echo interview, June 2023

Boutique insurer with global reach


echo interview with Patricia Mattle

echo interview with Patricia Mattle, CEO Elips Life AG & CEO Switzerland

elipsLife wants to focus on personal insurance business. What’s the thinking behind this move?
After its acquisition by Swiss Life, it was clear elipsLife would be leaving the life insurance market. Swiss Life is the largest life insurer in Switzerland, so it was logical to leverage synergies and fold our life insurance business into Swiss Life's expertise. At the same time, by acquiring elipsLife it was now conducting business with which it had gathered no experience throughout its 160-year history, namely daily sickness benefits (KTG) and accident insurance (UVG). Swiss Life sees great growth potential in this area. In addition, elipsLife dovetails perfectly with Swiss Life International's strategy. So, it’s the perfect match.

elipsLife is striving for greater efficiency and banking on more automation. Clients should benefit as a result. What’ll this look like in practice?
We want to be among the automation pioneers in the brokerage field, which is why we’re laser-focused on digitalisation. We’re currently working on strategies to increase efficiency. The goal is to completely automate our entire offering and closing process, and provide our customers an end-to-end experience. In concert with our stakeholders and brokers, we can only grow in the SME sector provided we can close deals digitally.

How do elipsLife customers benefit from the cooperation with Swiss Life?
In future, cooperation with Swiss Life will increase benefits for customers. One example is the Swiss Life Network, Swiss Life Global Solutions’ global association of more than 90 leading local insurers and business partners. Our major international clients can benefit from Swiss Life’s global employee benefits solutions. elipsLife will retain its brand presence and we’ll continue to work with our brokers and clients in the high quality to which they’ve been accustomed. Our clients will also benefit from Swiss Life's strong capitalisation, from the intensive exchange of know-how between the two companies and from investments in systems and interfaces for example.

How exactly does the Swiss Life Network function?
The network enables international leveraging. Working with the network partners, we support our multinational clients in creating all-encompassing employee benefits that can be tailored to individual needs. The network partners’ expertise makes it possible to offer high-quality products locally. elipsLife is now part of this network. This allows Swiss Life key accounts in Switzerland to purchase KTG/UVG products from elipsLife. This is a perfect win-win-win example between Swiss Life, customers and elipsLife.

For years now, digitalisation and automation have been cited as crucial success factors for the future of the insurance industry. How is elipsLife shaping up to the competition in this regard?
There’s more we can do. Compared to other industries, insurance is lagging far behind in the automation stakes. The big insurers were the first to invest in retail business, but did little with corporate clients. This has now changed and most insurers have launched services on EcoHub, the central platform in the insurance, pension and broker market in Switzerland. “Zurich" and AXA are pioneers, as is Swiss Life in the life insurance field. elipsLife is in the solid midfield. However, we still have to invest more. This is where we can benefit from Swiss Life. The latter is a leader in the broker interactions field. And it had already automated SME interfaces at an early stage.

Health management in the workplace has long been a crucial concern for elipsLife. How significant is this fact in determining the firm’s development?
KTG and UVG are not only shaped by factors in the workplace, but also by the population’s state of health in general. We feel the effects through the incoming claims. Employees are falling ill more often and more seriously, they’re having more accidents and insurers are paying out increasing amounts as a result. In short, health costs are surging. Discussions are always focused on health insurance premiums. But it’s often overlooked that the whole system is becoming increasingly expensive because of the follow-up costs. Silo thinking is widespread in the healthcare system. As insurers, however, we’ve got to think beyond the immediate cost accounting and try to help the entire system to function better. It's like a big set of wheels and elipsLife is a cog in this system.

What does this all mean for elipsLife?
As I’ve pointed out, the increase in claims is costing insurers a great deal of money. For about five years now, KTG/UVG prices have only been going in one direction, namely upwards. The healthcare system as a whole is under pressure. And at the end of the day, it’s this overall system that has to work. The workplace is one thing, but if we can reintegrate people after serious illnesses or following accidents, it’s not only the insurers who benefit, but also the employers and the affected persons themselves ¬- not to mention their loved ones and the social security system in its entirety. We’re concentrating on what we can do and do well, namely case management. The merger with Swiss Life has transformed elipsLife into a boutique insurance company with global reach, whose hallmarks are short lines of communication, efficiency and first-class case management.

Mental health is a significant topic. According to the Health Observatory, 2020 saw more than 500,000 people in Switzerland seek treatment in outpatient psychiatric-psychotherapeutic practices. How does a KTG insurer such as elipsLife view this development?
We’re made aware of the increase in absenteeism from work due to mental illness on a daily basis. For us, this is primarily associated with costs and consequently with premium increases. That said, not enough attention is paid to the additional opportunity costs incurred when so many people in society suffer from mental illness. While it’s to be welcomed that mental stress in the workplace is no longer swept under the carpet today, the negative impact, the loss of employees and the resulting increase in costs, nevertheless remain a reality. Take the consequences on a human level - the family man at home on the sofa suffering from burnout can lose his self-esteem as a role model, partnerships come under pressure, circles of friends fall apart. These consequences are completely underestimated.

Psychologically induced incapacity to work is often triggered by conflicts in the workplace. What part do management style and corporate culture play in this regard?
A very significant one. Espousing positive corporate values and an associated code of conduct can prevent an unhealthy corporate culture, that is one characterised by insecurity, high performance pressure or mobbing. Passing on pressure is strongly linked to a manager’s personal resilience. The decisive factor here is the emotional stability of both managers and employees. We often talk about work-life integration. But there’s more to it than that. Good work-life integration should also include enjoying your work for its own sake. Emotionally well-balanced people can also absorb more work pressure. If, on the other hand, managers and employees take this pressure home with them, problems are going to crop up sooner or later. Recognising these problems in advance and promoting rapid reintegration in the event of illness is our case management experts’ daily business.

Companies could reduce psychological problems with preventive measures, but they need support. What does elipsLife offer in this context and where are the priorities?
What we do as elipsLife can be summed up quite simply: We raise awareness, educate, put facts in context, intervene early in the event of conflicts and find suitable solutions for our clients. We’re happy to provide advisory support on the prevention side if requested. However, our focus as an insurer is on the event. Should an adverse event happen, we’re there for our customers with our case management capability from day one. We invest a lot in the rapid reintegration into the workplace of those affected. In so doing, elipsLife also makes a positive contribution to the functioning of the healthcare system and of society as a whole.

Personal Profile
Patricia Mattle
CEO Elips Life AG & CEO Switzerland

Patricia Mattle has been CEO Switzerland/Liechtenstein at elipsLife since April 2020 and is responsible for the Swiss market. She holds a Master's degree in Marketing, Service and Communication Management from the University of St. Gallen (HSG) and is a graduate in Business Education HSG. Mattle grew up in the St. Gallen Rheintal and has worked in the insurance industry for 10 years in Switzerland, in France and the USA. Before joining elipsLife, she worked for AXA Switzerland in the BVG area. A passionate jogger, she is politically active and was a member of the party executive committee of the former CVP Switzerland, now 'die Mitte', from 2008 to 2015. She is married, a mother of two little girls and lives in Zurich.

echo interview with Patricia Mattle