INTERVIEW: Elisabeth STADLER
CEO, VIENNA Insurance Group
Elisabeth STADLER: We are clearly number one in Austria, so it's a great challenge and really a great position to run this insurance company. We achieved number one in the CEE countries too. We have about nearly 20% market share in the CEE countries, we are number one in a lot of CEE countries, especially in the big and most important ones, like Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia. So, I would say this job is very exciting and very interesting and I really like it very much. With the development of these two years, I'm quite happy, I would say I'm not totally satisfied, because you always can get better, that's clear, but we reached all our goals and that's perfect for the start and it's very motivating for my management team.
XPRIMM: What do you think about the CEE market? What is the potential, what can be done, what is the future for this market?
E.S.: I see a clearly potential in the CEE market. If you compare the insurance density, for example, you can see the average amount every person spends for insurances per year. This density is EUR 2.800-2.900 in Western European. It's EUR 2.000 in Austria and it's less than EUR 500, or something like this, in the CEE countries, so I see there's a lot of potential. And we see very positive statistics and positive figures for the further development in the CEE countries, so, if the economic development is positive in a country, normally you can follow that the private development is the same, that welfare is coming and, then, the need for insurance is quite bigger than before and the spendings for insurance will increase, of course.
XPRIMM: What about the challenges, the problems you have on this market? Are they similar with the ones in Austria or every country has its own problems?
E.S.: I think there are some similar problems, where we can use our experience and expertise in some countries to transpose it or to give the best advice in other countries. But, of course, there are challenges which we face differently from country to country. For example, this MTPL situation here, in Romania, I would say it's quite a single one in Europe, compared to the other countries. If we look, for example, at life insurance or health insurance or at the development of pensions, then we see quite similar situations in a lot of European countries, especially a lot of countries from the CEE region. So, there, we can use our expertise and bring a lot of good ideas maybe from other countries to the CEE countries and to Romania.
XPRIMM: We've seen some changes in the European legislation regarding the insurance industry, and not only: GDPR, for example. How do you think these legislation changes will affect the insurance activity? Is VIG prepared for these changes?
E.S.: Of course we're prepared for these changes, that's quite clear, and I think a positive aspect of such a big insurance group is that we make the preparations in two steps: the first step - from the holding company, the second step - in the local companies. So, we can find a lot of synergy in preparing for such regulations coming from the European Union.
XPRIMM: Do you plan to expand your presence, in the CEE market, through acquisitions or are you focusing only on the organic growth?
E.S.: As I mentioned, we are number one in a lot of countries, our preferred increase would be by an organic growth, but there are also some countries where we did not achieved yet our wanted market position - we clearly want to be one of the top insurers in each and every country where we operate. There, we are looking for acquisitions and, if there are some good opportunities, we always look at targets, the targets must fit to our strategy, the price must be OK. Then, of course, we would like to acquire some more companies and get even bigger.
XPRIMM: Digitalization is, lately, one of the most debated topics in the insurance industry. What is VIG doing in order to prepare for the future?
E.S.: Digitalization is the most important topic at the moment, of course, not only in our group, but everywhere, and we are doing a lot looking at this topic. We see that our clients and the behavior of our clients is changing dramatically, so we have to be prepared that we can answer these challenges, that we can answer these changes in the behavior of our clients. We have a lot of projects running. There is a big project, for example, in Poland, where we tried to install automatization in computer technology and automatization in claims handling. And in Austria, for example, we are creating a digital hub, that we can serve all our companies with good ideas. We have confirmed a partnership with The Innovation Lab Leipzig, an institution where we can get knowledge, where we can get all the necessary machines and information that we need to really invent digitization in our group.
XPRIMM: Thank you!