Specialty Markets – striving to achieve further profitable growth.
The Specialty Markets market area achieved very profitable growth in the last strategy period. The goal now is to continue this trend with helvetia 20.25, and the locations responsible for Latin America and Asia are expected to make a substantial contribution.
Text Jonas Grossniklaus Photo Jorma Müller
The market area known as Specialty Markets was established in 2015 following the merger of Helvetia with Nationale Suisse. Prior to the merger, Helvetia already had a strong position in the French transport insurance market, an Active Reinsurance portfolio and wrote transport and technical insurance in the Swiss market. Nationale Suisse brought its specialty lines business to the table, specifically Specialty Lines Engineering, Marine and Art. “One success achieved in the last strategy period was the merger of various market units to create a market area in which all can benefit from each other,” explains David Ribeaud, who is responsible for Specialty Markets at Group Executive Management level and also heads up the Specialty Lines CH & Int. market unit . What is more, over the last five years the company succeeded in improving the Helvetia brand’s position in the international market and in launching new products and lines of business.
This is the sound basis on which Specialty Markets can build for helvetia 20.25, as Ribeaud explains: “We want to gain an edge on the competition by being the company with the strongest customer focus and the most agile provider of sustainable primary insurance and reinsurance solutions. We can offer our business partners international expertise and are strongly focused on long-term partnerships. Our day-to-day service is characterized by reliability, high standards of quality and our Swiss values.” One advantage Helvetia can boast, for example, is its ability to make decisions quickly, enabling it to respond fast and flexibly to its business partners’ enquiries. A strategy of sustainable growth is being implemented in the three market units France, Active Reinsurance and Specialty Lines CH & Int. In a separate interview, Vincent Letac explains the objectives being pursued in the French market in the period up to 2025.
Active Reinsurance – the goal is diversification
In Active Reinsurance, the overriding focus is on maximizing the diversification of our portfolio as a basis for sustainable and profitable reinsurance business. In this sense, the new strategy period will continue the recent trend in strong growth – growth that was achieved through more intensive cultivation of the market, as Reto Koller, Head Active Reinsurance, explains: “We bolstered our underwriting teams by adding experienced people who are very familiar with the products, markets and customers.
Our active customer support encompasses regular visits to the corresponding countries and sharing ideas on underwriting-related issues.” Other key factors, says Koller, are Helvetia’s healthy capital base, with an S&P rating of A. In addition, customers appreciate Helvetia’s vision of a long-term relationship, with the company’s over 160-year history providing proof positive of its approach. During the most recent strategy period, a great deal of progress was also made on the administration front and with technical analysis capabilities, also thanks to investments in a cutting-edge reinsurance system.
In an effort to improve diversification of the portfolio, reinsurance business is set to be expanded over the period until 2025 in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe – as well in South East Asia and Latin America, by making use of Helvetia’s respective locations in Singapore and Miami. What is more, the product range is to be broadened, with the focus falling on specialties (e.g. Aviation, Credit & Surety, NatCat and Special Liability) and on growing the portfolio for the reinsurance of biometric risks. Over and above this, the ECM@RV is to be completed with a view to making administration more efficient. The key element in this is RITABlock (Reinsurance Technical AccountingBlock), which aims to automate and digitalize technical accounting using a blockchain solution.
Specialty Lines – successes in Switzerland and abroad
Specialty Lines CH & Int., too, is building on its success in the recent strategy period. Overall, this market segment made a strong contribution to growth and achieved good results in line with its planning targets. It also laid the foundations for more efficient, automated processes and modular products.
The segment improved its position in the Swiss market and enhanced its image as a professional, solution-oriented provider. What is more, a new field of business was launched: cyber insurance. The corporate-customer campaign was a prime example of positive collaboration with Non-Life Switzerland and Sales in the domestic market. In the international Specialty Lines segment, the profitability of major and speciality engineering risks was improved, followed up by significant growth in this line of business. The E&S licence to write direct business in the United States was one factor in this success. Specialty Lines CH & Int. achieved further growth by rolling out Aviation and Space insurance and bolstering Marine International. Finally, improvements were also made in risk selection and portfolio management.
This is the basis on which Specialty Lines business will continue growing and evolving, as David Ribeaud explains: “Many of our goals contribute to the strategic priority of growing our core business. But we are also marching into new business areas with the establishment of Specialty Lines Aviation, Space and Cyber Insurance.” Over and above this, Specialty Lines CH & Int. will continue to make efficiency gains. To that end, it is reviewing its core and support processes in order to increase the level of process automation. Product structures are also being simplified and available external data integrated in an effort to enhance customer convenience.
«Bei der länderübergreifenden Zusammenarbeit wurde ein Erfolgsfaktor von fast allen Befragten genannt: Vertrauen.»
Overseas locations offer growth opportunities
When it comes to the growth ambitions of Active Reinsurance and Specialty Lines CH & Int., the Miami and Singapore offices have a central role to play. “In recent years, the placement of business has continued to shift from the London market to local brokers in Latin America. That is why it is important to us to have a local presence in Miami, which functions as a hub for Latin American business. The key success factors in this are an understanding of the local market and of the different mentalities and risks, but above all personal relationships with our customers,” says Pascal Barbato, Head Marine, Aviation & Art, referring to the trend in the international transport insurance market. Oscar Treceno, Head Engineering, concurs: “Latin America and Asia offer opportunities for profitable growth. In Asia, for example, we are seeing a boom in the construction of wind farms – and we would like to get a slice of the cake.”
A personal presence in the local market is a decisive factor in achieving our ambitions. Both Barbato and Treceno say they are pleased to be able to rely on experienced individuals with a high profile in their relevant markets. In order to implement its strategy, Active Reinsurance has recruited two underwriters, one each for the Miami and Singapore offices.
Being on the spot, these underwriters can further expand customer relationships and support their Specialty Lines colleagues with cross-selling enquiries.
Trust – a key element of leadership
Leadership of an international organization can pose many challenges, and a number of factors decide whether they can be successfully tackled: “Collaboration depends much more on people’s attitudes than on the rules they set up,” says Ricardo Garcia Lopez, manager of the Miami branch. Already well established, video conferences are an easy way of sharing ideas with the colleagues in Switzerland. In the Engineering line, for instance, there are regular meetings and consultations covering various topics. “Our goal is to achieve a certain homogeneity in our offerings. That requires using the same tools and having the same risk appetite across the globe,” says Treceno. This sort of leadership is appreciated, as Ivan Chan, CEO Asia, explains: “We are happy, and grateful, for the ongoing guidance and support that Switzerland gives us at various levels and across different functions.” After all, almost all those asked name the same success factor in international collaboration: Trust.