Firstly, congratulations on the new appointment at Allianz Worldwide Care, how are you settling in?
Thank you very much. I always think it can take a few months to settle into a new role, but I’ve been working within the Allianz family for the last fifteen years, so there have been no major culture shocks as I’m very familiar with the company. I have strong teams behind me in both Paris and Dublin.
I’ve hit the ground running and my new position as CEO is both exciting and rewarding, throwing up lots of interesting challenges along the way. Moving forward, I will be focusing on expanding our international reputation, and new market entry is of particular interest to me.
Prior to the new role, what is your background in the industry?
I have worked in the insurance industry for over 20 years, so whilst it’s not where I started my career, it’s a sector that has obviously kept me motivated for more than two decades. Before taking on my new role, I was CEO for Europe, Middle East and Africa with Allianz Global Assistance. This position saw me working heavily within strategy, market management and business development, and meant I gained great exposure to international markets.
When I came to France from Poland in 1989 I saw what great opportunities there were for Eastern European countries and this really spurred me on as a Polish national. Through my work with Allianz Global Assistance, I brought ideas and concepts to Eastern European markets, one of which was the Corporate Assistance product for expats
I have been lucky to have worked in a variety of environments over the years. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 heralded a period where significant inroads into European markets could be made by entrepreneurial individuals. Recognising shifts in the global market is particularly exciting for me as it allows us to bring new concepts and products into play.
What can we expect from Allianz Worldwide Care in the next 12 months when it comes to iPMI?
In today’s international market employees want to work in a variety of different locations. Over the next 12 months we will be focusing on those workers in remote or exotic areas where easy access to healthcare may not be available. Looking at these remote areas, we have recognised the huge potential of Asian markets, where a large number of expats are already located. To this end, we launched international plans for individuals living in China and this is a location where we will continue to develop our presence and expand our relationships with local providers.
Globally mobile workers can require quick access to their policy details and/or to make a claim at anytime and anywhere and it is important for Allianz Worldwide Care to be able to adapt to the instant needs of the expat community with instantaneous methods of communication. In this regard technology, such as our MyHealth app, has played a key role in supporting our clients, wherever they are in the world.
We recognise the growing importance of wearables, and their benefits in transferring health information to healthcare providers. This is an area of real interest to us as we know wearables will benefit those working in developing countries or in particularly hazardous environments, such as mines or oil rigs, where technology becomes the ultimate facilitator in helping doctors with on-site diagnosis.
We have many priorities for the coming year. However, much of our focus will be expanding our geographical footprint and growing our digital capabilities, bringing real benefits to both our clients and our brokers. The focus on value added services will also bring that extra dimension to our offering.
The world has changed. Technology, consumerism and cost-effective air travel have all driven globalisation. What role does technology play in (a) the day-to-day business; (b) your medical insurance plans; (c) the lives of your members; (d) your broker network?
Technology has impacted on day-to-day business in a number of ways. We have seen noticeable shifts in the type of contact we have with our members and brokers. This includes the way claims are submitted and the kind of information available to members so they know what they are covered for.
Following the creation of our MyHealth App, we are seeing many clients using this digital platform to submit their medical claims. In the first 12 months alone the app was downloaded over 60,000 times, with more than 100,000 medical claim submissions. Using digital resources allows members to reap the benefits of a service that is tailored to their needs and shows our ability to adapt to an ever changing environment. I would say that technology allows us to offer more value as it provides real and tangible benefits to our clients such as fast access to local emergency services’ numbers on a country by country basis as well as a ‘medical term translator’ showing key medical terms in 17 different languages.
Technology is also a very important factor in terms of Allianz Worldwide Care’s interaction with brokers. It is vital that we continue to develop this resource for the benefit of our intermediaries.
We take our duty of care responsibility extremely seriously and it’s engrained into everything we do for our members. In today’s globally mobile world, members require access to the highest standards of medical attention and care. Our iPMI plans give expats and their families, no matter where they are in the world, the confidence that their medical needs are being looked after.
We understand that expatriates have flexible lifestyles; therefore we have modular plans which give our members the freedom to choose the level of cover they require. These plans can encompass pre-assignment health checks, vaccinations and day-to-day medical cover; as part of an iPMI plan. Our Corporate Assistance services offer medical care and support for expatriates and business travellers who are in particularly dangerous environments or industries.
Risk is changing. For those organisations operating on a global scale, with a worldwide expatriate workforce medical inflation and the rising cost of employee benefits is of major concern. How will Allianz Worldwide Care address the rising cost of global healthcare?
The rising cost of global healthcare, which can vary greatly between regions, is a major focus for international private medical insurance providers. It was estimated that medical inflation stood at 8.3% in 2014, compared to 7.9% in 2013. We believe that up to 30% of claims costs can be made up of extras such as unnecessary diagnostic tests, additional nights in hospital etc. However these extras can be mitigated through careful supplier management such as putting access agreements in place with facilities where possible, agreeing charging structures and ensuring that, wherever possible, every in-patient claim is preauthorised before treatment commences.
Regionally based doctors facilitate in-patient and out-patient direct settlement agreements with local medical providers and support the Medical Services team by ensuring that proposed treatment and costs are appropriate for the region. Allocating individuals within our Medical Services and Claims teams to specific geographical regions allows us to eliminate unnecessary or excessive charges. These individuals are generally natives of the region they are assigned to, putting them in an ideal position to review and challenge the treatment path and costs proposed.
We are big believers in the idea that prevention is better than cure and recognise the long-term cost containment benefits of preventative treatment. Allianz Worldwide Care’s standard international policies contain a range of health and wellness benefits, including routine health checks for the early detection of illness or disease such as cancer screening and cardiovascular and neurological exams. We also cover a range of complementary therapies such as chiropractic treatment, osteopathy and homeopathy.
Local health insurance or International Private Medical Insurance - what do you think?
By their very nature, international health insurance plans are designed specifically for expats. With their globally mobile lifestyles, iPMI without a doubt offers the best and most comprehensive cover for international workforces, individuals and their families.
Whilst local schemes do of course have an important and often crucial role to play, they are, as the name suggests, designed for the local population. By definition, local health insurance offers cover in a single country or region only and is offered in line with local practices and norms. Therefore access is confined to local hospitals or medical facilities, the standards of which can vary hugely across the world. Local health insurance frameworks cannot provide the same level of cover and service as an expat might expect to receive at home and when considering the options, it’s important to remember that local policies are unlikely to offer cover to expats making a trip back home or to another country. In addition, not all expats are eligible for local cover by virtue of their citizenship.
For me therefore, there really is only one option for expats and that’s the option that understands the needs and behaviours of this very specific segment of society - iPMI. Our clients are made up of multinationals operating across countries and continents and that are representative of a multitude of sectors; we have clients operating in challenging or remote regions and we insure truly international workforces and individuals, all of whom have a diverse range of needs.
It is because of this diversity that international plans transcend borders and because they have been developed for the expat market, iPMI offers additional levels of cover not offered by local plans such as expatriation and repatriation and the option of Corporate Assistance services.
It’s wonderful that we live and work in a world filled with choice and both local health insurance and iPMI should be considered on their own merit and indeed, it is not inconceivable to find them working in tandem. My advice is to look at all health insurance options but ultimately, you want to choose a provider who you can trust when there is a problem and that can offer you access to the best healthcare, wherever you are in the world.
Last but not least. If you could live anywhere in the world, at land or at sea, where would it be?
I have visited or lived in so many different and interesting places that this question is almost impossible for me to answer, so you’ll have to indulge me as I chose six locations.
Krakow is a city that has always been close to my heart as I spent such a considerable amount of my youth there. Similarly, I was also lucky enough to experience Paris as well as Toronto as a young adult – both places where I spent time studying.
On the other hand, if I’m after something slightly quieter, there is a very quaint village on the French Brittany coast that has the most delicious oysters and a beautiful harbour. There is also a village in the Polish mountains where my grandparents came from, which provides the perfect setting to unwind.