2019 Q&A: Shaun Tarbuck on insurance

Shaun Tarbuck, chief executive of the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF)

 How was 2019 for ICMIF

 In February, ICMIF published the 10-year anniversary edition of the ICMIF Global Mutual Market Share report. Now that we have reached the 10-year anniversary of the onset of the global financial crisis, it is hugely encouraging to see the mutual and co-operative insurance sector continuing to grow, at a faster rate than the rest of the industry. The growth in market share is very positive, but equally so is the growth in membership numbers and the number of people employed by our sector. The mutual sector grew at a faster rate between 2007 and 2017 than the rest of the industry in Europe, North America, Latin America and Africa.

Globally, over 5,100 mutual insurers collectively wrote US$1.3tn in insurance premiums in 2017, the second highest level of premium volumes ever recorded by the mutual sector. Also, the sector registered positive annual growth in nine of the previous 10 years since 2007.

According to our research, the mutual and co-operative insurance market has been the fastest-growing part of the global insurance industry in the 10-year period since the global financial crisis. In this period, premium income of the global mutual and co-operative insurance sector grew by a total of 30% compared to 17% growth of the total global insurance industry. 

As a result, the global market share of mutual and co-operative insurers rose from 24% in 2007 to 26.7% in 2017. In 2017, 922 million members/policyholders were being served by mutual/co-operative insurance companies, a 13% growth since 2012. The growing positive socio-economic impact of the sector was also evident in the increase in the number of people it employed, which reached 1.16 million in 2017 – up 24% since 2007.

 What were the main highlights for the sector?

 A major highlight of the year was in November (12-15), when ICMIF welcomed 316 delegates from more than 50 mutual and co-operative insurer companies from 37 nations to Auckland (New Zealand) for the ICMIF Biennial Conference where we addressed key topics impacting the sector and the communities our members support – including emerging socio-economic risks, environmental challenges and industry leadership.

New Zealand-owned insurer FMG supported the conference as host.  The theme was The Future of Mutuality which drove an agenda focused on the
future of the customer-owned model in insurance and how ICMIF members are creating sustainable, competitive advantage

Delegates heard from a wide range of speakers including Mami Mizutori, special representative of the secretary-general for disaster risk reduction at the UN. She joined panellists to discuss the role of co-op and mutual insurers in closing the protection gap, alleviating poverty and increasing resilience to disaster risks. 

The ICMIF Biennial Conference is the largest global gathering of mutual and co-operative insurance leaders with more 300 leaders travelling to New Zealand. This year’s event was also the first time the conference has been held in Asia-Pacific country in more than 20 years. 

Also in November, ICMIF signed three separate partnerships with major global organisations. The first was with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) focusing on microinsurance and embedding the SDGs and impact investing. This was announced by Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator, at the conference. 

The second partnership is with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, focusing on risk mitigation and prevention. 

The final partnership is with the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S), an organisation which was established by the Prince of Wales in 2004. 

A4S’ aim is to make sustainable decision-making business the norm. Our partnership with A4S will focus on climate-related reporting; the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) which aims to develop voluntary, consistent, climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies; and sustainable finance. 

Another highlight was the fact that 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of ICMIF/Americas, the Americas’ regional association of ICMIF. Founded in 1979 with 11 member organizations in three countries, today, ICMIF/Americas represents 61 member organisations in 19 countries throughout North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

To celebrate the 40th year of the association, ICMIF/Americas published exclusive new data on the performance of the Americas region in an infographic which showcases the solidarity and collaboration of its member organisations there. 

In August, over 150 leaders from ICMIF/Americas member organisations gathered in Mendoza  (Argentina) for the 2019 ICMIF/Americas Annual Conference. The theme of the conference was Collaborating and Innovating for the Digital Age and the agenda featured keynote presentations from Ariel Guarco, president of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and Hilde Vernaillen, Chair of ICMIF and CEO at ICMIF member organisation P&V (Belgium). 

 What are the main challenges for the sector?

One of the key challenges is keeping up with the ever-increasing challenging of technical change and digital innovation. Fortunately, many ICMIF members are at the forefront of digitalisation and one of the benefits for our members is the sharing of information, case studies and best practice. As most members do not compete against one another there is a great deal of sharing of information throughout the membership. 

One of our ways to help our members meet the challenges of digitalisation is our successful ICMIF webinar series. In 2019 we hosted 19 webinars with exclusive, member-only webinars on a variety of topics relating to issues and/or opportunities for the mutual and co-operative insurance sector including a number on the topic of insurtech and digitalisation.

Sustainable investments is another hot topic for ICMIF and our members as we go into 2020. We have been surveying our members on their investment practices and also asking how much they embed the UN Sustainable Goals into their business strategy. ICMIF, along with a number of other UN bodies and global organisations, is increasingly concerned about the disruptive impacts that unabated climate change will have on societies and economies, now and in the future. Responsible asset owners are powerful allies in global action to fight climate change and limit the rise in global temperature to no more than 1.5°C warming and we will encourage our members to look at their investments accordingly. A number are already doing so.

Another great challenge for ICMIF is to help reduce the protection gap and provide insurance cover in communities where it currently doesn’t exist or is hard to find. ICMIF is working on this via the 5-5-5 Mutual Microinsurance Strategy (the ‘5-5-5’) which aims to scale up mutual microinsurance in five countries. The ultimate objective is to build resilience in communities and developing insurable populations by providing financial education, risk reduction and affordable need-based insurance products. So far, the 5-5-5 Strategy has provided insurance cover for 9 million previously uninsured people. 

 Could you give us any details of upcoming projects?

 In May 2020, we will welcome another group of participants to the first ICMIF Advanced Management Course (AMC) of 2020 in Manchester. This international course brings together senior managers and leaders of change from around the globe and equips participants with new mind-sets, behaviours and tools to enable them to transform complex challenges into situations that they can work through logically as part of a team, drawing on insights from behavioural science. 

In June, the 2020 ICMIF Meeting of Reinsurance Officials (MORO) will take place in Helsinki (Finland), hosted by LocalTapiola. The theme will be “Mapping the future of reinsurance”. The MORO is a unique gathering of reinsurance professionals from the co-–operative and mutual sector that meets every two years. 

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