Focused on Europe
finanzwelt: Whether regulation, digitisation, process optimisation or even product shopping carts. The demands of all shades that financial service providers are facing are enormous. How will OVB holds its ground here? Freis: The basis of our business model is and remains internationally proven comprehensive one-stop financial consulting. We are convinced that customers need individual, personal consulting when it comes to complex one-stop finance plans requiring explanation, and that this will continue to be the case in future as well. Online research and independent study are not enough to enable consumers to make far-reaching decisions about their personal insurance and pension provisions and to review these on a regular basis depending on their stage of life. For years, OVB has favoured forms of investment that offer real value. There is a reason why unit-linked life and retirement insurance policies and direct investments in balanced or equity funds, either as a savings plan or a one-off investment, account for around 60% of our new business. And our customers benefit from low interest rates in housing loan business. We see process optimisation and digitisation as key strategic action areas in which to achieve further efficiency gains and to respond to changing customer needs. We are currently gearing our corporate strategy towards these future market requirements.
finanzwelt: Let’s talk about online research. To what extent have you seen a change in consumers in the recent past? Will the importance of InsurTechs and FinTechs increase significantly in the years ahead in line with this? Freis: Even against the backdrop of increasingly hybrid customer behaviour, we believe that the need for personal consulting will remain fundamentally unchanged moving ahead, even in a more digital world. Our opinion on this issue is backed up by several studies. A recent analysis by the international market research and consulting institute YouGov shows that personal consulting on insurance products is still the clearly dominant sales channel on many markets, and that 79% of 20- to 40-year-olds prefer the option of personal consulting from a broker in an office, at a branch or at home. Nevertheless, we will also systematically address customer needs of any kind in this regard. Within the consulting and support process, we will do this by using digitalisation to combine our key strength – personal, trusting contact with customers – with the current technical possibilities afforded by optimised processes. We are paying close attention to the FinTechs and InsurTechs operating on the market. We will look at their business models to see if any of them might make a sensible addition for us. We are not ruling out cooperations, provided that they are expedient for both sides.
finanzwelt: One last question: To what extent does your search still focus on the classic part-time consultant given the regulations and qualifications needed? Freis: Our financial brokers, who hail from a wide range of industries and usually start working for us part-time – in addition to their main jobs – receive thorough orientation and we train them to the standard required in their country. The issue of “recruiting, training and retaining financial brokers” is one of the key strategic action areas in our strategy process. We will be advancing the issue of training and qualifications – not just because of the regulatory requirements – and gearing it even more systematically towards uniform underlying structures throughout Europe. Further elements for recruiting financial brokers to OVB and ensuring their long-term commitment include transparent contract design, a competitive remuneration model and international career opportunities. Thus, our ability to recruit and hold on to a sufficient number of dedicated, competent financial brokers is and remains the most important factor for our economic success and future growth. Only then will we be able to meet the demand for individual insurance and pension plans. (sf)