Co-op insurance apex ICMIF marks its centenary

‘ICMIF’s members have collectively achieved so much for the insurance sector through their willingness to share strategies and support each other’

The International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) began its centenary celebrations this week, marking its launch in Rome on 25 April, 1922.

In that time it has grown from a group of five European mutual and co-operative insurers to more than 200 member organisations in 61 countries, representing US$247bn in premium income and $US2tn in total assets.

Hilde Vernaillen, president and CEO of one of its founding members, the P&V Group (Belgium), conducted an interview with ICMIF’s CEO, Shaun Tarbuck, which was broadcast exclusively to members yesterday (25 April).

She spoke about P&V’s pivotal role in creating what is now a global network and why ICMIF’s purpose is just as important today as it was more than 100 years ago.

“Joseph Lemaire, the then CEO of la Prévoyance Sociale (now known as P&V) in Belgium, had a vision to create a platform where purpose-driven insurers – co-operatives and mutuals – could share their strategies and ideas in a non-competitive environment,” she said.

“He brought together five organisations including those now known as Folksam (Sweden), Unipol (Italy), Achmea (Netherlands) and together they agreed to share knowledge, ideas and become a support for one another as inspirational leaders who wanted to use insurance to do good for the communities they served.”

She added: “Fast forward 100 years, and that vision and purpose remains as true today. ICMIF’s members have collectively achieved so much for the insurance sector through their willingness to share strategies and support each other and by focusing on the long-term needs of the people they serve, whether they are employees, communities or strategic partners.

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“We know that our membership is extra special because more than 70% of ICMIF members exceeded their local market’s annual growth over the last financial year. The leaders of these exceptionally well-run organisations are passionate about putting people first and each day they demonstrate their commitment to a sustainable future for the people they serve. 

“What I am most proud of is that our recent ICMIF members Sustainable Investment Report 2021 demonstrated that US$576bn of our members’ assets are aligned to sustainable investment frameworks and that members named in the report outperformed their ICMIF peers in annual premium growth comparisons against both the total market and their local markets. They also exceeded the five-year premium growth of all ICMIF members by almost 11 percentage points.”

In the 1960s, said Ms Vernaillen, a development function was established by ICMIF to help the creation of new co-operative insurers in emerging markets. Over the years, ICMIF and its members have helped set up over 25 mutual insurers including successful organisations such as NTUC Income (Singapore), CIC Insurance Group (Kenya) and Cooperativa de Seguros Múltiples (Puerto Rico).

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ICMIF’s development activities continue today with a focus on its 5-5-5 Mutual Microinsurance Strategy. Last year, the strategy scaled up microinsurers in some of the world’s most high-risk countries resulting in insurance cover for 14.3 million of the world’s poorest people over the last five years.

Looking to the future, Ms Vernaillen said: Our members are also focused on risk prevention. If preventing risk means reshaping their organisation away from a policy-focus towards risk-mitigation and education around prevention, then that’s what they will do. I am proud of our partnerships with the United Nations which have resulted in the development of the world’s first prevention hub, an open-source repository of more than 50 cases studies, searchable by specially designed prevention mechanisms. Anyone has access to these. It is a gift to the insurance industry.”

Ms Vernaillen concluded by saying, “So, there is so much to be proud of but we cannot afford to stand still. The world is fragile and needs more great leaders who focus on putting people first; who drive purpose into their cultures and decision-making; and who selflessly share their knowledge and expertise to help make the world a safer, kinder place.

“ICMIF members will do this together. Because that is our strength, we really are stronger, together.”