echo interview with Particia Mattle, CEO elipsLife Switzerland/Liechenstein
elipsLife echo: Frau Mattle, you joined elipsLife at the beginning of April 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency. How do you feel after six months as CEO for Switzerland and Liechenstein?
Patricia Mattle: It’s been a testing time as you can imagine, but overall I have a good feeling. To start a new job in the middle of a lockdown was tough but it worked out well. The open, positive communication culture at elipsLife helped enormously. A major challenge was getting in touch with clients. In normal times, I’d have spent the first three months visiting all clients and brokers personally. Corona made that impossible, so I had to fall back on telephone conversations. And on top of this, COVID meant we were also in the midst of an economic crisis: Many clients had no idea in April how this situation was going to pan out. Nobody knew how many people would lose their lives as a result and what else the future had in store for us. In such circumstances, it was really challenging to assess the price for mortality and disability risks for example.
What kind of concrete impact is the COVID-19 crisis having on elipsLife business in Switzerland?
Right now we’re not seeing any impact on our book of business because the situation has more or less returned to normal and we haven’t experienced any losses. That being said, we don’t know how the crisis is going to affect business for 2021. We’re assuming that wages and salaries across all industries will shrink by around 5%, which for us would mean correspondingly less premium income. Since the overall number of deaths doesn’t appear to be rising, the mortality issue is not a business problem for us. We do, however, assume that the invalidity cases as a result of the economic crisis will rise.
Apart from COVID, what are the biggest challenges in your market for elipsLife?
Over the last two years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the daily sickness allowance and accident areas. This has led to a massive increase in prices. Certain companies are already having trouble finding sickness allowance providers. This is because insurers, including elipsLife, are becoming more selective. In the occupational pension space, the prices for reinsurance coverage have been trending downwards for years now. I should mention here that elipsLife only offers reinsurance coverage for pension funds and collective foundations but doesn’t have its own collective foundation. The low prices benefit the foundations and the insured. Thanks to the low prices, foundations with stop-loss coverage, and also those without such coverage, can now afford to take out reinsurance. In the longer term, however, insurers need to consider whether this business will remain profitable. Digitalisation presents another challenge. The fact that elipsLife has taken a 10% shareholding in Sobrado Software AG, the leading provider of online services at the interface between insurers and brokers, means it’s well placed to meet the challenge of digitalisation.