Hikaru Uno – Bonds and specialty lines executive
Barents Re is a Panama-based reinsurer that has gone global in recent years with a major expansion into Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.
To find out more about the company’s ongoing international activities, BNamericas talked to Hikaru Uno, who is a bonds and specialty lines executive.
BNamericas: What were the highlights of your continued international expansion in 2014?
Uno: As you know, we are a Panama-based company that has, in just a few years, expanded into many new markets in Europe and the Middle East and North Africa. There were several highlights last year in terms of our continued global expansion. At the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 we opened our office in Madrid. We then opened an office in London and finished the year by opening an office in Moscow.
BNamericas: What was the reason behind the decision to open an office in Russia?
Uno: The main objective with our office in Moscow is to serve the countries in eastern Europe that were previously part of the Soviet Union.
So our actual business in Russia will not be that big and our bet on the markets in eastern Europe is part of a long-term strategy.
BNamericas: What are the goals for this year and do you have plans to continue to expand your presence in Europe?
Uno: We don’t have any plans at the moment for the opening of new offices in Europe. We now have offices in strategic places in the European market and the main goal for this year is to consolidate our presence and business in this region.
BNamericas: What is your main focus in Europe in terms of products?
Uno: We offer niche and specialty reinsurance products and in Europe we have a strong focus on the surety market. We are also planning to bring our expertise in energy, personal accidents and liability to the European market.
BNamericas: What can you tell me about your operations in the Middle East and North Africa given the many conflicts we see today in this part of the world?
Uno: We have taken a conservative approach in the Middle East and North Africa, where we are focused on growing at a moderate pace and exploring specific market opportunities.
BNamericas: Moving to Latin America, now. How are your plans to enter Puerto Rico advancing?
Uno: We’re still evaluating in what way we should enter this market. Despite having catastrophic exposure, we view Puerto Rico as an attractive market where there are opportunities for a niche player like Barents Re. On our executive team, we already have executives who have worked with the Puerto Rican market and our intention is to enter.
BNamericas: When do you expect to make the final decision regarding your market entry in Puerto Rico?
Uno: We expect to make this decision during the first half of this year.
BNamericas: Finally, what about Brazil? This is the largest market in Latin America and you don’t do any business there. Any plans for entering the Brazilian market?
Uno: We will continue to stay out of Brazil because it is a fiercely competitive market with more than 100 reinsurance companies and declining profitability in many segments of the market. When considering our strong focus on being a highly profitable niche player, it doesn’t make much sense to enter a market like Brazil.
About Hikaru Uno
Hikaru Uno is in charge of bonds and specialty lines underwriting and coordination for Barents Re’s regional and international offices. Uno has seven years of reinsurance underwriting experience in Latin America as well as premium collection and loss settlement experience in the region.
A finance and accounting graduate, Uno has also conducted financial analysis work for insurance companies and financial institutions.
About the company
Through regional hubs in Panama, Miami, Paris and Beirut, Barents Re conducts business in 52 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.
The company provides a wide range of niche and specialty reinsurance products for insurers, corporations and public entities.