ICMIF conference explores the future of mutuality

Discussion included new tech, the mutual model and disaster resilience, and community support

More than 50 mutual and co-operative insurer companies from 37 nations met in New Zealand for the biennial conference of the International Co-operative and Mutuals Insurers Federation (Icmif).

The event, held in Auckland from 12-15 November, saw 315 delegates gather, welcomed via video message by New Zealand prime minister Zacinda Ardern.

The conference was themed around the future of mutuality and featured keynote presentations from entrepreneur Ian Taylor and strategy advisor Ross Dawson.

Mr Taylor, who won the 2019 New Zealand Innovator of the Year award, is founder of Animation Research Ltd (ARL), a computer graphics production facility, and multimedia production company Taylormade Productions. In spite of the success of his ventures, he told delegates he had never written a business plan and shared his approach to leadership innovation.

Ross Dawson addressing the audience in Auckland

Mr Dawson is founding chair of thinktank Future Exploration Network and ventures and publishing firm Advanced Human Technologies. During his presentation, he talked about opportunities for mutual value creation.

Technology is changing the nature of customer relationships and enabling new business models, he told delegates. Value is generated across ecosystems rather than in companies and this opens up a wealth of opportunities for mutuals and co-operatives.

The conference focused on the future of the customer-owned model in insurance and how Icmif members are creating sustainable, competitive advantage.

Mami Mizutori, who heads the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), highlighted the negative impact disaster had on development.

Around 26 million people are pushed back into poverty each year due to natural disasters, she said, adding that the mutual sector was uniquely placed to deliver disaster risk mitigation and response and awareness.

She said: “I truly believe that the mutual insurance sector has a crucial role to play in reducing the protection gap and increasing disaster risk resilience.”

She argued that mutual and co-operative insurers had the knowledge and data on risk, which could dramatically increase disaster risk resilience and called on the sector to share this data.

Icmif will start a new partnership with UNDRR next year to provide a prevention framework for mutual insurers.

“One of the reasons we asked to support ICMIF in hosting their conference was to help highlight the role mutual and co-ops play within communities, which is often different to that of publically listed companies,” said Pete Frizzell, general manager for People, Culture and Communications at FMG, the Kiwi mutual insurer which hosted the conference.

“A couple of distinct advantages include being able to take a longer-term view of developing the organisation, rather than meet short term expectations of shareholders. The other is that we operate with a higher accountability to community as we’re owned by the people we insure.

“A major example of this for FMG would be Farmstrong, the rural wellbeing programme we created and run with Mental Health Foundation. Internationally, insurers are operating to this higher sense of purpose to help their communities to address other significant issues, such as making insurance accessible in poor and disadvantaged communities,” Mr Frizzell commented ahead of the conference.

Speaking on behalf of ICMIF, chief executive Shaun Tarbuck also said: “We are delighted to bring the mutual and co-operative insurance sector to New Zealand for the ICMIF Biennial Conference and our Board and I would like to express our gratitude to FMG for hosting the event. Over 300 delegates are attending the event and the theme of the Conference, The future of mutuality, has driven an agenda focused on the future of the customer-owned model in insurance and how ICMIF members are creating sustainable, competitive advantage.

“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 ten-year period, premium income of the global mutual and cooperative 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 24.0% in 2007 to 26.7% in 2017. In 2017, 922 million members/policyholders were being served by mutual and co-operative insurance companies, a 13% growth since 2012. The growing positive socio-economic impact of the mutual and co-operative sector was also evident in the increase in the number of people employed by the sector, which reached 1.16 million in 2017 – a 24% growth since 2007,” Mr Tarbuck added.

The next Icmif conference will take place in Rome in April 2022 where the apex body will be celebrating its centenary anniversary.