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Interview of the week


Denis ROUSSET, General Manager, BT Asigurari

Since March 2008 I have been the General Manager of BT Asigurari, as I have been officially invested with the approval of the Committee of Insurance Supervisory Commission. Therefore, I came to Romania a few months ago. But my experience in the insurance field has begun more than 15 years ago, in France.

XPRIMM: Taking into consideration the fact that this is one of the first interviews granted by you since taking over the management of BT Asigurari, we ask you to make a short presentation of yourself for the readers of PRIMM Insurance & Pensions Magazine.
Since March 2008 I have been the General Manager of BT Asigurari, as I have been officially invested with the approval of the Committee of Insurance Supervisory Commission. Therefore, I came to Romania a few months ago. But my experience in the insurance field has begun more than 15 years ago, in France. After a few years of activity in consultancy, in 1993, I have started working for the public company GAN that was one of the first three public companies in France at the time. In the end of the 90's I became the coordinator of the GAN privatization process, as it was being taken over by GROUPAMA. The next years were dedicated to the re-organization of the networks of agents, brokers, bank networks. I am certain that the experience of collaborating with various distribution channels will be extremely useful in the development and optimization of the GROUPAMA activities in Romania.

XPRIMM: What are the objectives you have set, as General Manager of BT Asigurari?
Our objectives for the on-going period of time imply the development of ten strategic projects, meant to contribute to obtaining the performances we want. Mainly, these are related to the basic areas of business development. I am talking about the projects of releasing a new category of products, in collaboration with Banca TRANSILVANIA, of creating a new visual identity for the company under the GROUPAMA brand, of implementing a modern, competitive and unique informational system for all the activities of GROUPAMA in Romania. We are also looking to strengthen the sales force, by offering new career and development opportunities; to renew the range of products by launching a new RCA product, a new residence product, a complete product for the SMEs and a new agricultural insurance product. Last, but not least, we are working on conceiving a new claims management system following the French model and bringing the new accounting procedures up to the international standards.

XPRIMM: For the moment, the Romanian insurance market has one of the fastest growing rates in Europe. Do you estimate that the same rate will be maintained in the future?
If in 2007 the Romanian insurance market registered total results of EUR 2.2 billion, I estimate an over EUR 10 billion growth before 2020. Taking into consideration the medium yearly economical growth in Romania, that I believe to remain under 5% for the next 10 years, the insurance market should grow at least 3 times more compared to the rest of the economy. For now, the share the insurances have in the Romanian economy is pretty low. I can say that the Romanian insurance market is going through atypical times, with consistent losses - at national level - of over EUR 75 million, in 2007, that leads us to believe that only the strong competitors will remain on the market, thus there will be a greater concentration that will continue in the next years.

XPRIMM: What do you consider to be the main threat for the Romanian insurance market?
D. R.:
In my opinion, the main threat affecting the insurance market in the present consists of the lack of an adequate road infrastructure and of a drivers' discipline, the main causes for the accidents that subsequently affect the insurers. Under these circumstances, the auto insurances, both mandatory and voluntary ones, will become more and more expensive, and the number of the CASCO insured cars will diminish significantly. The less insured persons there will be the higher will the insurances prices grow.

XPRIMM: One of the most debated issues is the lack of profit in the Romanian insurance market. In this perspective, what is the strategic orientation of the company you represent: profitability or market share?
D. R.:
The strategic orientation will aim both the consolidation of the market share and obtaining a profit; we will not make an exclusive choice between the two. We consider that, for the time being, there is enough potential for the insurance activities to allow the intelligent usage of our experience for the services offer and broader risks coverage.

XPRIMM: What determined GROUPAMA to take the decision of entering the Romanian insurance market?
D. R.:
Romania was chosen as an international development target by GROUPAMA about 3 years ago, after a careful analysis of the local insurance market. We have negotiated during this time with many important market players, especially with BRD Societe Generale, a close partner of GROUPAMA, and with Banca TRANSILVANIA. We have entered the Romanian market by taking over BT Asigurari, last October; then OTP Garancia followed, in February 2008, and most recently ASIBAN, in March. The speeding rate of the economical development in Romania proves that the insurance market has a real potential. This explains the very high price we were willing to pay to be present on this market and to have our contribution in its education, so that it will become in time more and more alike the Western markets.

XPRIMM: GROUPAMA has taken over ASIBAN after a fight in which important names of the world insurances took part, and has reached, very rapidly, the third place in the Romanian insurance market. Does the French group plan to take over other Romanian companies?
D. R.:
At this moment we consider to hold all the cards in order to make ourselves noticed on the insurances stage, as we are the third big player on the market, with a total market share of 12%. We are not interested in other Romanian acquisitions anymore. We shall focus on an organic development of the pre-existent structures and we shall stake on our sales force, which we shall continue to strengthen on a national level.

XPRIMM: What is the strategy that GROUPAMA has planned for Romania? Will the three companies you own for now merge?
D. R.:
The strategy we shall adopt in Romania consists in concentrating all the operations in one brand, GROUPAMA. This way, we shall increase the effectiveness and we shall decrease the costs of the support functions, dedicating specialists for each field of activity, who will come to meet the needs of our clients, with professional insurance solutions. We shall keep two strategic locations, in Cluj-Napoca and in Bucharest, and we shall manage the strongest commercial network, on a national level, including 500 agencies, 1,400 employees and 9,000 agents. The bancassurance partnerships with Banca TRANSILVANIA, OTP Bank, BRD Groupe Societe Generale, CEC Bank, as well as the agreements with the insurance brokers subscribe to the established medium and long term strategy. We are also working on reconstructing an offer of products for all types of clients, individuals, SMEs, agricultural communities.

XPRIMM: Taking into consideration the gradual reorientation of the large companies from the market share towards profitability, in the same time with the finalization of the acquisitions and with the pressure from the share holders, when do you expect to obtain a profit on the Romanian insurance market?
D. R.:
We have just overcome 2007, a year with important losses. But, in my opinion, 2008 will mark historical losses on the Romanian insurance market. Under the circumstances of these repeated losses, the insurers will begin to redirect themselves towards obtaining a profit in 2009, but taking into consideration the fact that the process of the insurance activities is complex and long lasting, we shall have to wait quite a long time until the Romanian insurance market registers a profit.

Editor: Mihaela CIRCU | Published on 31.07.2008

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