MDS Africa

In 2011 MDS started operating in Angola. Nowadays, the activity in this market is consolidated, MDS has broadened into Mozambique and MDS intends to expand into other regions in this continent.

It was perfectly natural for MDS to be in Portuguese speaking countries in Africa. "These are markets we know well, we’re culturally very related and there is similar legislation to Portugal”, explains José Manuel Fonseca, CEO of the MDS Group. "These are markets where we can grow, add value and become a market‑leading broker, as we already are in Portugal and Brazil.”

"It all started some five years ago, in a seminar about energy promoted by the Agostinho Neto University in Angola”, says Ana Cristina Borges, CEO of MDS RE, the MDS Reinsurance broker. Ana and her colleague MDS technical director, Tiago Mora, were in the audience and having made a number of contacts realized: "New challenges were ahead of us and it was clear there were interesting opportunities in Angola for a broker and risk consultant like MDS”. As the group was already keen to expand in Africa, Ana continues: "The next step was to find a local partner, an essential requirement, and start the operation.”

Taking a gamble

José Manuel explains why he was happy to take a gamble on Africa: "Africa is a continent of the future; it’s undergoing a transformation and will be a particularly important economy in the next few decades. Angola and Mozambique are young markets with great growth potential and we adopt the same principles we apply in Portugal.

This is to be a broker who grows with the market, but also helps the market grow. As an Angolan and Mozambican broker, we are not just a simple middleman and so can retain a local focus, establishing ourselves as a key player and building upon our reputation for strength in technical consultancy, adding value and innovation. Our aim is to develop in these countries in the same way we have grown in Brazil”.

In addition, José Manuel says: "As there is substantial Portuguese investment in these countries and we have a wide MDS client base, many companies in our portfolio require a local support service for their operations, specifically in Angola and Mozambique. It therefore makes total sense to be present in these areas. Our vision is to be a crucial reference point in the markets we are present in, a leader broker which contributes to the evolution of those markets, utilizing our products, services, team, brand and resources to do so and further developing trust‑based relationships with the insured.

The expansion to Mozambique and reinsurance

Ana Cristina explains: "As we have authorization for insurance and reinsurance, we are requested to source and place local cover for both fields of business. As the operation evolved and given the number of clients we had and the accompanying compliance issues, it made sense to separate the direct and reinsurance operations, signaling the birth of MDS RE.”

This evolution lead to the creation of MDS Africa, a holding company owned by the MDS Group and its Angolan partner, ISEM, which integrates all investments in Africa, namely in Angola and Mozambique and also MDS RE.

Although MDS RE is a subsidiary of MDS Africa, its mission is not just to provide a service in Africa – it is an international reinsurance broker with major clients in Africa, but also working in other markets. 

Ana Cristina adds: "We are developing our business, aiming to become a key player in the market. We don’t just do brokerage. As part of the MDS Group, we have wider responsibilities such as such as structuring reinsurance packages, undertaking due diligence processes and supporting insurance companies in their new product and business line development. In short, we provide an extensive reinsurance service; analysing programmes, advising clients on the best solutions, offering a range of options and arranging the cover. 

José Manuel also talks about the ‘youngest child’ of the group, MDS Mozambique: "We recently established a partnership with a local broker in Mozambique, strengthening our commitment in this market. Mozambique and Angola are important elements of our global brokerage company – Brokerslink – reinforcing the presence of the MDS Group within Brokerslink itself.”

Present and future

According to José Manuel: "From the initial push given by colleagues who kick‑started the project to where we are now, consolidating the operation, we have travelled a long way. We are still making strong investments in our African project, particularly through the allocation of our best resources which includes the present CEO of MDS Africa,
João Alvadia, that was one of the main executives of MDS Portugal. The fact we have moved someone so crucial to our Portuguese operation, shows the importance and the respect we attach to the African market.”

He also points out: "In Angola we are already a ‘go to’ local and global broker. This is illustrated by the breadth and quality of clients in our portfolio, our relationship with the companies we work with and the services we provide, from reinsurance and devising cover packages to risk management and brokerage. 

"Furthermore, all MDS Group’s resources are at our clients disposal in all the geographical areas we are present in; we have a very strong technical team that is highly competent in risk and insurance, and this is supported by strong local teams.”

MDS Africa’s CEO, João Alvadia, assesses the past year: "Despite a slowing of the economy, 2016 was the year to consolidate our position within the Angolan insurer and corporate market. The local team was boosted with the recruitment of Country Manager Ana Rebelo and we will continue to invest in qualified people (drawing upon the support of MDS Group’s managerial staff, which adds value to the operation).” 

He continues: "in 2017 we will begin using Proximity – an innovative computing tool which allows clients to directly manage their MDS insurance portfolio – already widely used in MDS Portugal.

"We will equally continue to expand our consultancy role, tapping into the expertise of several companies within the group, such as our risk management firm, Herco. The Angolan insurance market, with a penetration of less than 1% of GDP, is a market with enormous potential and growth opportunities. We intend to maximize these opportunities, sharing our knowledge and maintaining and building a close relationship with the main players of the Angolan market.”

As for Mozambique, João opines: "We set up a team here in 2016, led by Country Manager, Angelina Nascimento. Although the economic outlook for 2017 isn’t that positive, there’s equal growth potential as Angola, so we will contribute to the market in the same way.”

João concludes with his vision for Africa: "We are looking at other regions. Our priority was naturally the official Portuguese language countries, but there are other interesting opportunities. The African continent has enormous potential, and we already operate through Brokerslink partners, of which MDS is a reference shareholder.” 
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