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Message from the CEO and Chairman

CEO Hans De Cuyper and Chairman Bart De Smet look back on the past year at Ageas and give a sneak preview of what is in the pipeline for the years to come. 

Message from the CEO and Chairman

Dear stakeholder, 

 

2021 was the year that we completed the final phase of our Connect21 plan, and we designed the next chapter in the Ageas story. We reflected on the trends coming our way and focused on opportunities for long term sustainable growth. We translated this into the new plan, Impact24, that will take us forward for the next 3 years and beyond. A plan is always built within a global context… and the world did not stand still during the past 12 months. It moved faster than ever.  

2021 brought new challenges

If 2020 was the ‘year of Covid’, then 2021 should have been the ‘year the world got back to a new normal’. For a while it looked like it might, but as it turned out, Covid variants were here to stay. The global economy began to recover more quickly and more strongly than expected, but at a different pace market to market. As world trade came out of hibernation, inflation started to rise.  

 

Covid acted as a catalyst for widening social inequality with significant gaps in income, health, and education. As an insurer, every one of these factors needs our full attention. Supporting our stakeholders by protecting them today and preparing them for the world of tomorrow has been our reason of existence for almost two centuries, and this becomes even more tangible today. 

 

2021 was also the year that the climate change emergency reached new heights with the ambition of a maximum of 1.5°C rise in temperatures no longer needing elaboration. As 190+ nations gathered in Glasgow for COP26 to reaffirm their commitment to maintain this critical threshold, the world got a wake-up call for accelerated action. As sizable investors, and given our proximity to a large customer base, Ageas has a significant role to play in closing the information gap and in stimulating our customers in the transition towards a more sustainable world. 

 

This year we felt the full force of climate change, as flooding on a massive scale devastated and destroyed the homes of so many of our customers in Belgium and in the UK. Our heart goes out to those who have lost relatives and friends. Thanks to the extraordinary support of our employees, agents, brokers, and partners, we did everything we could to provide the service and assistance our customers needed at this most critical time.  

Sustainability at the centre

As an insurer, we have a commitment towards our stakeholders to maintain a sustainable business that is built to last. We also have a duty of responsibility towards future generations to act now on global societal challenges. The strategic exercise we performed last year allowed us to translate this into an actionable plan with ambitious targets.  

Sustainability has been integrated into all aspects of our new strategy Impact24. We want to be a diverse, inclusive and Great place to Grow for all our employees. We are expanding our offering of sustainable products that can assist our customers in the transition towards a more sustainable world. We made a commitment to become GHG neutral in our own operations and to invest up to EUR 10 billion by 2024 in ESG initiatives. At the time we made this commitment we had already invested EUR 6 billion. We are happy to report that we have already reached the target of EUR 10 billion far earlier than anticipated. We will continue to raise the bar and increase our investments in social housing, retirement homes, renewable energy and infrastructures. The strong focus we put on sustainability is also reflected in the steady improvement in five out of the six ESG ratings that we actively engage in.  

At Ageas, we are making our ecological footprint smaller and our contribution to society bigger, year after year. And in 2021, we raised the bar: we will challenge and support the companies we invest in and stimulate the customers who enjoy our products, so that together we can make an impact towards a more sustainable world.   

In this report you can discover a wealth of global and local initiatives that respond to changing customer and societal needs ranging from health to ageing, mobility and more.

Hans De Cuyper

At Ageas, we are making our ecological footprint smaller and our contribution to society bigger, year after year. And in 2021, we raised the bar: we will challenge and support the companies we invest in and stimulate the customers who enjoy our products, so that together we can make an impact towards a more sustainable world.

Hans De Cuyper, CEO Ageas
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A robust performance showing our resilience

As we reflect on our 2021 performance, we do so with pride both in terms of what has been delivered but also on how it was done. Our local achievements are a true testimony to how Ageas’s story is brought to life across the world.  

The Group delivered strong financial results with a net result excluding the impact of RPN(i) of EUR 945 million at the top end of our guidance, a Solvency II-ratio (197%) above target and a dividend of EUR 2.75, corresponding to a pay-out ratio of 52%, in line with the Connect21 target. Ageas also recorded a strong commercial performance in both Europe and Asia, with a marked growth in inflows in Unit-Linked and Non-Life.  

The devastating floods of the summer in Belgium and in the UK led to a level of claims over and above anything we experienced before from a single natural event, but the strong results from all our businesses helped compensate for this. Demonstrating the resilience of our Group, thanks to our geographical spread and our diversified portfolio in Life, Non-Life and Reinsurance.  

Along the way, our business, especially Life, continued to be challenged by the low interest rate environment which also impacted the Chinese market this year. But thanks to our ability to quickly align our asset management with the interest rate evolution and thanks also to the solid balance sheet of Taiping Life, the results remained strong and resilient, underscoring the value of growth markets in Asia. The acquisition of a stake in Taiping Re provided a further element of diversification, which has a positive impact on our Non-Life inflows in Asia.  

We extended our partnership in the fast-growing Turkish market with, the acquisition of Aviva SA. The Life Insurer and Private Pension Provider was renamed ‘AgeSA’ and is already contributing positively in its first year to our Life results in Europe.  

With this excellent performance, we fully delivered against all the financial targets set out in the Connect21 plan. Both our European and Asian entities contributed to the growth in inflows and net result over the 3-year period. Today, Asia contributes to about 46% of the gross inflows (Ageas’ part) and 38% of the Insurance net result. This demonstrates the value of our growth markets, supported by our unique partnership model. Local autonomy empowers our operating companies and Joint Ventures to be agile in their local market. 

Once more, the Group’s resilience has been key and our well-diversified and well-balanced business has contributed to that. However, in a period of lockdowns and isolation, resilience is also down to people. They make the difference, and we have the best.

On the move for our people

We know that our own people also feel the impact of the events we have seen over the past year, and we support them in any way we can. But we want to go further than that. We want to be considered a Great place to Grow by our 40,000 employees by, amongst others, sparking trust-based collaboration, offering learning and career opportunities to prepare our workforce for the future, improving the quality of work for our employees and the employee journey, and stimulating diversity and inclusion. We are proud to have received Top Employer accreditations in Belgium and the UK at the start of the year, reflecting our ongoing efforts to be an inspiring employer across all our markets. 

Creating an inspiring office environment that facilitates hybrid working and collaboration is another important step towards achieving this ambition. We will relocate our headquarters in Belgium to the Manhattan building in Brussels, a fully sustainable office. Within the headquarters of daughter company AG in Brussels we have developed a new training campus, and our Portuguese teams are relocating to new office buildings in Lisbon and Porto. All of these have been designed as state-of-the-art and sustainable work environments, where our employees can connect and co-create. 

Bart De Smet

The Group’s resilience has been key and our well-diversified and well-balanced business has contributed to that. However, resilience is also down to people. They make the difference, and we have the best.

Bart De Smet, Chairman Ageas
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The future is about making an Impact

Connect21 provides us with a strong starting point for the coming years. In developing Impact24, we focus on our strategic choices and investments for the long-term, not just for the next three years. With this plan we will strengthen and grow our core business by unlocking the full potential that we know exists. We will pursue new opportunities for growth to future-proof our business. We will prioritise M&A opportunities that allow us to strengthen our leading positions in existing markets. And we will ensure that sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.  

The impact we make should continue well beyond 2024. The world is transforming faster than ever before. Our job is to evolve with it, and we will.  

 

This is the perfect moment to thank our people and our partners for their contribution. Thank you also to our customers and investors for their loyalty to Ageas. We know you have choices to make. We are grateful that you have chosen Ageas. 

We look forward to a successful year together and, in a world that has recently witnessed so much devastation in Ukraine, we hope for a future that sees peace and stability return for humanity. 

Hans De Cuyper, CEO - Bart De Smet, Chairman
Hans De Cuyper, CEO - Bart De Smet, Chairman