Bruce Bowers, regional CEO of Allianz in Central and Eastern Europe in an interview on business development, growth areas and the significance of business in Central and Eastern Europe for the Allianz Group.
You have been regional CEO for Central and Eastern Europe for six months. How has your experience been with the region so far?
Bruce Bowers: In the first months I have been to all the operating entities and held a number of town hall meetings. I am impressed how highly dedicated and motivated our staff and distribution partners are. I am proud to lead this growth region for Allianz and to build on the success to date that has been achieved.
How do you see the business development in the first half of 2011?
Bowers: I am very satisfied with the positive development of the region this year. We were able to increase momentum from the first quarter and continued to grow. Total premiums rose and so did our operating profit. That is not easy considering the economic environment in the region as well as political issues in some countries. Now we need to make sure that we continue on this path of sustainable growth. To summarize: It is time to grow profitably again.
What can we expect from Allianz in Central and Eastern Europe going forward?
Bowers: The region is still a growth story and we will be part of it. I particularly see a lot of potential in the Life business. People are starting to realize that they are getting older and if they want to maintain their standard of living they now have to start to invest and look ahead. For example, in Croatia, people last year spent nearly 80 euros each per year on life insurance, while in Germany the figure is over 1,100 euros. This clearly shows there is potential for growth.
Any other growth areas you see?
Bowers: The Asset Management and Pension Fund business is very promising. Since we started this business we have seen constant growth, and today we are one of the market leaders across the whole region. One of the reasons is that we benefit form the expertise and know-how of Allianz as a worldwide group and the investment scale it can offer.
What about your customers in Central and Eastern Europe?
Bowers: From a customers point of view we remain the partner of choice. This summer parts of Slovakia faced storms and floods. Alone in June more than 40,000 claims were reported. In such cases of emergency the main goal is to help as quickly as possible. To support our affected customers, our colleagues of Allianz in Slovakia helped with advanced payments or an enhanced claims settlement procedure. For the time being we spent 1.8 million euros.
In terms of customer figures we have also grown this base. Today we have 7.5 million customers compared to the first half year of 2010, which translates to an increase of nearly 6 percent. This shows customers in the region see us as a trusted and reliable partner.
Where will you be focusing?
Bowers: To keep up this successful trend, we will continue to focus on our core business and leverage Allianz's global lines. In addition, we will further develop our multi-channel distribution strategy. Providing our staff in the region with training and career development opportunities is also essential to our success.
In Russia we started the process to consolidate our Allianz entities into one company. The goal there is to simplify things for our customers by giving them a single point of entry under one brand and create a more effective platform for further growth.
Compliance, risk management, governance and strengthening of our internal control systems are also in focus as we build our franchise in Central and Eastern Europe.
What is the significance of business in Central and Eastern Europe for the Allianz Group?
Bowers: In the first six months of this year our entities in the region brought in revenues of two billion euros, which equals four percent of the Allianz Group's total while five years ago the region delivered two percent. This demonstrates the growth in our Central and Eastern European business – despite the complex business environment. And it remains an attractive growth region, too: market penetration is still fairly low, and economic development is relatively strong across the board. So I'm glad we entered this region so early and were able to establish and keep our leading position there.
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