As the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) begins its centenary celebrations on Monday 25 April to mark the Federation’s inception in Rome on the same date back in 1922, Hilde Vernaillen the current President and CEO of one of its founding members, the P&V Group (Belgium) reflects on how ICMIF has grown from a group of five European mutual and cooperative insurers to more than 200 member organisations in 61 countries, representing USD 247 billion in premium income and USD 2 trillion in total assets.
During a special interview with ICMIF’s CEO, Shaun Tarbuck, broadcast exclusively to members on Monday 25 April, Ms Vernaillen spoke about P&V’s pivotal role in creating what is now a global network and why ICMIF’s purpose is just as important today as it was more than 100 years ago.
“Joseph Lemaire, the then CEO of la Prévoyance Sociale (now known as P&V) in Belgium, had a vision to create a platform where purpose-driven insurers – cooperatives and mutuals – could share their strategies and ideas in a non-competitive environment. He brought together five organisations including those now known as Folksam (Sweden), Unipol (Italy), Achmea (Netherlands) and together they agreed to share knowledge, ideas and become a support for one another as inspirational leaders who wanted to use insurance to do good for the communities they served.”
Ms Vernaillen continued, “Fast forward 100 years, and that vision and purpose remains as true today. ICMIF’s members have collectively achieved so much for the insurance sector through their willingness to share strategies and support each other and by focusing on the long-term needs of the people they serve, whether they are employees, communities or strategic partners.
“We know that our membership is extra special because more than 70 per cent of ICMIF members exceeded their local market’s annual growth over the last financial year. The leaders of these exceptionally well-run organisations are passionate about putting people first and each day they demonstrate their commitment to a sustainable future for the people they serve.
“What I am most proud of is that our recent ICMIF Members Sustainable Investment Report 2021 demonstrated that USD 576 bn of our members’ assets are aligned to sustainable investment frameworks and that members named in the report outperformed their ICMIF peers in annual premium growth comparisons against both the total market and their local markets. They also exceeded the five-year premium growth of all ICMIF members by almost 11 percentage points.”.
Ms Vernaillen went on to talk about how, in the 1960s, a development function was established by ICMIF to help the creation of new cooperative insurers in emerging markets. Over the years, ICMIF and its members have helped set up over 25 mutual insurers including successful organisations such as NTUC Income (Singapore), CIC Insurance Group (Kenya) and Cooperativa de Seguros Múltiples (Puerto Rico) to name just a few. ICMIF’s development activities continue today with a focus on our 5-5-5 Mutual Microinsurance Strategy. Last year, the Strategy scaled up microinsurers in some of the world’s most high-risk countries resulting in insurance cover for 14.3 million of the world’s poorest people over the last five years.
Looking to the future, Ms Vernaillen went on to say, “And now our members are also focused on risk prevention. If preventing risk means reshaping their organisation away from a policy-focus towards risk-mitigation and education around prevention, then that’s what they will do. I am proud of our partnerships with the United Nations which have resulted in the development of the world’s first prevention hub, an open-source repository of more than 50 cases studies, searchable by specially designed prevention mechanisms. Anyone has access to these. It is a gift to the insurance industry.”
Ms Vernaillen concluded by saying, “So, there is so much to be proud of but we cannot afford to stand still. The world is fragile and needs more great leaders who focus on putting people first; who drive purpose into their cultures and decision-making; and who selflessly share their knowledge and expertise to help make the world a safer, kinder place.
“ICMIF members will do this together. Because that is our strength, we really are stronger, together.”