London Market Training

Activities, Insight

London Market Training program was built by MLearning as a unique opportunity to learn about the London Market, one of the most important insurance and reinsurance marketplace in the world. Participants will have access to renowned speakers and get in depth classes about emerging risks, underwriting and reinsurance. The class will broaden attendee’s horizons, skills and expertise through an outstanding learning experience in the heart of the City of London.

Attendees will meet with major players in the industry, such as Cooper Gay, the largest independent global reinsurance broker and will visit the Lloyds, a mythical institution that always played a central role in our industry.

MLearning team has also planned several social and networking activities that will certainly contribute to enrich the program as well as promote the experiences sharing between participants.


Edifício Atrium Saldanha, Praça Duque de Saldanha, nº1, 3º L – 1050-094 Lisboa
Tel: +351 210 108 500 | Email: |

MLearning’s performance is based on values such as the constant search for knowledge, innovation, credibility and sharing.

Established in 2011, MLearning seeks to build a circle of knowledge that will focus on risk and insurance, leveraging the skills, augmented expertise, networking and sphere of influence that the MDS Group now enjoys around the world.

Malta – An International Finance Centre

Insight, Knowledge-Center

Malta, a small island state at the heart of the Mediterranean, has quietly emerged as one of Europe’s most stable and innovative finance domiciles. Malta’s decision to join the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone in 2008 have proved pivotal to its development as a significant finance and business centre. Today, Malta has strong banking, insurance, fund and wealth managements sectors that have attracted investment from the world’s leading financial institutions, blue-chip multinationals and high-net-worth individuals.
(in Finance Malta investor guide series – insurance & pensions, 2013-2014 edition)

An English speaking nation, Malta has been, in recent years, ranked among the strongest EU economies in terms of GDP growth. Services account for 75% of GDP, industry for 23% and agriculture 2%. In 2012, the services sectors pushed up economic growth by 3.2% in nominal terms. Tourism plays an important role too, a 5.8% increase in tourist arrivals was registered 2012, a year when record arrival figures were registered. In addition, Malta has invested in becoming a knowledge based economy, in areas such as ICT, life sciences, education and financial services.

Malta’s economy has been one of the least affected by the recent financial crisis, with an unemployment figure of only 6.7%. It has experienced one of the shortest recession periods in the EU, having grown steadily since the 2nd quarter of 2009 (2012 estimated GDP growth in constant prices is forecast to read 1.9%). Actually, one might say that Malta’s resilience in the face of financial turmoil, economic recession and debt crisis has positioned it as a strong financial services centre, while its state of the art legislation, namely in the insurance sector, has contributed to Malta being considered innovative, while at the same time being totally compliant with EU legislation..

The financial regulator, the Malta Financial Services Authority, whilst being very approachable and flexible, adopts a professional approach in its outlook. This helps provide added assurance and comfort as to the quality of organizations that are licensed locally.

The recent turmoil associated with Cyprus’s banking difficulties raised comparisons with Malta in certain sectors of the press. There is an element of confusion, because both countries have financial services industries, both are islands in the Mediterranean and both have strong historical links to Great Britain. However, this is where the similarity ends, as Malta’s situation is considered very different to Cyprus’s .The Maltese Ministry for Finance issued a press statement on 28th March 2013, attesting for the good health of its banking sector. While saying that Malta, as a full EU member, subscribes the measures undertaken with regard to Cyprus, it stresses that “the Euro Group’s statement of 25 March concerning Cyprus calls for the downsizing of its domestic banking sector to reach the euro area average by 2018. The size of Malta’s domestic banking system is at present below the euro area average. The five domestically-oriented banks have total assets of 218% of GDP, while the eight banks with limited links to the domestic market have assets totaling 77% of GDP…moreover, the asset holding of the total banking sector is well diversified and with very limited exposure to the programme countries. The World Economic Forum ranks Malta 13th out of 144 countries in terms of soundness of its banking sector. The banking system has strong solvency ratios. It is also well capitalized with an overall capital adequacy ratio above 50%, exceeding significantly the minimum regulatory requirement of 8% under the Capital requirement Directive)…”.

Following the Cypriot bailout agreement, several articles have been written by well known financial specialists. They have consistently repeated that “Malta is not Cyprus”, claiming the models adopted by each country are totally different. An article by Lino Spiteri (former Ministry for Finance in Malta ) says that “Malta has enacted legislation…intended to ensure that Malta was not viewed as some brass plate tax haven. Its structured statutory provisions rest on very strict regulation by the Malta Financial Services Authority”. Mr. Spiteri adds that the two largest Maltese banks (Bank of Valetta and HSBC Malta) have a “very extensive deposit and asset base”, with an overall conservative philosophy, while “the Cyprus financial model…is dangerously concentrated on Russian investors”, with a “sensitive concentration”.

In addition, Cyprus’s banking system was heavily exposed to Greece’s financial troubles. Cyprus’s banks suffered very substantial losses when owners of Greek Government debt were forced to take “haircuts” of as much as 70% of the nominal value of the debt that they owned. The Maltese banking sector has had insignificant exposure to Greece’s financial troubles.

To quote Mario Mallia, Chief Risk Officer at Bank of Valetta, “it is a pity that an article in a foreign newspaper questioning the sustainability of the Maltese banking industry grabs immediate media attention, while official statistics that give witness to the strength of the local sector, and which are published on a regular basis, are largely ignored”. Mr. Mallia also mentions that “Statistics published by the European Central Bank consistently place the Maltese banking system as the most solvent in the entire European Union”.

We tend to agree with his final comment: “It is important that we base our opinions on authoritative and official data, which abounds and is readily available online, rather than on the musings of commentators who may not be sufficiently qualified or well informed to do justice to the subject.

Acknowledgement: the above mentioned articles by Lino Spiteri and Mario Mallia were written in The Times of Malta.

MDS Group’s Fonseca identifies ‘triangle of opportunity’

Insight, Perspectives

This interview was first published in

MDS, which transformed itself from a captive broker into the biggest insurance intermediary in Portugal and the third-biggest in Brazil, is now expanding into Africa

The profile of Jose Fonseca, chief executive of the Porto-headquartered insurance broker and risk management consultancy, the MDS Group, has in recent years assumed a global dimension through his role as chairman of BrokersLink, the independent insurance broker network. But for much of the past three decades, Fonseca was best known for his contribution to several important developments in the insurance and risk management sectors of the Portuguese-speaking world.

For example, in the mid-1980s, when he was the head of internal insurance at Portugal’s largest retail bank, BPA, he introduced the first life and accident and health bancassurance products to the Portuguese market. The life insurance product proved particularly successful and BPA captured a 6% market share the first year. Fonseca remains one of the most recognisable figures in the Portuguese insurance industry. He is the chairman of Apogeris, the Portuguese association of risk managers, and a former vice-president of the Federation of European Risk Management Associations (Ferma).

When he joined MDS as chief executive in 2000, the company was a captive broker owned by Sonae, the giant Portuguese retail and telecommunications conglomerate. Back then, Sonae’s insurance programmes accounted for 95% of the business handled by MDS. Today, through a combination of mergers and acquisitions and organic expansion, MDS has become the largest insurance broker in Portugal.

More importantly, the business provided by the two shareholders, Sonae and
the Suzano Group of Brazil, accounts for less than 6% of MDS’s business volume, which accounted for around $650m in insurance premiums (without reinsurance premiums) in 2012. “In 2000, the business from Sonae, which was then our main client, was very important to us. Sonae is still a very important client of ours. But the situation is very different today,” Fonseca says.

MDS, Fonseca explains, is less an insurance broker for Sonae and more of a specialist risk-management resource for the entire conglomerate. “We are a broker for Sonae but we are also part of their risk-management team. Sonae has a very integrated global risk management and insurance strategy and MDS plays an important role in it,” he says.

Risk specialist

MDS performs a similar function for the Suzano group in Brazil where MDS is the third-largest insurance broker in the country after Aon and Marsh. The move to establish a presence in Brazil began almost as soon Fonseca became chief executive in 2000 and pretty much parallels the expansion of MDS in Portugal. The differing population figures and the pace of the economic growth in the two countries are very much reflected in the volume of the business that passes through MDS Portugal and MDS Brazil respectively. In
terms of MDS Global revenues, which amounted to around $63m in 2012, MDS Brazil accounted for 60% and MDS Portugal the remaining 40%.

“MDS Portugal is a big broker relative to size of the market in Portugal. MDS is one of the biggest brokers in Europe. But in absolute terms, our operation in Brazil is bigger than it is in Portugal,” Fonseca says.

So although MDS’s operations in Portugal are smaller than those in Brazil, the Portuguese insurance market is a much more mature and diversified market.

“While the operations are somewhat different, there is a close relationship between MDS Portugal and MDS Brazil, both exchanging advanced services and expertise. We are integrating the two modes of operation at present. It is a strategic and delicate effort as we still need to diversify our solutions portfolio to grow in a mature country such as Portugal with its 10 million people. Brazil, by comparison, has a population of 200 million people. The market situation in Portugal led us to the decision to expand our
operations in Africa.”

Intellectual capital

But there is a significant degree of intellectual capital that is generated in a market as mature as Portugal’s, Fonseca explains. “We leverage the know-how acquired by our teams along with their significant expertise of the Portuguese, European and London markets, by sharing knowledge and resources with our Brazilian teams.”

MDS operates as a highly diversified corporate retail broker in Portugal and includes MDS Auto, which specialises in the motor industry and is engaged in partnership with Caeteno group, a large auto and bus manufacturer that also manages numerous car dealerships throughout the Iberian peninsula; MDS Affinity, which sells insurance products to professional and industry groupings;MDS Seguros Continente, an insurance broker that distributes its products through a chain of hyper markets operated by Sonae and is serviced online and through a call centre; HighDome PCC, a protected cell captive insurer based in Malta,  which rents out cells to companies; and Herco, a risk consulting firm and wholesale broking operation that was launched last year.

“So, we have a portfolio of diversified lines of business that allows us to grow and service a broad range of needs for our clients in Portugal,” Fonseca says.

In 2009, the Suzano Group acquired a 49.99% stake in MDS Holdings, the parent company that owns both MDS Brazil and MDS Portugal. This was nearly a decade after MDS had first established a presence in Brazil through a partnership arrangement with Lazam, a local corporate broker owned by the Suzano Group.

Brazil and Africa

The initial driver was to help MDS’s clients in Portugal to develop their business in that country. The arrangement was made more permanent in 2002 when MDS took a 45% stake in Lazam, rebranding the business MDS-Lazam. Since then the revenue generated by the business has grown from Real1.8m ($897,021) to Real70m in 2012.

MDS Portugal, which employs 430 people and has 12 offices across the country, mainly operates as a corporate broker with a strong presence in the in the Brazilian employee benefits and corporate affinity  markets.

More recently, MDS has been focusing on the increasing opportunities presented by the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) trading triangle of Brazil, Portugal and two of the latter=92s former African colonies, Angola and Mozambique. Portuguese, Fonseca says, is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world. While MDS has been active in the southern African region for the past three years, the company only established MDS Angola, a 50-50 joint-venture with a local partner (which, for Fonseca, is a critical success factor in African markets), last year.

The company is creating an awareness of MDS and of the benefits of insurance in Angola by organising risk management conferences for the energy (Angola is the second-largest oil producer in Africa after Nigeria) and mining industries The company also works with the local insurance companies and the
regulatory authorities.

“Angola is a natural market for us. It is Portuguese-speaking, a fast-growing economy and an expanding insurance market. It is also a country that has a historical relationship with Portugal. The Angolan market
recognises the need for insurance expertise and consulting services. We believe MDS can assist in that regard.”

In Africa, MDS’s focus is on Angola and Mozambique. Other former Portuguese colonies in the region are Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe. Unlike in Angola, MDS for the moment is servicing the Mozambique market from Portugal. “We have teams travelling back and forth and our objective is to provide a full service offering in both Angola and Mozambique. There are substantial investments from Portugal, Brazil and China into these two countries. Our plan is to leverage all of those opportunities and we are aware there must be a specific ‘African flavor’ in our service offerings. There is a strong relationship between Angola, Mozambique, Portugal and Brazil because they are all part of the same Lusophone commonwealth.”

Part of this African perspective is not to position MDS as only the broker for Portuguese and Brazilian investment into Anglo or Mozambique. “Our vision is to play a key role in the local market and become the main Angolan broker.” In a related development, MDS has recently set-up a Chinese desk and recruited a Chinese insurance executive. “This is to help us develop the business with the Chinese community. Chinese investment is very strong in Africa, particularly in Angola and Mozambique.”


MDS’s emphasis on the Lusophone markets is complemented by the increasing importance that Fonseca attaches to the BrokerLink network to provide a global service to clients based outside of the Lusophone territories.

Indeed, Fonseca has devoted a huge amount of time and energy to promoting BrokersLink. With Fonseca as the driving force, BrokersLink was first launched in 2004 as a European regional network for a number of Portuguese, Spanish and French insurance brokers at MDS’s headquarters in Porto.

At that point, Fonseca says, MDS was still a minor broker in Portugal with Sonae asits main global client. “I invited a number of our partners in Spain and France. The idea was to create a European network, so I organised a business lunch with the prospective partners and I had already come up with the name, the logo and brochure. So that was how BrokersLink started. We grew very fast in Europe and it became clear we had to extend the network to the other continents.”

This involved first establishing partnerships with the PanAsian Alliance, an insurance broker network in Asia and Alinter, a similar network in Latin America. Later, BrokersLink formed partnerships with like minded organisations in North America including Crystal & Company, one of the largest privately held brokerage in the US. Then in 2008 in Bangkok, it was decided to merge all the regional networks into a global network called BrokersLink. A year later, in Hong Kong, BrokersLink formally became a global, integrated network. The event, Fonseca explains, represented a second birth for the organisation.

Fonseca points out BrokersLink is much more than a marketing tool. Within the network, he says, there is a clear model for profit sharing when members refer business to each other. “It is a critical point if we want to
compete effectively against the global brokers and deliver a consistent level of service to our clients in all countries. We expect a best in class service from each member and we monitor the quality of that service. BrokersLink is a business oriented organisation, although it is also a very effective marketing tool. As an independent broker in any given country, it is always challenging to compete against the resources and expertise of a global broker.

However, within the BrokerLink community, we have members who are experts in a specific industry or specialty such as construction, aviation, employee benefits, cyber risks, to name a few, who can contribute and assist a member on a particular project. Besides the broker members, we have the
specialty resources members such as specialty risk consultants, risk engineers, captive management consultants and lawyers etc. They are resources made available to the entire organisation. Overall, there are three driving forces at BrokersLink: we are client driven, we are knowledge driven and we are relationship driven.”

Other partnerships

MDS has a strategic relationship with London market broker, Cooper Gay Swett and Crawford (CGSC). MDS holds a 10% stake in the company. Fonseca, who is a member of the board at CGSC Holdings, explains the importance of the London market broker to MDS’s operations. “CGSC provides us with an access to the London reinsurance market and to first-class reinsurance expertise. CGSC is a professional and highly specialised reinsurance broker.”

However, Fonseca says MDS does not work with CGSC on an exclusive basis. “CGSC is our preferred reinsurance broker but there is no exclusive arrangement. We like to work with partners who want to work with us and not because we are obligated to work with them. It is the same approach at BrokersLink where there is a strong business flow between members, but it is not mandatory to work with each other. Insurance is a people’s business and you need to feel comfortable with your business partners. As a result, we also work with other reinsurance brokers.”

Earlier this year, MDS joined forces with Towers Watson to establish an employee benefits consulting practice in Portugal. “It is an arrangement that creates value for both partners. As a broker, we are now able to provide a broader and more complete, range of services while Towers Watson has access to our client base. Every year we organise a big employee benefits conference in Portugal which is extremely well received by the market.

MDS, Fonseca says, has managed to grow steadily despite the financial crisis in Portugal. “In terms of resisting the crisis, it really helped that we were a diversified business.” Fonseca is particularly pleased with MDS’s performance in 2012. In Portugal, MDS increased its turnover 10% and in Brazil by 6%. “This is all organic growth in both markets. We developed the Angolan business to a point where we are in very good shape for 2013. In terms of growing the business, we are more ambitious in 2013 than we were last year. We are prepared to invest the right level of resources to offer the best service to our clients.”

Written by Rasaad Jamie, Global markets editor – Insurance Day

Click here to view the full article.

Independent Brokers Can Become Global Powerhouses

Insight, Perspectives

Speaking at the 1st Asia Insurance Brokers’ Summit in Singapore, José Manuel Fonseca, Chairman of BrokersLink and MDS Group Chief Executive, told delegates that independent brokers can become the powerhouses of the global insurance industry if they treat their clients as true partners, invest in the future and join forces with their peers from around the world.

He explained that despite the current challenging environment, smaller specialist or territory focused brokers unencumbered by stifling corporate inflexibility are well positioned for growth.
“All brokers are trading in a fast changing and increasingly complex market,” Fonseca said, “but entrepreneurial spirit, a strong work ethic and agile decision making capabilities are making independent brokers look very attractive to client businesses facing similar trading issues.”

He told the brokers, insurers and reinsurers in attendance that being a specialist broker based in a single country was no longer a barrier to handling global accounts. “10 years ago trading internationally without a network of offices was very difficult,” he said, “but advances in internet based communications and trading platforms have created an entirely new ball game.

“By joining forces with their peers across the world, embracing new technology and adopting a global co-operation mind-set, many groups of brokers handle accounts as large as the established international brands.

“It’s all about having the right attitude and long-term outlook,” he concluded. “Clients are looking for their brokers to become true partners and, if you can instill this in your team, global expansion will become a viable strategy for growth.”