Let’s do our job, even in crisis

More than 65% of representatives of the financial sector who took part in the 11th European Banking and Insurance Forum believes that the opportunities of the Polish bancassurance market have not been exhausted yet. Customers may expect the emergence of new products. However, market players must adapt them better to the needs of consumers and provide a level of customer education.

The panels focused on perspectives of the bancassurance market

The central theme of this year’s Forum, held on 30 May – 1 June in Jachranka near Warsaw, consisted in adaptation of the financial sector to the present difficult economic situation, as well as the challenges faced by the bancassurance market in Poland and in Europe. The comparison of Polish experiences with examples from other countries allowed to reflect on the positive lessons learned on the domestic market. The conference, the leading motif of which was “Let’s do our job”, was attended by more than 160 persons from the world of finance. The forum has been organized by the Europa Insurance Group for many years now.

On the first day of the 11th European Banking and Insurance Forum Mr. Leszek Czarnecki, Ph.D., author of successes of many companies from the financial sector, gave an inaugural lecture. He pointed out the threats borne by a globalization left uncontrolled.

- The world was given a tool it is unskilled to use in full. The globalization gives the opportunity to make bigger profits, but the risk of repeating errors and making immediate huge losses is as big, if not bigger - said Leszek Czarnecki, anticipating that Europe is able to handle the crisis under certain conditions, but it needs time to do so. 

Jacek Podoba, President of the Europa Insurance Group, who opened the meeting, is convinced that the solution to the current economic situation is to have a strategy and implement it consistently. Moreover, in his opinion the growth of the bancassurance market cannot be caused by the willingness of financial businesses to make quick profits, but by being open to the needs of the customers in the long term.

- The grounds of a stable growth lie in a deliberate decision backed by knowledge and access to reliable information – said Jacek Podoba. - A customer who is choosing a financial product unwittingly may fail to have his or her expectations met. This too may result in losses both on the part of the customers and the institution which provided such product – he added. 

In the opinion of the participants of this meeting, the main challenges faced today by the bancassurance market include raising the awareness of insurance products among Poles and reconstruction of trust in financial institutions. A survey conducted among the participants allowed to determine the phenomena observed by the representatives of the financial sector. Banks and insurers should adapt their products better to the customers' needs and conduct educational projects in order to explain the terms of using financial products. The key criterion for a bank when selecting an insurer is the quality of its offer and innovation of insurance products. This is the opinion of 70% of Forum participants taking part in the survey. In the opinion of respondents, insurance products securing the payment of liabilities will be the quickest growing segment from the range of products available in the bancassurance sector.

Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, President of Economic Council by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, who was present at the Forum, shared with the participants his analysis of macroeconomic situation of Poland as compared to European environment. In his opinion, we already had a good situation in Europe and it is over; now Europe is facing a series of difficult years to work on economic recovery. In this context, it is optimistic to note that Poland is continuing its economic growth despite crisis, improving its position with respect of GDP share of our part of Europe.

On the first day of the Forum, a panel discussion was held on strategies of financial institutions in the times of crisis. Roman Młodkowski, director and editor-in-chief of TVN CNBC, who moderated the debate, asked the participants about, among others, the lessons learned from the crisis and their impact on changes of strategies. Włodzimierz Kiciński, long-time President of Nordea Bank Polska, who participated in the discussion, evaluated that in the times of crisis the “values - or the things we believe in in a difficult situation” are the best. One has to know and understand one’s customer, because only business done by people having other people in mind has a chance of succeeding.

Wojciech Sobieraj, President of Alior Bank, said that in spite of appearances Poland has a good standing, as for a long time it has been receiving signals from other countries that the economic situation may worsen. He sees an opportunity in that a crisis will make us think about things which are really important in the macro scale, such as aging of the Polish population or decreasing fertility, which in turn will make us to review activities and look for efficient solutions to these problems. Referring to the crisis in the financial sector, Sobieraj said that a good idea to live through an uneasy situation is to look for emerging opportunities and business niches. In his opinion, the example of Alior Bank proves that also in uncertain times it is possible to build a modern, stable bank which is doing well on the market.

Sven Fokkema, Member of the Board of Talanx International, added that the key element to a strategy in a difficult economic situation is to adapt the proposed solutions to the customer. Referring to Poland’s reality, he stressed that Poland is a “green island” and will remain so in the nearest time. In his opinion, our economy's assets consist in low unit labor cost as compared to high performance and quick growth of the high-tech sector.

The second day of conference was dedicated to challenges faced by the bancassurance market. During a lecture on methods used by governments and financial institutions to deal with the economic downturn in Europe, professor Witold Orłowski, Chief Economic Advisor at PwC, said that Polish financial institutions are much better prepared for crisis now than they were back in 2008.

The lecture given by professor Orłowski served as an introduction to a panel discussion dedicated to international experiences of bancassurance markets in Europe. The debate moderator, Lucio Di Geronimo, Managing Director at Unicredit, attempted to diagnose the impact of the bancassurance market on the growth of the entire insurance sector. In the opinion of participants, the cooperation between banks and insurers will strengthen, as it is already visible on markets that are more mature than the Polish one. Looking at emerging markets, for instance Russia, we may note that they are following a scenario that could be observed in Poland a few years ago.

The debate “Scenarios of bancassurance growth in Poland” led by Krzysztof Rosiński, Ph.D., President of Getin Noble Bank, proves that a key to success in the bancassurance sector is the close cooperation and involvement by both the bank and the insurer, while the most effective model of cooperation is the open-platform based one. Zbigniew Kudaś, Vice-President of Kredyt Bank, noted that small and medium companies become an important group of customers who will be using bancassurance solutions.

The debate “What is the Polish financial market facing?” summarized the 11th European Banking and Insurance Forum. Jacek Lewandowski, President of Ipopema Securities, investigated whether the institutions that operate in Poland are properly secured against turbulences inflowing from the Euro zone. In the opinion of participants, the new legal regulations cannot be the only tool used to protect the market. It is necessary to implement self-regulation in individual organizations so as to mitigate the risk and not to transfer it on other market players, including customers.

The honorary patronage over the 11th European Banking and Insurance Forum was assumed by: the Polish Banking Association, the Polish Insurance Association and the Mortgage Credit Foundation.
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