Adrien Couret, CEO of Aéma: “In the car industry, we can expect premium changes of 0 to 3%”

At 38, Adrien Couret leads a heavyweight in the sector, resulting from the union, at the beginning of 2021, of Macif and the mutual health insurance Aésio. Aéma insures nearly 15% of vehicles in France, and reimburses the healthcare costs of one in ten French people. Thanks to the takeover, last September, of the activities of Aviva France, since renamed Abeille Assurances, it is even nearly 10% of the managed savings of the French people that its pilot group… According to this HEC very early converted to mutualism, the However, customers should expect further price increases. Except in terms of mortgage loan insurance, where the market is about to open up completely.

Your group combines all the professions, from complementary health insurance to car insurance and savings. What meaning should be given to this race for size?

Adrian Couret: Our group was created a little over a year ago, with a common vision of the issues of protecting French people and the desire to make our voices heard. In our view, this requires having powerful and complementary players from the non-profit sector. The complementarity is very strong between our brands, with Macif mainly positioned in property and casualty insurance, Aésio mutual in health and provident insurance, and finally Abeille Assurances, the former Aviva France, in terms of savings in particular.

The diversity of our policyholders has thus increased: Macif provides protection for families, Aésio Mutuelle targets employers with its collective contracts, and Abeille Assurances also targets business leaders and the liberal professions. The group generated a net result of 104 million euros, at the end of its first year of operation, for 11 million policyholders.

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Are synergies possible between these different professions?

There are undoubtedly major effects to be sought, both from a financial point of view, to face the heavy challenges of climate disasters for example, and from a technical point of view, to initiate the digitization of our professions. In 2021, the group’s various health mutuals have pooled their care networks, choosing Carte Blanche. This new partner offered the best price-service ratio, and the best guarantees of accessibility, throughout the territory, to healthcare professionals.

There will also be synergies to be found on the networks of garages, experts, doctors or lawyers. Without forgetting third-party payment, for which we will choose a national operator. All these projects also lead us to work on the efficiency of the processes between the different mutuals.

Does this size allow you to cut the prices?

Even if the accessibility of our rates is important, you will never find low cost with us. We seek to remain within a good market average. And we are not one of the actors who say that branches should be closed: we have nearly 500 contact points at Macif, 300 at Aésio, and more than 1,000 branches for Abeille. We see digitization as an additional option left to the insured. But when you want to talk about a death issue, a real estate project, even if you start by getting information on the Internet, you’re happy to have someone in front of you. We have call centers, all based in France and spread over the territory, in Arles (13), Laval (53), Yzeure (03), Mulhouse (68) or even Belfort (90).

As purchasing power declines, how will car insurance premiums evolve?

While the introduction of speed cameras has reduced the frequency of accidents, the average cost of claims continues to rise. This is explained by the increase in compensation for bodily injury, but also by the price of spare parts, which is on the rise. There is certainly a general inflation effect, but the car manufacturers, who had difficulty with their vehicle sales during the Covid crisis, have caught up elsewhere.

The specific situation of this market is changing slowly, as with the Climate and Resilience law, which reduced the exclusivity of these manufacturers from twenty-five to ten years on visible spare parts, such as fenders or bumpers. This will allow us to lower the prices. In the meantime, we must expect premium increases, which will evolve in parallel with the loss experience. The increase could reach 0 to 3% per year within our group. Even if, in terms of car or home risk, our philosophy is to aim for technical balance, ie a ratio between the contributions collected and the compensation paid or the management costs, close to 100%.

Some complain that electric vehicles are more expensive to insure, even though they have fewer parts than thermal ones…

Not at Aéma, which rather encourages virtuous practices, via “green” pricing, advantageous for the least polluting vehicles. But if electric cars are sometimes more expensive to insure, it is because they are more expensive to indemnify. The replacement costs are higher, since it is necessary to resort to specialized workers, or to be able to disconnect the batteries and the electrical system… The loss ratio is also less known, whereas for the thermal vehicle, we have sixty years of chronicles theft, accidents, breakdowns, or fires. In general, risk management will improve. As for photovoltaic installations, now well integrated into our comprehensive home insurance.

In health, your losses widened in 2021…

The “100% Health” reform was a real success, and we supported its objective of improving the coverage of French people in hearing aids, dental and optics. We need to take a step back, but the consumption of care will undoubtedly remain higher for a long time, because of this 100% Health, but also of the lifespan which is lengthening, and of the medical technologies which are progressing.

Faced with this, industrial solutions must be found to reduce costs by size, with constant quality for the insured. But there is a dimension of prevention to be developed, for example by detecting the weak signals of a relapse into chronic diseases. This implies a relationship of trust between private actors and public authorities around the use of health data – it is not there today. And to agree on the objectives of the health policy: what length of life, what length of life in good health, or what rate of relapse on chronic diseases. This could be a good site for the new legislative mandate.

In the short term, should policyholders also expect increases?

A priori yes. This will apply to all contracts, individual and collective, because 100% Health does not only concern the most modest sections of the population. The reform has in fact made all French people aware of their degree of coverage, and the increases in healthcare consumption have reached 2 to 3 points.

This is very significant, and the price changes of our mutuals will follow this trend, with annual increases of 2 to 4%. But they will correspond to reimbursement increases, with no margin on our side. And there is no excess on our management costs, as the debate on the Grande Secu last year suggested: they have been declining for ten years, reducing them is a permanent concern for us.

Cancellation at any time of the borrower insurance will become possible, from June 1st. Should owners expect major upheavals?

We are very happy with this reform, which is the culmination of a long struggle. The bankers’ annuity, which monopolizes 88% of the premiums for this type of insurance, was not for the benefit of the policyholders. Competition will drive prices down, because margins are still high. Now that we have obtained this infra-annual termination, it’s up to us to go. For this, we have an internal broker, Securimut, specialized in changing insurance, with 100,000 contracts. But it will be necessary that the bankers do not employ again subterfuges, artifices, to block the device. The reform will be a success if within five years the market share of delegated insurers has doubled, to nearly 25% of the stock.

The abolition of the health questionnaire, for loans of less than 200,000 euros, will it not have perverse effects?

Don’t scream before it hurts! I don’t think there will be an army of fraudsters who, knowing they are sick, will get up to take out a mortgage. There may be windfall effects, but we will soon see. This reform goes in the direction of history, because the French are living longer and longer, and have also been able to benefit from progress in terms of the right to be forgotten. It will certainly be necessary to make a regular assessment of it, but the major fact is the opening of this market. And I assure you, despite this deletion of the questionnaire, we have no plans to increase our rates!

In terms of savings, are you going to restrict, like the rest of the sector, access to euro funds?

No way ! With us, if you want to open a fund in euros, there are no small lines at the bottom of the contract. And there won’t be any, whether at Macif or Afer. Each French person needs, in his savings strategy, to be able to have an element that is guaranteed. This is true, whatever the age of life. By restricting access to funds in euros too much, are we respecting all the implications of the duty to advise? I’m not sure. We want to leave this faculty as open as possible, including at Afer.

As we have no shareholder to remunerate, we are less afraid of welcoming new members, who would only come for the fund in euros. This is the difference with listed insurers, who for two years have been saying that the guaranteed fund is over.

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With rising interest rates, will life insurance returns finally pick up?

Very clever who can say today what will be the rates served at the end of the year on funds in euros. The current uncertainty in the financial markets will favor managers who know how to navigate and seize the windows of opportunity. But let’s remember that the weighted average age of the life insurance holder is 70 years old… retirement savings. This PER firmly establishes the question of the investment horizon, and allows the permanent adjustment between the guaranteed funds and the units of account. The Abeille Assurances networks were among the first promoters of this product in 2021. The same important movement is to be carried out with Afer, which must take its place in this market.

On dependency financing, does Aéma have a role to play?

We are already present, for example via Aésio Santé, a subsidiary which manages various establishments, including non-profit mutual nursing homes. Like La Cité des Aînés, in Saint-Etienne (42), an innovative establishment which is both a place to live for dependent people and a place of welcome for relatives and caregivers, and which allows to ensure the presence of doctors. But in the future, a double intervention, public and private, will be necessary. With a fifth branch of Social Security, responsible for ensuring a first level of solvency, which should allow the most modest to access a kind of “100% dependency”. Funding remains to be found…

A second level will also be needed, via traditional insurance solutions. This could go through collective contracts, it would also be an element of attractiveness for employers. And this would contribute to the necessary awareness of this risk, and to raise awareness of the fact that you have to contribute early, well before your 60th birthday.

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