To capitalize on the substantial experiences of its senior management in the financial services industry and to tap into the business opportunity provided by the increasing need for a wide variety of financial services in the region resulting from the tourism-driven growth of the economies of the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, Lockhart Companies Incorporated ("Lockhart") decided to diversify into the financial services industry by developing or acquiring businesses that will offer select financial services to the resident and tourist populations of the region.
In June 1998, Lockhart purchased all the outstanding shares of both Premium Finance Company of the Virgin Islands, Inc., which was subsequently renamed Premium Finance Company (Caribbean) Limited ("PFC"), and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Premium Finance Company (E.C.) Ltd. ("PFC-EC"). This acquisition represented the Company's first step in its diversification strategy. PFC is a U.S. Virgin Islands corporation, which was formed in 1993 and started operations in 1994.
PFC, based in St. Croix, is engaged in the business of financing insurance premiums incurred by individuals and small companies seeking to insure primarily automobiles, personal residences, commercial buildings, pleasure boats and small airplanes, as well as premiums for builder's risk or liability coverage.
During the first half of 1999, PFC was licensed in St. Lucia and established its network there of agents and brokers. PFC's business is generated through referrals from insurance agents and brokers, who are the first point of contact for the consumer in the procuring of insurance coverage. The insured makes an initial down payment on the insurance premium (30-35%, representing 3 to 4 months of an annual premium) with the balance typically financed by PFC over an eight-month period.
PFC is the largest independent premium financing company in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its primary competitors are smaller premium finance companies and insurance agents and insurers that will finance premiums only for select, primarily larger, clients. Commercial banks also provide this service to select customers. PFC currently does business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and the Turks & Caicos Islands. In mid-1997, PFC expanded its services to other Caribbean markets to increase volume and achieve diversification. Through PFC-EC, PFC also does business in Antigua, St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Dominica. PFC has a current network of 53 agents throughout the Caribbean. Further expansion plans include Barbados and the Bahamas, and PFC-EC's insurance premium financing sales activities are coordinated with the insurance sales activities of Guardian and Heritage Insurance Company.
In 2005, Lockhart formed West Indian Financial Services Ltd. ("WIFS"), which does business as "Premium Leasing." Premium Leasing provides lease financing for credit-worthy individuals and companies in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The company provides financing for the purchase of automobiles, office equipment, and medical equipment. In addition, the company may also provide fleet financing for multi-national companies operating on other Caribbean islands.