Corporate group with family roots

It started almost by chance. Today, it is one of Mexico’s leading corporations and a household name in Latin American insurance market. Grupo CP aims for market leadership, but will never lose sight of its family values.

Extreme conditions demand extreme solutions. When events took a turn for the worse, Manuel Casanueva Garcia lost his family business, a hardware and glazing store. He decided to wipe the slate clean and picked the insurance sector.

Little did he know that he would lay the groundwork for one of the foremost corporate groups in Mexico. The year was 1963. Manuel had to develop a client portfolio from scratch. One day they’d be selling car insurance, the next it would be life or home insurance. Plenty of hard work and a smidgen of good luck.

The effort paid off . Manuel’s son, Carlos Casanueva, who’d never even considered a career in insurance, later joined his father in this bold new dream. Carlos started out in 1962 with the Fénix insurance company as commercial director. He would leave in 1977 and acquire his father’s client portfolio.
With four partners, he established Interproteccion. Operations started in 1978 and, 30 years later, Carlos Casanueva Varas is proud of the corporation he established—a shining beacon in Latin American insurance.

Back then, most insurance companies operating at the local level would be Mexican. Today things have changed. International corporations have become top players. This speaks to the resolve that the Grupo Casanueva Perez (Grupo CP) has shown throughout the years , always keeping its ambition and the desire to be market leaders. "We are a dynamic, youthful organization, very aggressive and professional. We have what it takes to lead the insurance sector in Mexico and we’re getting there,” claims the founder of the Group.

The family business, which was consolidated over decades and is now comprised of seven insurance – related companies (Interproteccion, Reasinter, Alinter, Listo, Libelula, PCP and Soporte en Paralelo), a shared services company (Centro Inter) and the Carlos Casanueva Perez Foundation (see highlight box), came to a watershed moment in 2005. This was the year the family company became an incorporated corporate group.

Facing an increasingly competitive market, where loyal customers are scarce, where commissions keep going down and it is harder and harder to retain customers, it was necessary to incorporate the business, to streamline it, to reinforce it at the technical level and thus better prepare it for existing and coming challenges. So the Grupo CP came to be.

"Family” is written into the Group's DNA

With 95% of the capital held by the Casanueva family (the remaining 5 percent was handed over to employees as a token of gratitude),this Mexican holding company owes present success to the hard work and dedication of patriarch Carlos Casanueva. His children Francisco, Juan Ignacio, José Antonio and Santiago, whose upbringing was defined, amongst other things, by constant discussion of the insurance sector, also contributed strongly, as they soon became involved in the family’s business. So much so, that this dictated their professional choices in adulthood.

Today, each one holds a position through which he can contribute toward a common goal: making Grupo CP one of the leading companies in Latin America. Juan Ignacio Casanueva Perez is Chairman of the Board at the holding company, Francisco Xavier Casanueva Perez is CEO at Interproteccion, Jose Antonio Casanueva Perez spearheads an innovative project connected with information technologies (Internet sales) in his capacity as CEO of Seguro Listo and Santiago Casanueva Perez is CEO at Reasinter.

Juan Ignacio, who has taken over from his father as Group leader, maintains that "combining family and corporation is essential" and "the key to our success” at Grupo CP. He promises that, although they intend to be come market leaders, their values will remain familial:
A culture and identity of their own, the drive to conquer, the pursuit of growth.

The challenges of growth and internationalization

After Interproteccion was established, the Casanueva family started Reasinter, which is now the second largest reinsurance broker in the Mexican market. Established in 1997, with help from North American company Frank Crystal, which at first held 50% of controlling interest, it was later bought up by the Casanuevas in 2004. Mexican law demands that insurance and reinsurance brokerage businesses be separated, which is why Interproteccion and Reasinter operate as independent companies. The truth is, this provides the Group with a competitive advantage, as it conveys the notion that there are two autonomous companies. Interproteccion clients move to Reasinter and vice-versa.

Establishing a close working relationship with their clients is fundamental to the Group. This explains the unique relationship between Grupo CP and Grupo Modelo, who make the well-known beer Corona. Modelo, a giant in the business landscape of Mexico, has been a loyal customer of the Casanueva family for over 40 years, and it certainly contributed to CP’s growth and international expansion. One might almost say that the two companies are on a shared journey in and outside the country.

Similarly, the holding now led by Juan Ignacio Casanueva has also been serving Telmex, the telecom titan held by the world’s wealthiest man, Carlos Slim, for seven consecutive years.

The list doesn't end there, however. In the automobile sector, Grupo CP's client portfolio includes Suzuki, Nissan, Renault; in the hotel business, the Marriott, NH and Accor chains; in the financial sector, Visa, Citi and ING; in luxury consumer brands, Armani and DKNY.

It was precisely because so many clients were expanding that Interproteccion felt the need to extend its capabilities outside Mexico. What started out as the company’s international division became Alinter (see highlight box). Backed by new partners, Alinter now maintains a presence in every Latin American country except Bolivia, allowing the group to penetrate specific marketing niches where Interproteccion could not provide expertise.

The connection with BrokersLink is another step on the road toward international expansion. The connection between Alinter/CP Group and MDS and BrokersLink (at whose Board Juan Ignacio Casanueva now serves) kicked off in 2007, during the FERMA Forum (Federation of European Risk Management Associations), in Geneva. A connection which has demonstrated "a great deal of potential” and represents "a significant business channel," Juan Ignacio guarantees, highlighting MDS and BrokersLink chairman José Manuel Fonseca’s hardworking, tenacious character.

According to Juan Ignacio, BrokersLink will position itself as a very relevant business channel. By way of illustration he offered a deal recently brokered in China, which was only possible thanks to a network partner hailing from that specific country.

Carlos Casanueva Perez Foundation: to make adifference in the country

Established in 2005 to "honour the memory of Carlos Casanueva Perez,” eldest son of Carlos Casanueva Varas, who died in 1986 in a car accident. It is through the Carlos Casanueva Perez Foundation that all social projects of Grupo CP are routed and implemented.

"The generosity and zest for life” that Carlos demonstrated, his "love of nature and solidarity towards his fellow man” inspired this non-profit organization which, starting out in 2007, has already improved the lives of three thousand children and their families.

Environment, health and education are priority concerns for the CCP Foundation. Carlos's friends and relatives make up the Board. Originally, the Foundation's annual budget capped off at USD100.000 per annum but, these days, it manages a USD1M budget. "We are committed to making a difference in this country through a number of initiatives,” the Foundation site reads.

The Foundation also represents the Livestrong Foundation (established by American cyclist Lance Armstrong) in Mexico, providing support to children with cancer, and has partnered with the Bill Clinton foundation. Initiatives developed by the Foundation include the creation of educational centres, scholarships, partnerships with outreach institutions that tend to special needs of children from poor backgrounds and environmental preservation projects.

ALINTER/BrokersLink: the Group's international arm

As clients transcend Mexican borders, so must Grupo CP. What started out as the international division of Interproteccion gave rise to Alinter in 2004 - the International Alliance of Insurance Brokers - which now maintains a presence in every Latin American country (except Bolivia), liaising between the Group and each local broker. It manages annual premiums well over a billion dollars and is currently led by Sergio Compean. Alinter still manages an international portfolio that includes world-class customers, such as Grupo Modelo, Telmex, America Movil and Bimbo.

The relationship between Alinter and BrokersLink began in 2007. The relationship became much closer when the two networks merged (also incorporating the PanAsian Alliance, based in the Asia-Pacific region). Starting January 2009, Alinter partners in Latin America became members in BrokersLink, thus contributing toward the fast expansion of this global brokers’ association which now covers 60 countries and manages close to 10.5 billion dollars' worth of premiums.

Interview with Juan Ignacio
A major player in Latin America

Juan Ignacio Casanueva Perez currently leads a giant in the Mexican insurance sector, which includes eight companies and a Foundation. Well aware of the long years it took to create one of the greatest corporations in Mexico, Juan Ignacio would like to hold on to the family traits that made the business what it is, but he won’t lag behind any competitors. It is possible, he believes, to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Grupo CP is very successful in Mexico. What are the key traits that set you apart from the competition?
People. We have a good team, and that is fundamental in any company. Some of our employees come to us at 28 years old. They’re very young, and they’re put in teams with older people. That’s very important. Furthermore, we compete with large corporations whose decision makers are outside Mexico, be they in London, Chicago or New York. Our decision-makers are right here, so things get moving faster. We get a lot of business thanks to that. We also have a reputation in the market for the quality we provide.

Where do you see Grupo CP in 5 or 10 year's time?
Five years from now, we'd like to be the number one corporation in Latin America. By 2012 we want our business to expand by twofold, although our present goals are quite ambitious already. Wherever we set up shop, we want to secure local partners to help us grow strong in each country. Brazil is very important, as is Colombia, Peru, Central America as a whole. We may acquire two specialized companies in the United States, near the Mexican border. We’d be the first Latin American country to do so, and we’d be competing with a number of American companies.

Is your strategy geared towards acquisitions, or organic growth?
Organic growth is a part of our strategy. Over the past five years, we’ve grown 30% to 35% per year and we are likely to stay on that growth trajectory. However, acquisitions are a significant part of growth. Supposing we move into a market niche we don’t operate in, or move into a country where we have no prior history — the first step is to buy into a company, around 30% or 40%.

Is the insurance market very different now than the day your father got started?
It is quite different. Commissions on fi re policies, for example, were 45%, and that has changed a lot. It is a very competitive market, from the individual that sells insurance to the large brokerage companies. But commissions dwindle as the years pass and you need to specialize if you want a cut of the market.

How do you envision the future of the market?
I believe there is a number of opportunities in micro-insurance. We are experiencing growth in this sector which, in Latin America, is not as far down the road as it is in Europe or USA. Reinsurance and captives can also grow a good deal. The insurance market, after the 2008 and 2009 meltdowns, is more competitive. We’re contending with large multinationals.
Discover MDS World