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Chair of the Board of Directors of Sentry, Ralph Baynes, left, and the company's general manager, Fidel Taylor at the 50th anniversary dinner in Ratho Mill earlier this month.
Chair of the Board of Directors of Sentry, Ralph Baynes, left, and the company’s general manager, Fidel Taylor at the 50th anniversary dinner in Ratho Mill earlier this month.

Sentry this month brought the curtains down on its 50th anniversary celebrations, with a director reporting that this has been the insurance company’s best year yet.

“Our year runs from November to October, so we can tell you, Sentry’s performance this year was better than any other year before. Put your hands together for our general manager, Mr. [Fidel] Taylor and his team,” Junior Bacchus said at the company’s dinner in Ratho Mill.

At the event, the company presented plaques to each of its employees for their contribution to the development of the company.

Taylor, addressing the dinner guests, which included its directors, management, staff and agents, spoke of the company’s plan to expand its services locally as well as move into the regional market.

“… we have plans, future plans to roll out branch offices across the island. And we will, as soon as we are ready, keep you posted about that. This is to help facilitate the needs of our customers so that they will not have to come into Kingstown to do business,” he said.

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He said the company will computerise its branch offices in Bequia and Georgetown and is in conversation with Ledger’s Garage about setting up an office at their Villa compound. 

Sentry is an indigenous, locally-owned-and-operated company that was formed and registered on Feb. 2 1973 as West Indian Insurances Ltd.

The company was founded by Randolph Bertie Russel and his widow Gwendoline “June” Russell, with Oliver Da Silva as the first manager.

The other managers were Marcus McDowall and Trinidadian Veronica De Souza-Phillip, with Taylor, who joined the company in 2009, being the longest serving manager.

In 1999, the company began trading as Sentry and new investors were brought in to inject fresh ideas and capital as well as to provide governance and leadership.

The new directors included Trevor Sylvester, Vidal Browne, Othneil Sylvester, Molly Arthur, Bertille “Silky” Da Silva, Kenneth Forde and Douglas Williams.

“The journey has not been easy. It has had its ups and downs, its challenges, its highs and lows. It had its losses and gains; people came, people departed, but the company remains and continues to grow from strength to strength,” Taylor said.

Sentry staff
Staff members of Sentry insurance pose together at the company’s 50th anniversary dinner in Ratho Mill earlier this month.

He said Sentry has seen many changes in the insurance industry, including changes in the oversight at the governmental level.

“We have seen the entrance and exit of many companies, but still we remain and continue to rise,” he said, adding that the dream is that the company will one day open branches in other countries across the region.

“It’s important to have a vision. Without a vision, the Bible says, the people perish,” said Taylor, who is also a pastor.

“And this is a company of vision, of leadership. We have navigated through many turbulent times, which include economic recessions, disasters, fiascos, the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the La Soufriere volcanic eruption, which brought out the best in us. We had to dig deep, work hard, come up with creative ideas to navigate through these back-to-back disasters.”

He said the company has been able to accomplish this through teamwork.

“We have a strong, diverse board of directors that provide good governance and leadership, a well-trained and dedicated management team and staff to execute the vision and mission and strategy of the company.”

Taylor said the company invests in training and education of its directors and staff.

“Our success is as a result of excellent strategic planning, accurate marketing intelligence, which provided insight and foresight about the industry and the needs of our clients, which allowed us to respond appropriately in a timely manner, meeting their needs and even surpassing their expectations at times.

“Our success also has much to do with the support from our brokers, our agents, our service providers such as garages, investigators, loss adjusters, lawyers, doctors, the Financial Services Authority, the Financial Intelligence Unit, who all played a significant role in helping us to stay focus and provide quality services to our clients, and deliver good returns on investments to our shareholders.”

The general manager said Sentry settles claims promptly and goes “above and beyond at times to satisfy our clients. “We try our best to be very good corporate citizens by giving back to our country by investing in education, sports and culture.”

He said that over the years, the managers, himself included, have been very involved in the Insurance Institute and the Insurance Association, functioning at various levels and doing their part to contribute towards the development and growth of both of these institutions and the industry as a whole.

“We are also a member of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and make our contribution quietly.”

Sentry has invested in the technological development of the business, including its interactive website, which allows customers to get quotations and interact with the company through a chat function.

“We have also built from scratch our own IT underwriting software program to allow us to underwrite the insurance business and process claims settlement,” Taylor said.