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Troubled first semester for the insurance industry: Only three insurers have seen a raise in their revenues this year. Who are they?

Now that insurance groups have started to share their financial results for the first semester of 2020, the time has come to look back on this troubled first half of the year.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis and the lockdown, most companies have seen a down in their results compared to the same period last year. Out of all the groups that published their financial results, only three have seen a raise in their revenues.

OVERVIEW

Overall we can observe that the Non-Life premiums and operating results raised due to the drop in sinistrality during the lockdown, while the premiums written for Life insurance have dropped. The bank-insurers have also quite suffered on the bank activities, while the insurance activities did not suffer as much and compensated or alleviated the effects of the lockdown. The bank activities were impacted by several factors: the investments were impacted by the economic turmoil created by the uncertainty, and consequently there was a decrease of the investment and net fee commissions. Furthermore, between the tightening of conditions to access a mortgage credit and the covid19, which logically slowed down real estate purchases, incomes from financial transactions decreased for banks, while many of them allowed their clients to suspend or reduce monthly payments due to a partial or total loss of income, further aggravating the impact of the pandemic on their income.

THE UPS +

AGEAS GROUP

The international insurance group has communicated a raise in their net result: for the first half of 2020 they generated €791 million while for 2019 they reached €606 million. The Belgian group witnessed a down in the gross Life premiums written but it was compensated by the Non-Life thanks to the drop of sinistrality during the lockdown. The Belgian entity, AG Insurance has not yet published its half-year results, we have yet to see how impacted the leader of the insurance market in Belgium was.

BALOISE GROUP

The Swiss group has announced a raise on the EBIT of the Belgian branch of 46,6% (2020: CHF105,1 million; 2019: CHF71,7 million). The gross premiums written for Life are up by 12,4% and the Non-Life are up by 24,8%. The latest result is explained by 2 factors: the decrease of sinistrality during the lockdown, and the acquisition of Fidea and of the Non-Life portfolio of Athora Belgium.

ARGENTA

For this first semester of 2020, the bank-insurer has published a consolidated turnover of €94 million, versus €77 million for 2019. The net result is also going up compared to last year: €31 million for 2020 and €29 million for 2019. Their gross premium written for Life insurance rose by 22%, while for Non-Life, they rose by 5%.

THE DOWNS –

AXA GROUP

The French group has published its semester results and at the group level, with their turnover of €52 billion, they lost 2% on their turnover compared to the first half of last year. The impact on their net result is that it dropped by 60,8%, going from €2,3 billion to €1.4 billion. The AXA group has estimated that the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown has cost them around €1,5 billion, most of it due to events cancellations and business interruptions claims. Given that those are the results at the group level, and that AXA was involved in several lawsuits regarding the business interruption claims in France, the Belgian entity might not be as impacted as the group level shows.

KBC GROUP

The bank-insurer has seen a drop in its net results for the first semester compared to last year: €1175 million for 2019 to €205 million for 2020. However, when looking on details, we can see that the insurance activities of the KBC group are going up. Indeed, the Non-Life technical result raised by 27% while the Life technical result raised by 1%. As many bank-insurers, it is the bank results that suffered the most during this period.

BELFIUS GROUP

The bank-insurer Belfius has also been negatively impacted by the lockdown and the uncertainty on the financial markets due to the pandemic. The net result at the group level dropped from €414 million for the 1st semester of 2019 to €26 million for 2020. Meanwhile for the insurance activities specifically, the group has announced a net result of €89 million versus €126 million for the same period last year. When looking more in details we can see that the total amount of gross premiums written for Life insurance lowered by 33% while for the Non-Life the raised by 43%.

ALLIANZ BENELUX

The Benelux entity of the German group has seen a drop in their net result: from € 111,6 million to €97,7 million. Mainly due to the Luxemburgish portfolio, the gross premiums written in Life insurance are down by 27,6% while the Non-Life premium are up by 3,5%.

NN GROUP

For this first half of the year, the NN group has published a drop of 47,5% on their net result (2020: €587 million, 2019: €1118 million). However, the impact on their European insurance portfolio is lesser important, indeed, they witnessed a down of 5,1% of their results in insurance in Europe (2020: €133 million; 2019: €140 million).

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Why are the insurers moving?

Accenture, Allianz, Ethias, Baloise… Why are they going through a relocating phase?

Last December, when sending our greetings cards we had to double check our address book, and update it ! Indeed, lately, many insurers are changing of offices. Why so many changes ?

 

ACCENTURE BELGIUM

Last October, Accenture announced that they would gather in a same building all its different offices. They chose the Tour-and-Taxi former ferry terminal. In this huge complex of 5.123 m² spread over 4 levels, the 1150 employees share 630 hyper-connected workstations. The rehabilitated complex has been redesigned for a Zen and friendly atmosphere with wood coming from sustainable sources and plenty of vegetation. A first in Europe! Why? To improve well-being at work (more natural light, silence room, library, a healthcare area) and implement highly technological devices and features to improve performance (almost everything is wireless), to reduce CO2 emissions and to be closer to a station and public transportations. Cherry on the cake, it is great publicity to attract young talent and retain employees, and a clever corporate branding move.

 

ALLIANZ BENELUX

Allianz Benelux will soon move to its new office in the Northern district of Brussels. Why? A desire for a new passive, more efficient, brighter, more environmentally friendly building, combining comfort, modernity, technology and proximity to public transportations. The new tower, of approximately 26,600 m2 above ground, will foster all operational activities of the insurer.

 

ETHIAS

Ethias wishes to leave its iconic headquarter in the Rue des Croisiers in Liège. Why ? The building, dating from the 60’s/70’s does no longer respect the Belgian standards. Modernizing the building would be extremely expensive. In addition, the lack of workspaces and parking spot is currently an issue. For economic and practical reasons, Ethias is therefore looking for a new HQ that could welcome its 800 employees that are based in Liège. The choice has not been done yet, although rumor has it that 2 options are considered: near the Guillemins station or Val Benoit.

EBURY

The fintech Ebury, which specializes in financing exporters SMEs, is moving part of its London offices to relocate in Brussels because of… the Brexit!  London will remain its worldwide HQ while the Belgian office will become its European center. Ebury chose Brussels because of the suitable regulation for its activities. Moreover, this move is also motivated by the average annual growth of the group, which has reached 60% since its foundation ten years ago. The company intends to double its workforce in the coming years.

 

And across the border?

BALOISE LUXEMBOURG

Baloise Assurances Luxembourg has signed to join the « Wooden » project and will join Foyer and Lalux in Leudelange by 2022. Same as Accenture Belgium, its new 9.600m2 headquarter should receive the Well Building Standard certification, focusing on the well-being of the employees. Mainly built out of wood, and with a modern structure letting light in and encouraging human exchanges, it will be the first building of that kind and of that size in Luxembourg. The wood used to build the new offices has been sourced sustainably and comes solely from the Luxembourgish forests.

Why moving ? The Baloise workforce has grown extensively in the last years through organic growth and acquisitions. It was essential to expand the workspaces and improve the well-being of its 429 employees. In addition, the interior design did not encourage synergies between teams. The insurer will implement the « Flex office » policy: they will organize the workspaces according to projects and not departments. As a bonus, the brand new and modern building will be a good showcase for clients and potential employees.

VYV

The first mutual insurance group in France will leave its historic offices and will relocate in the 13th arrondissement of Paris during the fall of 2021. Indeed, their current offices will undergo new asbestos removal work and a complete renovation. The top management of the insurance company preferred to relocate to a whole new building that will solely host the Vyv group. The mutual insurance group gathers more than 50 mutual insurances (including Harmonie Mutuelle, MGEN or MNT) and wanted to be able to meet with and to organize meetings with its different entities. Additionally, this project responds to the employees’ request for wider and brighter workspaces.

 

In a nutshell, here are the reasons why an insurer could move :
    1. Rehabilitation: need for a bigger, brighter and safer building.
    2. Improve the employees’ well-being.
    3. Evolution of the workforce size: the need for bigger or smaller workspaces.
    4. Ecology: sustainable and eco-responsible building with a low environmental footprint.
    5. Accessibility and mobility: Getting closer to public transportations and stations.
    6. Technology: integration of new technologies to ease work, interactions and connectivity.
    7. Cost effectiveness: in terms of rent, tax and energy.
    8. Branding: improve corporate branding towards both potential employees and clients.
    9. Regulation: Brexit.

 

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