UNSAR 30 Years: How to build a financially protected Romania

11 June 2024 — Daniela GHETU
"In 1994, the year UNSAR was founded, the Romanian insurance market was about USD 150 million. Thirty years later, it has reached USD 4.5 billion," remarked Alexandru Ciuncan in his opening speech at the International Conference organized by UNSAR, the Romanian insurers’ association, to mark its 30th anniversary.

He reminded that Romanian insurers pay out EUR 5.3 million in claims every day, demonstrating their ability to protect Romanian citizens against financial losses from various risks. According to UNSAR, the outlook for the Romanian insurance market is positive, even though the coming years will continue to bring challenges. Economic and geopolitical conditions, climate change, accelerated digitalization, and generational shifts in consumer bases are both challenges and opportunities.

The UNSAR 30th Anniversary International Conference was attended by representatives of the Government and the Financial Supervisory Authority, who expressed their support and confidence in the future of the insurance market and its contribution to the resilience of Romanian society.

Marcel Boloș, Minister of Finance: "The seriousness, responsibility, and work over the past 30 years are proof of the maturity gained by the Romanian insurance market. The overall growth of the market over three decades is remarkable, and the Ministry of Finance aims to support its further development for the benefit of Romanian society."

Florin Spataru, State Advisor, Romanian Government: "The growth of the market over the last 30 years represents more than just numbers. It reflects the overall maturation of Romanian society, to which insurers have contributed." He added that the two major objectives within his remit – the industrialization of Romania and the development of the green sector – cannot be fully realized without the contribution of the banking and financial markets, including the insurance sector.

Gabriel AVRAMESCU, First Vice President, Financial Supervision Authority (ASF): "At this moment, we have a stable and predictable insurance market, with major players. However, this market has not yet reached its full potential, which is why it is very important to maintain the stability we have achieved. Financial education and public trust are the most important factors for the market to develop properly."

Alexandra VACARU, Member of the Plenary, Competition Council, emphasized that the insurance market is one of the most closely monitored by the institution she represents. Events in recent years have led to a decrease in competition in the motor insurance segment, creating an imbalance between supply and demand. "The good news is that the market is changing, and efforts to educate consumers will eventually lead to a diversification of the portfolio."

The anniversary event was also attended by two international guests representing the two most important European insurance institutions.

Petra HIELKEMA, Chairperson of EIOPA – the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority – spoke about the priorities of the European insurance industry, particularly from a regulatory perspective. "Dialogue is essential: we have a common goal, and even if we have different opinions, it is important to keep communication open and to engage in honest and transparent dialogue." Referring to the progress made in recent decades, HIELKEMA emphasized that further efforts are still needed for the industry to fully achieve its purpose. "There are now generations of consumers growing up with the belief that a united Europe is a given, without knowing how much effort has been made over the past decades to achieve this construct. The existence of the single European market has brought opportunities for the insurance industry, including the possibility of operating under FOS and FOE. However, these opportunities must be viewed responsibly, ensuring they bring benefits not only to insurers but also to consumers, who should enjoy equal protection of their rights regardless of their insurance provider. This can only be achieved through the cooperation of national supervisory bodies and the existence of appropriate guarantee mechanisms in all markets."

Olav JONES, Deputy Director General of Insurance Europe: “The results of the recently concluded European elections will undoubtedly have an impact also on the insurance sector. We will have a new European Commission, and it is likely that the new structure will have a somewhat different approach towards the insurance sector. However, we expect changes to be rather 'nuanced' rather than substantial. We will probably see an increased interest in business resilience and societal resilience in general, which means a growing role for insurance, particularly in reducing the protection gap.”

From a practical perspective, Olav JONES highlighted two key changes that are crucial for the industry to significantly contribute to reducing the protection gap: simplifying consumer interaction in the distribution process by eliminating excess information and data requirements; and achieving the European Commission's announced target of reducing regulatory volume by 25%, which would cut down on overregulation in certain segments of activity.

At the event, Sorin MITITELU, Vice President of ASF, emphasized two major challenges for the evolution of the Romanian insurance market: keeping up with global trends in the field and rebuilding a truly functional market from almost scratch. “These are very important tasks, especially since insurance protection is not just a business but also a public service.” He also noted that the progress is still too slow to allow for the recovery of the 'historic' development gap compared to mature markets in Western Europe, especially since recent bankruptcies have drained significant financial resources that the market could have used for development. “We need a higher pace and increased productivity in the industry,” Sorin MITITELU stressed.

The conference hosted two discussion panels featuring leaders from major insurance companies, professional associations of brokers, and representatives of consumer organizations. A recurring theme in the discussions was the necessity not only to raise the level of financial education among consumers but also to improve insurers' communication by adopting simpler and clearer language, using communication channels specific to younger consumer generations, and implementing simpler, faster, and more direct distribution procedures.

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