Amandine Lepoutre: In this climate of multiple uncertainties – climatic, pandemic, political, demographic, technological – what impacts your insurance business the most?
Marie-Doha Besancenot: The insurance model is based on the pooling of risks: people decide, for a contribution, to insure themselves together against non-systemic risks by pooling contributions that will support those who will suffer claims. However, in the space of a few years, we have experienced a succession of unprecedented systemic crises: attacks, social protest movements, global health crisis, war at the borders of the European Union… In times of uncertainty, the great challenge of the insurer is to properly anticipate the impact of new risks and to put itself in a position to absorb them. He is expected to remain a pillar of the company’s resilience, putting his own solidity at the service of the long term. It means being able to pick up weak signals. But also to provision more and more to be armed against the effects of global warming, which insurers really know how to quantify since they compensate the victims of exceptional climatic episodes. Another new challenge: responding to consumers’ desire for personalized, made-to-measure offers… far from the logic of the common pot. To achieve this, it is necessary to take an interest in new uses as soon as they appear, without the trusted third party that are the insurers, the sharing economy can hardly prosper.
When consulting the risk dashboards published by the World Economic Forum, the Chief Risk Officers’ Forum or various analysts, it is clear that the number of risks cited, their severity and their frequency have a structural tendency to increase. In this context, how is the notion of responsibility evolving and how do we exercise CSR when we are an insurer?
As a financial player, the insurer has a decisive role to play in shaping the economy of tomorrow. It does this on a daily basis, for example by investing the premiums of its policyholders in projects that accelerate the energy transition. It does this by co-constructing the rules of responsible finance with public players, by reflecting on the taxonomy of energies to be promoted and excluded, by helping to make the market legible, by promoting the comparison of extra-financial performance, by playing the game of transparency and traceable objectives. Without waiting for public players, it can also federate coalitions of committed players to pull the market upwards, as was done with theAlliance of Asset Owners. The advent of CSR in business has clearly legitimized the action of insurers on the climate component. Our customers regularly confirm that they expect us there, and with solutions.
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“There is an emulation of economic actors for commitment”
The characteristic of risk is to be largely unpredictable and to evolve in often unsuspected directions. But the insurer can only assume the risk if it can rely on stable and solid foundations, that is to say on the strength of the contract and on solid institutions. How can or should responsibility be shared between the state and companies in the current context?
Yes, it is a challenge in a society impregnated by the Welfare State, because the protection missions offered by the insurer are related. And in our society, it is less and less tolerated that a risk that does not involve its own responsibility is not fully covered, whether by the community or by a third party who takes the risks for himself. This was mentioned a lot during the Covid crisis, which plunged the world into unprecedented situations whose particularities had, by definition, not been articulated in advance. The state played its protective role. And the insurer has played two distinct roles: on the one hand by absorbing shocks for insurable risks, due to the strict application of contracts, and on the other hand by showing solidarity outside of any contractual framework, generosity freely consented and specific to each company. This solidarity is once again numbering in the millions in the face of the humanitarian emergency in Ukraine.
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If this period is conducive to rethinking all our models, the “famous next world” which has been debated since the pandemic, what should be rethought within the sector so that society feels assured, reassured, able to to change… and therefore to take risks?
How to continue to take risks in a society where the precautionary principle prevails, and an increasing legalization of relations? The whole challenge is to offer our societies the guarantees of protection desired without inhibiting the desire to undertake. The insurer plays a key role in supporting innovation, by directly supporting start-ups and investing in impact funds. To bring about the desired society of trust, the insurer also shares with the public authorities an interest and a lever that could be increased tenfold: prevention. Beyond the historical field of road safety, the insurer has the necessary expertise to solidly extend it to areas as diverse as health, climate risk or even financial education.
This period is also that of corporate commitment. Here again, what are the risks of this massive enthusiasm for commitment?
It’s very positive that everyone wants to get involved and that there is competition between economic players here too. The commitments offered to employees can really work as catalysts of meaning, motivation and pride. For this, it is necessary to be able to deploy a real diversity of individual commitments, which are well aligned with the values carried by the company, and linked at least partially to the activities of the company to gain legitimacy.