administration.
In December 2002, HIHF acquired 90% of the shareholding of GNCBT from the Government of Guyana and renamed it ‘The Hand-in-Hand Trust Corporation Inc.’ The Company viewed this acquisition as a key move in pursuance of its corporate objective of providing a total package of financial services. It saw the acquisition of the shares of GNCBT as the basis of synergy between this trust company and the other members of the Hand-in-Hand Group.
HIHT has been modernized and shows strong growth and profitability. The Company offers a comprehensive range of trust services, savings accounts, pension administration, property management, mortgage financing, commercial loans, cambio and safety deposit boxes.
Hand-In-Hand viewed the 1998 acquisition of 67% of the ownership of GCIS as beneficial for two reasons; first, as a move in pursuance of its corporate objective of providing efficient, adequate, modern and affordable insurance service. Second, the GCIS acquisition made HIH by far the biggest provider of Motor insurance in Guyana enabling the Group to translate its economies of scale into superior customer service and price advantages. GCIS is now a premier name in Motor and Property Insurance.