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 Interview of the week 

Interview of the week


Mihai TECAU, President of the Directorate, BCR Asigurari VIG

On the 19th of December, we celebrated nine years since the founding of BCR Asigurari, and this represented a memorial moment. Throughout my entire career, I realized the importance of the team that I have by my side, because performance can not be achieved alone. People need leadership, as well as closeness, understanding and open communication.

XPRIMM: You have been at the lead of BCR Asigurari for 4 years. How has your company changed under your management, what are the changes it has gone through?
Mihail TECAU: On the 19th of December, we celebrated nine years since the founding of BCR Asigurari, and this represented a memorial moment. Throughout my entire career, I realized the importance of the team that I have by my side, because performance can not be achieved alone. People need leadership, as well as closeness, understanding and open communication.
Indeed, since October 2006, when I took over the management of BCR Asigurari, and until now, the company has undergone a series of transformations. The company was created in a financial supermarket. I have resized this collaboration, in terms of structure, product portfolio and operating mode.
The results of these processes could be summarized by three milestones: the constant performance, the permanent adaptation and the openness to customers.
I explain the constant performance through the stability of the position that the company holds on the Romanian insurance market. All these years, BCR Asigurari has remained among the first five insurance companies, on the general insurance segment. Gross written premiums volume increased year to year, as well as its product portfolio.
BCR Asigurari, with its entire team, has managed to adapt to the habits, needs and financial situation of its customers. During these four years, we have developed new products and insurance packages, we have remodeled the process of management and settlement of claims, so that the time from claims notification to claims payment to be as short as possible, we have resized the premium rates taking into account the profile of the customers, in our desire to retain customers who understand the concept of insurance and use it in good faith. As a result, BCR Asigurari evolution is found on an upward trend.
Also, throughout this entire period, we have not forgotten the basic principle that has animated the spirit of the company since the beginning: "Close to you". We wanted to continue in this direction, through all our actions and, also, through our CSR programs implemented over time we have tried to be close to our clients and to the community.
When we speak of general insurance, of people and their way of thinking, my concern was to be among the first ones in the customers’ minds, when it comes to the classical question: Where do I buy insurance from?

XPRIMM: One of your wishes as businessman is that insurance market development goes hand in hand with profitability. How far away from one another are these two roads in the present?
M.T.: A business is created to bring profit, to generate benefits for the community to which it belongs, including through the jobs offered, to create value for its clients. We are talking about an almost invisible partnership between shareholder and customer, which is intelligently managed and moderated by the insurance company management and which refers to costs, customs, culture and business continuity. Non-profit development is just one sequence, a moment in a business model’s life.
Today, especially in terms of the macroeconomic context, insurance companies, who until recently wanted to accumulate market share, have revised their strategies, have shifted their orientation to profitable lines of business, enabling them to continue the activity and development through their own resources, without new contributions from their shareholders.

XPRIMM: Insurance companies have suffered and are still suffering due to declining car sales, due to the collapse of real estate market etc. According to the data of the Insurance Supervisory Commission, this market fell by 5.23% in 2009. And, at the level of the financial results registered by the 45 insurance companies in 2009, 20 insurers have registered profit and 25 have reported losses. Economists say that a period of crisis can be overcome only by inventive spirits and by the thoughtful ones. Did you also resort to the creative side of business in this period or was that not necessary?  
M.T.: Monitoring costs and allocation of financial resources in accordance with our set objectives are necessary not only in this period. We need efficiency and productivity in what we do, in terms of employees activity, but also in terms of understand habits, needs and possibilities of the chosen group of target customers. Creativity has a clear role in designing products and transmitting the benefits of insurance to the BCR Asigurari VIG clients.

XPRIMM: How is BCR Asigurari evolving on Motor Hull and on MTPL?
M.T.: In 2010 we promoted the new product, Motor Hull CASCO Plus, launched in the summer of 2010. When we created this product, we wanted to offer more protection to customers. Compared with classical insurance, this CASCO Plus insurance has extra road assistance, both in the country and abroad: in Europe, in the European part of Russia and in Turkey. CASCO Plus provides protection for damage, theft and roadside assistance in Europe. Importantly, theft outside the country is also included. The insured sums are between EUR 5,000 and EUR 100,000. It has three coverage plans, depending on the insured sums: Silver (EUR 5,000 to EUR 10,000), Gold (EUR 15,000 to EUR 20,000) and VIP (EUR 20,000 to EUR 100,000). Feedback from clients for this product continues to be positive.
For MTPL, we have a competitive offer, to which facilities granted to customers are added.

XPRIMM: New strategies are required, the priorities have changed. Can we talk about a Romanian specific? The insurance market is still developing. Which segments do you expect to grow and which do you foresee as decreasing in the future?
M.T.: It is obvious that, with the changing operating environment, companies adapt and change the initially designed strategies. I believe that the overall structure of the insurance market will not suffer significant changes in the short term. Motor insurance will continue to dominate, despite the slight diminishing of its share. Property insurance might “revive”, along with the development of the mandatory household insurance. Also, I believe that professional liabilities may know a significant increase, given that managers of companies are now very careful how they plan the cash flow, and a wise decision is buying a professional liability insurance policy, in exchange for protection against possible much higher expenses.
We are taking over the risks that the client understands, can or should cover every financial year. And we start again the next year; there is no year like the other in terms of business dynamics.

XPRIMM: How did the Romanian insurance market needs evolve during the crisis?
M.T.: The needs of the insurance market have remained relatively constant, but, under the circumstances of financial problems, the price was a major differentiating factor. Companies have started tariff reductions and promotions. A prudential management takes into account the effects of price on the portfolio, to evoid crossing the line to non-profitability, only out of desire to be in the market. We want to keep attracting clients, through quality services and promptness, at a fair price.

XPRIMM: What is your company's advantage over the competition, that "something else" that should attract customers to BCR Asigurari VIG?
M.T.: The speed in solving claims, the flexibility of insurance offers and open communication with clients.
XPRIMM: How did the client’s profile evolve lately? We see the conflict between banks and customers over OUG 50/2010, but also that the number of complaints addressed to ISC by customers regarding services offered by insurance companies has increased. Does the customer see with different eyes the documents given to him by insurance companies?
M.T.: Educating the client can be made by rules. ISC, as any other supervisory and regulatory body, is giving regulations for the behavior of insurance companies, in order to protect customers. The number of those that are discontent rose due to dissatisfaction, not due to insurers having changed insurance conditions. Customers want more, faster, better. Statistically speaking, it is in the benefit of the insurance market that the clients are more demanding, show interest and certainly generate a differentiating factor for insurers, who will understand this aspect sooner. BCR Asigurari has created in this respect a special office of public relations that joins the Claims Center in supporting, advising and providing information to customers in real time.

XPRIMM: How does BCR Asigurari view the develpoment of the voluntary household insurance, given the recent changes to the Mandatory Household Insurance Law?
M.T.: Recent changes prove the major interest for the insurance market. We will witness a major impact and a competition defined in other terms. The customer will definitely be the beneficiary of these changes, as it is normal.

XPRIMM: In December 2010, BCR Asigurari organized "Career Day". What were the considerations that led to organizing this event? How does BCR Asigurari view the human resources development?
M.T.: Being an insurance agent is an important step in the career of any professional person working in insurance. We wish to celebrate every year the work of insurance specialists. It is a beautiful and rewarding job.

XPRIMM: How will the insurance market look like in 2011? Will it experience a revival? The insurance market has shown, so far, to be moving in unison with the economy. Authorities promise that, starting 2011, Romanians will see the beneficial effects of austerity measures.  Do insurers expect a recovery or stagnation for this year?
M.T.: Analyzing recent developments, I do not believe that significant changes will occur. Most likely, if the economy recovers, we will feel a positive trend in the insurance market, too. We may be witnessing a slowdown of the decrease or a slight increase compared to 2010. I think most important are the capacity and speed of adaptation of management, so that the best decisions for the company are taken.  

XPRIMM: What challenges did BCR Asigurari have in 2010? What will the challenges be in 2011? What new products will you launch in 2011?
M.T.: The legal framework of insurance in Romania is quite strong. Therefore we do not expect a deterioration of the environment but rather a strengthening in terms of protecting customers, but also in terms of transparency.
In terms of competition, as I said, our position is stable in the profile tops and well individualized in the minds of consumers. BCR Asigurari is a solid brand, which has already gained notoriety and that we will continue to evolve. The membership of BCR Asigurari in VIENNA Insurance Group - the leader of the insurance groups in Central and Eastern Europe - has brought the benefit of the international experience and of insurance tradition.
In 2011, we will also focus on more efficient management of existing product portfolio. Depending on how the market will move, we will then make decisions. I continue to believe in promoting insurance packages, a full protection of the insurance client, at the expense of some punctual reductions of tarrifs.

XPRIMM: What opportunities do you see for the next period? Can you reveal at least one project or target that the company has in its plans for 2011?
M.T.: We want to maintain our 5th place in top Romanian insurers on general insurance segment and to strengthen the relationship with our customers.
As for projects, we are aiming to be more active and visible in customers’ perception - when it comes to buying insurance, and also when it comes to paying claims by correct, practical and flexible solutions. Because we are passionate about everything we do.

Editor: Mihaela CIRCU | Published on 27.01.2011

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