On Tuesday April 11th, 37 executives from 34 various Dutch insurance intermediaries and brokers visited the headquarters of Anbang Insurance Group, parent company of the Dutch insurer VIVAT, in hope to learn the practices of management and operation in Anbang’s successful development.
"The impact for the intermediaries is huge. Now with a new strong Chinese parent company, everybody is looking at us. They are all curious about what we are doing." said Edwin Grutterink, General Manager of VIVAT's P&C business.
Since Anbang's acquisition in 2015, once stated-owned VIVAT was quickly revitalized. With Anbang's capital injection and managerial realignment, VIVAT stopped its money-losing streak and is now racing back to the front end of the Dutch insurance market.
"Our industry is all about good people, knowledge and speed. We are now able to attract good people. Senior underwriters and claim specialists are coming to our direction. We changed the whole management, and move the employees from various places to Amstelveen together. This brought efficiency, synergy and sharing of knowledge.” said Grutterink.
Bas de Voogd oversees a family-name insurance intermediary founded by his great-grandfather more than 100 years ago, his first impression on VIVAT for the past two years was the change of management, "Our business is based upon trust, the people we do business with changed for the better. I have more confidence in doing business with them."
Michael Bieger, CEO of Dutch financial consultancy Apple Tree recalled that his firm was on the same building with Zwitserleven, VIVAT's pension brand for 17 years, yet they hadn't had any business with Zwitserleven until Anbang's takeover.
Bieger said he was impressed by Anbang's technological innovation, and this Beijing trip would help when he goes back to the Netherlands, "A lot of our clients want to know who’s Anbang, what’s Anbang. Now we’ve seen everything, we could explain it more and say, ‘we’ve been there, we’ve talked to the people in Anbang, it feels like a family.’ I think that’s really important."
Good things are happening now at VIVAT together with Anbang, Grutterink said. Through adapting Anbang's experience in financial innovation, VIVAT streamlined its various service and products, providing its customers with better pricing and coverage.
Dynamic pricing was one of the newly adopted strategies at VIVAT, taking full advantage of more data and analytical tools available and providing customized pricing and clauses. Grutterink demonstrated the dynamic pricing model in front of Dutch insurance regulators 4 weeks ago, who were very impressed and recognized VIVAT's pioneering role in financial innovation.
Hans Visser, general maneger of Zwitserleven, is a veteran insurance executive with 30 years of experience in the market. Prior to joining VIVAT, he worked for one of the largest brokers for six years. He said Zwitserleven has introduced many talents during the past two years. Some of them used to work for brokers and understood the market well. Together they formed a vigorous sales force targeting at pension purchasers.
“We used to be nationalized and state-owned. Then the Chinese came in. People were speculating, but in no time we sent them a message, ‘don’t look at the West for innovation and technology. Look to the East.’ That’s what’s happening there. All the start-ups are coming from the East, not much from the West." said Visser.
That's why last summer when he heard a lot of brokers said, "we don't know about the Chinese. What’s going on? Is it for the long-term or only for the short-term?" He thought it’s a good idea to bring the brokers with them here in Beijing.
"It’s not allowed for us to pay for them because of legislation, so they are paying for themselves. We are only facilitating and organizing the trip. And they are very happy and enjoying it." Visser said.
On 9 March VIVAT announced its annual results for 2016. Its profit in 2016 increased to EUR 159 million compared to the EUR 109 million in 2015, despite negative impact of reorganization costs and the hail storm. The Solvency II ratio - the new risk-based supervisory framework for the insurance sector that came into effect on 1 January 2016 - increased to 175% at year-end 2016 from 161% at year-end 2015.
VIVAT's CEO Ron van Oijen said in the statement that “Reorganization and stabilization was the company’s priority in 2016, the first full year following the acquisition by Anbang. Various aspects of the strategy changes initiated in 2015 were accelerated, aimed at structurally improving VIVAT’s foundations and creating a leading, customer-centric and innovation-driven insurance company that can respond to market developments effectively."
The performance during the year of change shows positive signs in the future, manager of century-old intermediary Bas de Voogd agreed. "We’re living in a very crucial time. Insurance now is very different compared with what was ten years ago, and in ten or twenty years, the insurance world will be totally different. VIVAT is making that change now with the help of Anbang. It can really become a market leader. VIVAT and Anbang are on the right way to becoming a leading and successful company in the transition.”