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Bruno Pfister: The biggest change has been the record-low interest rates, which makes it much harder to meet targets for savings and building up capital. For instance, the business model that would see capital saved up and then 3 to 6 percent interest earned on it for years and decades no longer works. But we are also seeing changes in our clients’ behavior, given that it is now much easier to compare different offers and products on the market. In addition, the regulator now requires us to be more transparent in providing information to our clients. In other words, our clients today are much better informed than they were even 20 years ago. This has to spur us on to focus our strategy even more clearly on the interests of our clients.
In specific terms, what does this mean for the work your relationship managers do?
Bruno Pfister: The requirements made of client advisory have increased considerably because the straightforward logic of guarantees and surpluses from returns on investment that worked in previous years is no longer sufficient. Thanks to long-term investments, however, our assets still deliver healthy, sustainable profitability well above the statutory minimum. This means that the erosion of returns caused by the fall in interest rates is only affecting us very slowly. On the other hand, investors cannot assume that rising interest rates will mean an immediate increase in the return on their portfolio. Our strategy smoothes out the effects and thus reduces the risk for our clients.
How important do you think digitization and data management are? What opportunities and risks can you see in this area?
Bruno Pfister: The handover to the new generation of ‘digital natives’ will mean speeding up the digitization of our services. For a long time, life insurance policies were traditionally sold in a face-to-face discussion with one of our agents, a broker or a financial advisor. This will change. Digitization will allow client information to be recorded more systematically and more comprehensively. Only by logging and analyzing client data can we offer the right products and services at the right time and in the right place. Of course, the other side of this particular coin is the issue of data protection, something that is also making demands of the international community in particular. After all, there is still too much mobile and electronic communication data being collected and stored across the world whose protection and use remain shrouded in uncertainty. This development certainly has some way to run yet.
What do you think the biggest challenges will be for the industry in the future?
Bruno Pfister: Overall, I’d say that the insurance industry’s future is bright, as people all over the world will become even more aware and more willing to bundle life and property insurance risks for a reasonable price and thus keep themselves protected. The fact that it is becoming increasingly easy to access these products via electronic sales channels will in turn help the insurance market grow.
And finally: What are your own plans for the future?
Bruno Pfister: After I leave here at the end of June, I shall first of all take a long vacation with my family. After that, who knows?
Group CEO SwissLife
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