Sinziana MAIOREANU, CEO, SIGNAL IDUNA Asigurari de Viata
The plan is for us to start our activity in Q4 by focusing on forming the market and to really "turn on the engines" in 2009, when we will start to concentrate more and more on sales. We will start by launching five agencies and continue by developing the local territorial network in 2009.
XPRIMM: How do you intend to launch SIGNAL IDUNA's activity in Romania?
Sinziana MAIOREANU: We will start with the official company launch
in Romania event which will take place at the end of October. On this
occasion the marketing campaign will also be launched, an education campaign.
This makes a very important component of our plans, because we pledge
ourselves to inform the target about various aspects such as the health
insurance utility, its significance, the way it's functioning, explanations
about our products. The plan is for us to start our activity in Q4 by
focusing on forming the market and to really "turn on the engines" in
2009, when we will start to concentrate more and more on sales. We will
start by launching five agencies and continue by developing the local
territorial network in 2009. We will begin collaborating with brokers,
which will become the most important distribution channel - from the
international point of view, SIGNAL IDUNA has a traditional cooperation
with brokers and because the international market is more developed in
this way, brokers have a bigger distribution market share. We want the
same to happen in Romania, although we are aware that it will take a
long term effort, because our brokers find themselves in a mature phase
and they are able to enlarge their activities portfolio. This implies
for us to build up the market and the distribution partners for more
than a year from now on.
We have partnerships with 28 medical services providers right now, with
whom we cover more than half a country. We will continue developing the
medical services network until we will be able to cover everything and
we will launch a first insurance products scale. Since we focus on health
insurance, we are first of all thinking about defining these health insurance
packs, so that we will have a various product scale, starting with a
simple product, with basic coverage and very attractive price and continuing
further on with complex packs which will be able to offer even foreign
hospitalization at one point.
XPRIMM: Which is SIGNAL IDUNA's first competitor? How do you intend
to make your products more attractive in order to face the competition?
S.M.: Our products will be different from what the market already
has as far as the content and the concept go, because we import in Romania
SIGNAL IDUNA's more than 100 years experience in health insurance. We
have not tried to build a similar product as the ones in Romania, but
we want to start developing a market based on similar products as the
ones in the West.
We intend to develop the products gradually for now, because if we would
have brought complex products from the beginning, the Romanian medical
structure wouldn't have been prepared for it.
Regarding the competition, there is a strange situation in the Romanian
market because people do not really know what a health insurance is and
the definition of a competitor is incomplete. For example, some of the
medical services suppliers who are offering medical packs might consider
us their competitors, but we are not, because we do not offer medical
services. We are aiming to gather the best medical services providers
and develop some kind of national network in order to grant all citizens
the access to private medical service.
Presently, individuals do not have access to a medical pack (at least
not on a large scale). There are very few medical services suppliers
that discuss directly with the individual, most of them have contract
with companies though. In different words, the individuals segment is
not covered, but every year the use of medical services grows with a
40% average per year. So, people need private medical services, especially
since the others are disorganized and unclear. That is why we wish to
offer access to all Romanians to private medical services, because all
Romanian society that pays for social insurance also deserves to have
their health insured.
This is how we reached the idea of a call-center, which will be a client
access point towards this private system, where his questions will be
answered, from what his policy means to guiding through the variety of
medical problems he has to manage with - people will be helped to see
the doctor they want, when they want, where they want. We are trying
to cover the monitoring and the health care. These things we can not
do as an insurance company, but only through partnerships. I think that
already having 28 medical partners says a lot, they understood that we
are not competitors. We are a sales company. We are a distribution engine
that also suits the clinics because we bring them clients. Eventually,
we all have to something to win. We show the client where to solve his
medical problem, we bring clients to the medical partner, we bring insurance
premiums to ourselves, so everybody is a winner in this kind of working
system. This is why I say that I find it hard to define the competition,
because no one has used this concept. The market is very young, there
is room for everybody. We would like to have competition because we would
take hold of some developing market costs together.
XPRIMM: How many products do you wish to launch and how do they look
S.M.: We have finalized five health products, there will probably
be six at the launch moment. On the life insurance side we have support
products which supplement both the individuals and our agents packs:
there will be two basic products - one unit-linked product with an investment
in three funds and one product for protection. We also have "Accident",
a product with a different approach: "group accident", "individual accident" and "family
accident". Concerning the accident, we can say that it is about the second
expertise area the insurance mother-company is operating right now and
there are some very interesting products from which we will inspire ourselves
in the future. Family insurance are, for example, very suitable to young
families who own a health insurance and have the possibility to compensate
the rest of the risks with an accident insurance, so that they will be
able to concentrate on investments.
XPRIMM: Who do you visit more, individual clients or company clients?
S.M.: The answer is different depending on the comparison criteria.
From the gross written premiums' point of view, there is a 50%-50% connection.
If we have the number of insured people as reference criteria, then the
individuals sector will obviously dominate.
XPRIMM: Which place do you estimate to occupy on the Romanian insurance
market in a few years?
S.M.: Our objective is to become health insurance market leaders
by 2012 having a 20-25% market share (adjustable depending on how the
market evolves). We wish for good accomplishments in the life sector
too, but we do not aim to be in Top 10 companies because life is not
really our segment, we just want these products to help us have a full
insurance pack for a family level. At least 80-85% of our business is
based on health - we can even say that 90% is, if we analyze our present
XPRIMM: How do you see the health insurance present legislation? Does
it stimulate this segment or not?
S.M.: There is not much legislation. The present situation with the
fiscal incentive limit of EUR 200 per year for a health insurance - very
little - is not a stimulus; let's not forget that insurance (not only
health insurance) are considered to be material benefits brought to employees
and are being charged with all the social taxes, which does not stimulate
the employers to use them. We hope the state will understand that health
insurance is an important benefit for it, because once the customers
join the private system, they relieve the public health sector of some
costs, which would allow the state to better administrate the funds and
invest in understructure.
XPRIMM: Which would the annual growth potential on health insurance
be? How profitable is health insurance?
S.M: For now, without any legislative stimulus, the growth is 25-30%
per year; if the law would change, we would have a boost in an incipient
Insurance products are not so profitable, this explains the fact that
insurance companies begin to gain profit in 5-7 years of activity and
they need big volumes in order to achieve this; but this are the field's
specific features. There is a profit margin, but nobody sets up a big
profit margin because this would mean expensive products and they should
be adapted first of all to the market. We aim for profit in approximately
five years (this estimation will prove itself to be more optimistic or
more pessimistic when we will actually start the sales).
XPRIMM: The company that you run begins from nothing and you probably
wish to increase with the market's growth. Should we understand that
you are planning an enormous initial rise?
S.M.: We are a greenfield in an unknown market (health insurance
is still a young market in Romania), so it's true we are beginning from
zero and we should register a constant growth year by year in order for
us to achieve our goal in the four years to come.
XPRIMM: What is your territorial development plan?
S.M: We aim for maturity in respect of the distribution channels
as well as the product portfolio until 2012. In that moment we wish to
be present in all districts. Until then, we plan a gradual growth starting
with large cities where the incomes are bigger and the clients' education
level is higher.
XPRIMM: Can you tell us a few words about the group you are part of?
S.M.: SIGNAL IDUNA is a group founded in 1907 which now activates
in financial services, from insurance services to asset management and
banking services. We have all three traditional business insurance lines:
health, life and non-life. We have a 10 million clients portfolio, from
which 2 million are in health insurance. In 2007 annual report we have
registered a number of EUR 4.5 billion gross written premiums. We operate
in our home country, Germany, but also in Switzerland, Poland and Hungary.
We are market leaders in Poland having the biggest medical services suppliers
network, about 600 partners and we are trying to implement this model
in Romania too.
XPRIMM: How would you describe Bucharest's insurance market?
S.M.: Bucharest's market is crazy and it represents 70% of the country's
insurance market. If we strictly refer to health insurance, the capital
city has the biggest medical understructure; here we find the big medical
services suppliers; here are the clients (individuals or companies) with
the biggest income, with the highest education level, with the most choice
possibilities. In other words it is a crucial market. It is obvious that
we orient ourselves towards Bucharest as well, first because we have
the most advantages here, and then because who wins Bucharest has better
XPRIMM: Do you believe there are differences between a Bucharest client
and another one from other parts of the country?
S.M.: There surely are differences. First of all there are the cultural
differences. Secondly, the Bucharest client having more options, even
if he doesn't understand very well the market's products, is used to
the opportunity of choosing, has a different expectations level regarding
all that services mean - the people living in Bucharest are used to being
treated like customers. From this point of view, we should all have our
standards. We cannot ignore quality because the Bucharest market already
punishes you if you do not reach a certain level. It is a very exigent
market, very dynamic and aggressive and very well placed financially
XPRIMM: How do you generally feel about the insurance manpower
in Bucharest and particularly in your company?
S.M.: At least in the financial and insurance fields one of the
biggest problems in Romania is a difficult manpower. There are big
problems in finding specialists and in motivating them. This means,
of course, the employers must be more careful with the remuneration
packages they offer and with the way they must motivate their employees.
The income rises, that cannot go on forever, are not enough because
the country's production wouldn't sustain them, but the employers must
have quality arguments. Moreover, the Bucharest market is very difficult
because people have a lot of choices and the choice evaluation is not
made by very serious criteria.
Unfortunately, employees tend to leave sometimes for things that retain
attention, like a bigger salary, but they don't realize that maybe
behind that bigger wage there are more disadvantages that they do not
have the patience to estimate from the beginning. Luckily, we are in
a different stage because we begin from nothing, we have the same team
we started the project with, every member has contributed with something
in building the company and so the team is more united, more motivated,
we all wish to see the train leaving the station in the right direction.
We think we don't have these problems and we hope not to ever have
them. Moreover, like every serious employer, we want to keep our people
close, especially the valuable ones. We will manage this by investing
in their education also. About that, we find ourselves in a special
position, because we did and we will continue to do the health insurance
trainings. We need to align ourselves to the German standards and so
all the trainings in insurance come from there. We will constantly
invest in the technical staff and also in the commercial one. If we
aim for offering solutions to the Romanian employers of keeping their
employees, we will begin from the inside to show them that the system
XPRIMM: Thank you!
Editor: Mihai CRACEA
| Published on 03.11.2008