Ageas websites :

A helicopter view of our European business

2021 was a good year overall for Ageas’s European business, with growth across all markets and increased market share in many. Managing Director Europe Antonio Cano tells us all about it. 

A helicopter view of our European business

How did Covid influence our performance in Europe?

Antonio: The Covid pandemic continued to have an impact, with ups and downs market to market. On a human level we rose to the challenge of remote working, which is now fully embedded in the way we work. The agility and flexibility our people have shown in that transition is remarkable. 

On the insurance side, major motor insurance markets such as the UK initially benefitted from less cars being on the road, meaning less claims. But as from the second quarter of 2021, these went gradually back to normal levels. The mobility fallout continued to impact our car parking business at Interparking and our real estate activities at AG Real Estate

European economies rebounded, although the spike in inflation was more severe than we anticipated. Turkey was the market that faced the most volatile economic conditions, extremely high inflation, the devaluation of the local currency, and a sudden 50% increase in legal minimum wages. Despite these challenges, our business in Turkey performed strongly, outperforming the market. Dollar denominated savings products helped shield us from the impact of the currency devaluation. But the business still faced the challenge of managing premium rates in a market that required daily and even intra-day changes.  

How did your new role of MD Europe leverage the performance of Europe’s segment?

Antonio: A Group level view on Europe has helped to accelerate many of the things that were already happening in a more scattered way. We are better positioned to detect opportunities to share knowledge and tools, and to promote initiatives across different markets allowing us to bring collaboration to a next level. For instance, in the UK, a small team is in the lead of training and supporting the roll-out of new underwriting and pricing tools to our other businesses. As a highly competitive and sophisticated insurance market, the UK has a lot of best practices to share in this area. This approach has speeded up the dissemination of experiences across Europe and Asia. Another example of sharing assets is the Ageas Cloud, where our operating companies in Europe benefit from - amongst other – running efficiently the joint solvency modelling tool. Complex solvency metrics are now captured in the same way everywhere. This saves both money, time and guarantees that insights are aligned. Another example of a Group-wide contract is the Security Operations Centre monitoring 24/7 the IT systems in the different markets, identifying, and solving security threats. Our operating companies – big and small – can now benefit from this high-end service at an affordable cost.

What were the highlights of past year in Europe?

Antonio: This year we extended our footprint in Turkey through our new JV with Life and Private Pension provider AgeSA. AgeSA, alongside sister company Aksigorta, provide us with a balanced Life and Non-Life presence in the Turkish market. The two entities have many commonalities creating natural synergies. And both are growth oriented, so well placed in the context of our Impact24 strategy. 


Ageas in France went through a change of leadership with former CFO Bertrand Hau being appointed as CEO. The business continued to perform well in its niche market, with a good product mix and focus on capital light unit linked products. Ageas France maintained a strong profile amongst independent financial advisers thanks to its reputation for innovation. 


In Portugal, the shift from guaranteed to unit linked products as a response to the low interest rates has been exceptionally well managed. In the Health space, Médis continued to demonstrate its leadership, introducing a range of innovative services that challenged the market norm and with a lot of innovation still in the pipeline.

 

Ageas UK is fully concentrated on growth in its chosen target markets. And at the same time, it has done a remarkable job in reducing costs while maintaining the highest levels of service. The UK has also focused on preparations around new pricing regulation that came into force in 2022.

 

In what is a very mature market, AG continued to gain market share in Belgium. But the year was marked of course by the record breaking floods and the devastating impact this had on so many of our customers. 

 

Ultimately though it’s what our customers and distribution partners feel that matters. With Net Promoter Scores at a high across all European markets, it seems the impact of what we are doing is being felt. In Belgium we were for the 8th consecutive year named the best insurance company by the broker community in both Life and Non-Life. In the UK we were named best Personal Lines insurer by brokers, particularly important as this is the area in which Ageas in the UK has reinforced its commitment in 2021. 

What do you have in petto for the coming months and years?

Antonio: We can look back with satisfaction on the past three years. Through Impact24, we want the business in Europe to come into play to help drive growth. We want the businesses in Europe to profit even more from each other by further exploring shared themes and platforms where everyone is connected. 


We will also continue to explore a potential new market in Europe to better balance our businesses across Europe and Asia. This might equally be a new cross border business model, or an additional activity beyond those we are already engaged in. And we will explore reinsurance opportunities in Europe to leverage our new partnership with Taiping Reinsurance. Last but not least, ESG will still be front and centre - but now we want to go further and faster and communicate more on the many things we already do.

Antonio Cano

We want the businesses in Europe to profit even more from each other by further exploring shared themes and platforms where everyone is connected.

Antonio Cano, Managing Director Europe
title border