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“We are not asking for favours”

01.06.2016 – Vernaillien_Amice“Changing societal trends” and “ways to ensure our businesses” are heading the agenda of the Amice Congress 2016 regarding Amice-President Hilde Vernaillen. In an exclusive Interview for VWheute she is giving details about the challenges for mutual insurers.

VWheute: What are the special challenges for mutual insurers in question of low yields environment, digitalization and regulation affairs?

Hilde Vernaillen: All insurers are challenged by the low interest environment, not just mutuals, but perhaps it could be less of a challenge for us since mutuals and cooperatives generally take a longer term view to their investments than shareholder driven companies. As to digitalisation, this can be a bigger challenge for smaller mutuals. And regarding regulation, our challenge as ever is to make sure that our particular business model is taken into account when legislation is drawn up. We are not asking for favours – just that policymakers remember that the shareholder model is not the only one in insurance, and that the legislation they introduce is proportional to the nature, scale and risk of the organisation. If the aim really is improved consumer protection, which we can all support, it is not perhaps best served by imposing huge administrative burdens on insurance companies which keeps them from doing their real job – protecting peoples’ livelihoods.

VWheute: What impulse do you expect from Amice Congress 2016

Hilde Vernaillen: The Amice Congress – of which this week’s is the fifth edition – is always the occasion for the European mutual and cooperative insurance world to make itself known to European policymakers, other insurers and other stakeholders. So, I hope one result will be a better acknowledgement of our particularities by those who make the rules.

But it is first and foremost the time when European mutual and cooperative insurers come together in a non-competitive environment to share their ideas about the future of our sector. This year we will be looking at some of the current challenges – digitalisation of course, but also changing societal trends such as peer-to-peer business, or ways to ensure our businesses have the capacity to survive new rules. I hope that all our members will take home some ideas to improve their business strategies while feeling comforted that it is possible to do so without giving up our values.

VWheute: Are Mutuals still in the position to spread their values or do they have to assimilate to the manners of shareholder value?

Hilde Vernaillen: I am convinced that we can and must maintain our values. Through the financial crisis our model has shown that our customers trust us. Our market share has not ceased to increase and today’s customers, particularly Gen Y, want more than just a financial product. They want a relationship with their insurer and we can give them that. However, we cannot ignore the challenges which we face as I have mentioned earlier.

VWheute: Heading towards the Age of Blockchain and robo-advisors: What can mutual insurers contribute in future?

Hilde Vernaillen: Mutual insurers are closely following the many technical evolutions and will not hesitate to participate in the development of these insofar as they create value for their members.

Questions by VWheute-Editor Rafael Kurz.

Picture: Amice Congress 2016 of european mutual insurers will be opened today by Hilde Vernaillen. (Source: Amice)

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