Marius Popescu, general manager of ING Asigurari de Viata, tells Business Review about the rebranding process the insurer is undergoing and its importance for both the company and its customers. He also emphasizes the importance of Pillar II for the future generations of Romanian pensioners.
ING Asigurari de Viata will become NN Asigurari de Viata in April as the result of a rebranding process. What does this involve in terms of visual identity?
In April we will officially become NN as a result of a rebranding process with the life insurance, pensions and investment management divisions being split from the ING group. The alignment to the new brand, which was made public in October last year, involves changing the name and visual identities of these companies both in Romania and the other 17 countries where the group operates. From April in Romania we will talk about NN Asigurari de Viata, NN Pensii and NN Investment Partners. The new name was selected from 300 options and reflects the firm’s extensive legacy and Dutch roots as well as the demands of an international brand. As for the new logo, it indicates the balance between past and future: the “N” letter from the orange logo expresses the roots of the Dutch brand (Nationale Nederlanden and ING) while being a modern element from the perspective of the graphics used to create it. The three shades of orange used in the new logo give it personality and make it easy to recognize. The new logo will accompany the entire contractual and commercial communication with our customers, partners and the market from April.
What is the significance of this rebranding for the customers of ING Asigurari de Viata?
The decisions made in the context of the rebranding process don’t impact our customers’ contracts or our relations built with them over time. These contracts are protected both through the assumed contractual obligations and the law. There will be changes only in the communication with our customers, and the new name and visual identity will be present from April on all the channels we use to interact with our public. As for the impact that the changing of the company’s name and visual identity will have, I expect it to be a positive one and for NN to become at least as strong a brand as ING was in the coming years. Our customers know and recognize us mainly for the values, commitment and professionalism that our team has proved since our entrance on the Romanian life insurance market, 18 years ago. These are elements that they associate with a market leader and remain equally strong and valid in the context of our new identity. In fact, the NN brand means the same three entities responsible for the success enjoyed till now on the insurance, pensions and investment markets. All these things are trumps that will contribute significantly to the successful assimilation of the new identity.
The current rebranding is the second since the company entered the local market, when it was called Nederlanden. How have these rebrandings influenced the firm’s business on the local market?
This phase is a new and auspicious chapter for us that we’re looking forward to with enthusiasm and the intention to continue our plans for development. We remain the same trustful partners for our customers, the public and authorities, and supporters of the development of the local markets on which we operate. Starting from here, the change of the name and the alignment to the new visual identity can have only a positive impact in time. We also benefit from experience that shows us that assuming a new identity focused around some clear and solid values is welcomed by customers. For example, over 2001-2003 when we started to build the ING Asigurari de Viata brand, after the rebranding of Nederlanden Asigurari de Viata we developed our activity – in line with the market conditions at that time – by doubling the gross written premiums while successfully imposing the new brand on the local market.
What products performed best in 2014 at ING Asigurari de Viata?
In 2014, as in previous years, the majority of the new contracts signed up by our customers were traditional life insurance policies which customers are more comfortable with when financial markets are volatile. So, 65 percent of the policies taken out in the first nine months of 2014 were traditional ones. However, we noticed a slow recovery of public interest in unit-linked insurance. Long-term saving was the main purpose for which our customers signed up for life insurance at ING. Over January-September last year saving plans were the most popular products (31 percent of the new contracts). What is specific about these products is that in addition to protection they offer the opportunity to save money, regardless of the purpose. Financial plans for children (20 percent of new contracts) and for pensions (18 percent) were also popular with our customers. Through these products our customers benefit from financial protection and savings for more specific objectives.
How have voluntary pensions offered by employers to their employees as an extra-salary benefit evolved at ING Asigurari de Viata?
2014 brought an increase in the number of participants in ING funds for which employers decided to offer this extra-salary benefit. While over January-September 2013, contributions for voluntary pensions were paid exclusively by the employer for one third of new participants, this was up by 10 percentage points in the same period of 2014. I am confident that this trend will continue and consolidate as the economic conditions improve, given that the voluntary pension is an extra-salary benefit wanted by employees that brings fiscal advantages for companies. For employers it is an efficient tool to reward, motivate and make their employees loyal. Last but not least, if an employer initiates a voluntary pension plan, it can increase the level of financial education among its employees.
In September last year you launched a new type of group health insurance along with the Regina Maria private healthcare network. What does this product bring on the Romanian market that is new?
The group health insurance product from the ING Asigurari de Viata portfolio was launched last year in partnership with Regina Maria and targets employers that already offer their employees medical subscriptions issued by our partner. In addition to the subscription, which covers the cost of ambulatory medical services, the insurance policy can cover the costs of over 250 types of surgical interventions (that require at least 24 hours of hospitalization) and the associated hospitalization in the private healthcare network’s hospital units in Bucharest (Euroclinic and Baneasa) and Brasov. Our product differentiates itself through the simple clearing procedure conducted directly between ING Asigurari de Viata and the network without involving employers or the beneficiary in the process, the high quality of the services and the complexity of the benefits offered.
Last year you released a study revealing how often Romanians think about their retirement. How important do you think Pillar II will be for future pensioners on the medium and long term?
Pillar II represents the only form of saving for retirement for a lot of workers and also plays a crucial social role. Worsening demographics oblige today’s young generations to have an additional form of savings for retirement, considering that the current difficulties that the public system faces will mean future pensioners get a lower income. Pillar II is meant to balance this problem to some extent and offer “future pensioners” an additional pension. In this context we can say that the system performed excellently as the funds from Pillar II offered an annualized average yield of 11 percent since its launch, in May 2008. Plus, it doesn’t involve additional costs for its participants as the monthly individual contribution represents a specific percentage of their contribution to social insurance. In 2015 this contribution is 5 percent of the gross salary and it is expected to increase by 0.5 percentage points a year to 6 percent, according to the schedule.