Alexandru CIUNCAN, General Director of UNSAR - National Union of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies in Romania.

18 March 2021 —
Alexandru CIUNCAN, General Director of UNSAR - National Union of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies in Romania.
Financial education can help us all better understand how financial market mechanisms work and be better prepared for the challenges of the present. It is very important that any consumer understands as well as possible how insurance works, and the expectations to be closer to the promise made by the policy.

XPRIMM: What do you think is the role of financial education in the insurance market?

Alexandru CIUNCAN: A society made up of educated, responsible and financially independent people is certainly a stronger one. The role of financial education is more significant if we refer to the insurance sector, an industry with an important contribution to the economy. Thus, if we look at the level of economic development of a state, we can see that it is directly proportional to the penetration of insurance in the GDP of that country.

If we make a comparison with other European countries, we can see where we need to continue working. For example, in the area of life insurance - which represents 20% of the total market in Romania, compared to an EU average of around 60%. In this context, we are glad to observe in the sociological studies that we constantly realize a growing interest of consumers also for the non-motor segments, especially health, housing and life insurance.

XPRIMM: When we talk about financial education, some people think of complex financial instruments. What elements of financial education should be known by all consumers?

A.C.: The financial sector can be considered a bit more difficult to decipher, but you do not need to be a specialist to know some basic notions, to help you when you want to conclude an insurance knowingly or to understand how you can save. I am thinking here of notions related to the role of insurance, the risks that can be covered, exclusions, etc. It is very important that any consumer understands as well as possible how insurance works, and the expectations to be closer to the promise made by the policy. Here, the role of the distributor and of the specific consultancy is particularly important.

We encourage information from reliable sources, which is why we are constantly expanding the education platform and we launch annual dedicated financial education campaigns, especially dedicated to young people. Everything is online, digital - we are on Facebook, LinkedIn and, starting this year, on Instagram.

XPRIMM: How does financial education actually help consumers?

A.C.: Financial education can help us all better understand how financial market mechanisms work and be better prepared for the challenges of the present - which we see are not few. This can contribute to a more responsible attitude on our part and, ultimately, to an increase in living standards, if we take into account that a society better protected from risks is also a stronger one.

An insurance is a safety net, both for people and for companies. Let's not forget that, on every calendar day in 2019, the last year for which we have the official financial results, the insurers paid damages of over 3.5 million euros.

XPRIMM: Who should take care of the financial education of Romanians?

A.C.: It ultimately depends on each of us - people, companies and public authorities, but it must be done based on a dedicated national strategy. Financial education is one of the central pillars of UNSAR's work and we believe that every industry should dedicate resources to consumer education. We welcome in this regard the steps taken by the Ministry of Education and Research, the National Bank of Romania, the Ministry of Finance, the Financial Supervisory Authority and the Romanian Association of Banks, which concluded, in July 2018, a Collaboration Agreement for joint activities in the field of financial education and the elaboration of the National Strategy of Financial Education. We are open to contribute to this institutional dialogue because we believe in a good collaboration with all stakeholders, from those in the private area to institutions and authorities. Only through such initiatives and through the involvement of all we can change certain perceptions and raise the level of information of Romanians.

Last but not least, the contribution of ISF-Institute of Financial Studies and ASF-Authority of Financial Supervision on this level, which has grown strongly lately, especially in the area of vocational training dedicated to young students, through programs such as SmartFIN @ ISF or FINCLUB of ASF and not only.

The rapprochement between academia and business, together with the positioning of the insurance industry in a "preferred employer" are important objectives that UNSAR has consistently supported in this institutional dialogue. We are glad to see that things are taking shape and that there is openness on the part of academia and students to enter into dialogue with the industry.

XPRIMM: How do you appreciate the involvement of the insurance industry in the financial education of the population?

A.C.: The involvement of the industry has continued to expand, even in the context imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic - both at the associative level and through the projects carried out by our Members. Of course, there is still a lot to do and it takes time.

The need to communicate more online has increased, especially using channels where the future insured are. Packages of measures have been implemented, specially adapted to these conditions, so that customers and employees are as safe as possible, and services and operations can be accessed as easily and quickly as possible, remotely. Along with these, the initiatives in the area of education and information have involved a larger online component.

The results of the efforts made in recent years are already visible and we are glad to see that Romanians are better informed, even if we are still at the beginning. According to sociological research conducted with IRES, we note that 61% consider themselves well and very well informed in terms of insurance, increasing by 11 % compared to 2019. At the same time, more than half of Romanians (53%) have high and very high confidence in insurance companies (increasing from 44% in 2019).

XPRIMM: How many financial education campaigns has UNSAR carried out so far and what results have had?

A.C.: The insurance industry has many programs of its own. In addition, we also support initiatives of industry partners or institutions related to the field. Every year we run our own education and information campaigns (#OAMENIIdinAsigurari, #gatapentruVIATA, #ANTIGHINION, #ANTIGHINIONpentruAcasa etc.). In 2021, we can already list 2 such UNSAR initiatives: thus, we started the year with #ATENTinTRAFIC, which encourages responsible traffic behavior, and a special emphasis was placed on the consequences of carelessness behind the wheel and how easy we can all become victims of an accident. We had the support of several institutional partners gathered in the common platform of education and road prevention initiated in 2019 by the insurance industry. Campaign messages were viewed over 3.4 million times, videos over 553 thousand times and over 900 messages were sent by users to their loved ones to be more careful in traffic.

We continue with another premiere campaign, dedicated to legal entities, through which we emphasize the role of insurance for SME companies, which is an important engine of economic development: BusinessSOS.

As magnitude, the information campaigns and guides carried out by UNSAR last year reached millions of Romanians, with messages through which we contributed to raising the level of awareness among consumers about the risks they are exposed to and the benefits they can have by concluding an insurance policy.

At the same time, we support dedicated projects in the media space, both in industry and on other channels followed by Romanians, because it is important that these messages are known by as many as possible.

I especially want to thank the media for supporting us in this endeavor - it is essential to work together.

XPRIMM: What are UNSAR's objectives this year in terms of Romanians' financial education?

A.C.: The year 2020 was one with new challenges, in which even the insurance industry had to adapt to the unforeseen. Each of these communication approaches that we carry out has specific indicators that we follow carefully. Expectations for 2021 are to exceed last year's results. We consider it is important to communicate even more, especially in digital format, on online channels, where young consumers are and not only.

We will continue these initiatives because we believe that a more informed consumer will also be a more responsible one. In addition to new editions of campaigns in recent years, we come up with new projects for the first time for the industry. At the same time, we continue the sociological studies through which we find out the Romanians' perception regarding insurance. These surveys will further help us to identify especially the areas where there are certain information deficits, so that we can amplify the messages in these directions, but also to better understand the ever-changing needs of consumers. But it is best to analyze all when we have the related results.

XPRIMM: At what age should financial education start? What do you advise Romanians in this regard?

A.C.: The subject is a vast one, but, in short, financial education must start from the family and be supported throughout the educational process from preschool age.

#OAMENIIdinAsigurari will continue to respond to the need of Romanians to be covered against risks through insurance. At the same time, their role in educating consumers will be increasingly important.