4 February 2015 Insurance

Translation barriers block opportunities in Colombia

The lack of native Spanish speakers in the London Market is prohibiting potential growth opportunities for re/insurers in Colombia.

Speaking at Clyde & Co’s Colombian insurance market seminar in London, Andrés Cárdenas, assistant vice president, Marsh, said that issues with translation and cultural barriers were putting re/insurers at risk and costing money.

“We are translating a contract, and to translate a contract, we need more than just language skills,” he said.

Cárdenas used the definition of theft as an example, saying that if you compared the definition in the UK to that in Colombia, there are several notable differences.

“Now when you apply this to business, the same is happening. For example, in the UK, the word negligence may be included in the contract, but this doesn’t have a direct translation in Spanish, therefore it is putting us at risk and costing us money as there are discrepancies at both ends.”

Cárdenas said that as Colombian law states that all contracts must be translated into Spanish, business is pushed towards Miami instead of the UK, as no translation is required and therefore the transaction is much easier.

Felips Alvair, consultant, Indecs Consulting, agreed that the lack of Spanish speakers and Colombian natives in the London Market is problematic.

“The relationships are lacking between these two markets. Latin American cannot be looked upon as one market; Colombia is very different to Brazil for example,” he said.

Juan David Escobar, vice president of insurance, Suramericana, Colombia’s largest domestic insurer, said that while there is no better market than London, there are still not enough conversations going on with risk managers in Latin America.

“In Colombia, we use local risk adjusters, but the UK uses risk adjustors that are in London, and as issues differ between Latin American countries, this doesn’t work,” he said.

“There is not enough flexibility for the client within contracts, therefore they end up choosing the cheapest option every time as they require a certain type of cover, but it’s not bespoke to their needs, so they want to pay as little as possible for it. The issues of culture and local knowledge must be addressed.”

Alviar agreed that the business gap must be addressed.

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