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Why Do Expats Fear Coming Home?

Living the expat dream is a lifestyle choice that many people would seize if they had the opportunity. The chance to experience different cultures, climates and lifestyles is a prospect too exciting to ignore, and with international travel and trade opening up employment opportunities across the globe, the global expat population is estimated to rise from 66.2m last year to 87.5m in 2021.   

But what happens when the adventure comes to an end and it’s time to go home? For many, it’s an experience which can prove just as challenging as relocating in the first place. HR and Global Mobility Managers can often overlook this feeling – why would someone be worried about returning to a lifestyle and a country in which they’ve happily lived before?

Below are some of the common worries those returning from a spell abroad may encounter, and how HR can help address these.


While many would expect the process of moving abroad to be difficult, returning to your home country can be just as challenging. With a to-do list that might include reclaiming a property that was rented during your time abroad and shipping clothes and furniture back home, as well as updating financial arrangements and securing access to transport, the process can quickly become overwhelming.

Whilst many companies will offer support, HR Managers should check in with employees regularly, to ensure the process isn’t too onerous. It’s important to start communicating about relocating well in advance, so the employee knows what will happen and when – allowing them time to organise logistics or to get a grasp of what support will be available.


Returning to something you’ve left behind can be surprisingly challenging. It’s easy, if not comforting, while living abroad to imagine that things at home are just as you left them, and expats can be surprised to find that time has marched on when they return. Friendship groups may have changed, colleagues might have moved to another department or even to another company, the working environment may have changed and family responsibilities will evolve. HR needs to be aware that settling back in isn’t always a straightforward process, and that adjusting to the new lay of the land can weigh upon employees’ wellbeing. An appropriate action would be to check in with returning employees, to ensure they’re settling back in comfortably.

Cultural differences

Even for expats who spent their whole lives in their ‘home’ countries before taking on an international assignment, coming home can still require some adjustment. Even old commutes, for example, might suddenly seem more demanding than before – if you’ve got used to using the MRT in Singapore, returning to the Tube in London will be a very different experience. Likewise, driving in snowy weather can suddenly seem more daunting than it used to be after a couple of years’ driving in a warmer country. These challenges can ultimately contribute to a sense of ‘culture shock’, causing an employee to feel distracted as they re-familiarise themselves. So, it’s up to HR to be aware of how these changes could affect their employees and ensure that realistic expectations are formed upon their return home.

Political changes

It’s difficult to imagine now, but just three years ago, nobody had ever heard the word, ‘Brexit’. Whilst returning to a country with a markedly different political environment to that which was in place when they left might not have a significant affect an employee’s day-to-day role, HR managers should still consider how adjusting to this new climate could prove challenging. Politics is, of course, a matter of personal opinion, but it’s worth speaking to returning employees about how any political changes might impact their role in the company, in particular.

Job concerns

Returning to an old workplace can be daunting. Whilst employees may know the role and the culture, colleagues move on and team dynamics change. There’s also the role. If an employee has been away for three or five years, will their old role still be there? Will it have evolved? Will it be as fast-paced or carry as much responsibility as it did before? After all, personal development is a key factor in employee motivation and engagement. Therefore, HR needs to have an open dialogue with returning employees about what they can expect in the job they are coming back to. This means any potential issues can be ironed out in advance, lessening the impact of change.

Whilst it may seem easier to return home than leave in the first place, the process can come with its own challenges. The reality is that the fear of change can be stronger than that of the unexpected. My advice would be that communication is key – keep returning expats informed and engaged, and have open, honest conversations to gauge how they’re coping. A happy employee is an engaged employee, so for the good of the company and the wider team, don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations. It will pay off in the long run.

Written by Caroline Walmsley, Global Head of HR, AXA – Global Healthcare



Insurers Place An Increasing Emphasis On Creating Long-Term Bancassurance Partnerships

Insurance companies that want to expand internationally face substantial distribution challenges: how do they establish their brand and how do they reach new customers? One way for them to try to solve these problems is through creating sales partnerships with leading banks, which gives them access to a new customer base using the bank's own brand. According to new research about global bancassurance strategies published by Finaccord, BNP Paribas Cardif is the insurance group holding the most bancassurance partnerships among the world's 500 largest retail banking groups, followed by AXA and MetLife.

Based on an investigation into the consumer banking operations of the top 500 retail banking groups worldwide (spanning over 100 countries), Finaccord's research established that BNP Paribas Cardif was being utilised as an insurance partner for at least one bancassurance product by a total of 81 of the 500 banking groups. The France-based insurance group was followed by AXA with a total of 78 partnerships, and MetLife with a total of 75 agreements. Overall, among the 20 most prominent insurance groups in terms of their number of relationships with the top 500 banking groups, ten originated from Europe, five from North America and five from the Asia-Pacific region.

"Competition among international insurance groups for bancassurance partnerships has been intense in recent years", comments Stefan Wagner, a Consultant at Finaccord. "This is a consequence of the high or rising importance of bancassurance as a distribution channel in a number of insurance markets including China, Indonesia and Thailand in the Asia-Pacific region, Poland and Spain in Europe, and Brazil and Mexico in Latin America. In addition, many banks have expanded substantially their offering not only into new product areas but also into alternative sales channels, including digital distribution, which has created more partnership opportunities for insurers."

Finaccord's research also classified insurance groups' partnerships with the 500 banking groups according to whether they were set up either as joint ventures, as strategic, long-term relationships, or as less substantial, ad hoc distribution partnerships. With regards to joint ventures and strategic agreements among the 500 banking groups, AXA is the insurance group with the most such arrangements at 15 (breaking down between eight joint ventures and seven strategic relationships). It is followed by BNP Paribas Cardif with ten, Allianz with nine, Aviva and MAPFRE with eight each, and MetLife with seven.

"While the total number of partnerships is certainly a helpful measure to identify key insurance groups in the global bancassurance market, it is also important to look at joint venture and strategic partnerships as these commonly have a long-term focus and often generate substantially more revenue than looser distribution agreements", concludes Stefan Wagner. "As such, international insurance groups are increasingly seeking these types of deal. For example, major agreements established during 2017 included those of Allianz with Standard Chartered and of Chubb with DBS, both for non-life insurance and spanning multiple countries in the Asia-Pacific region."


AXA To Acquire Aid-Call Limited

Aid-Call Limited has been operating in the UK for over 35 years. Based in Ashburton, Devon, and employing around 140 people, Aid-Call Limited provides personal alarm services for over 50,000 people throughout the UK.

The acquisition, which is subject to FCA approval, will further strengthen and extend AXA’s presence in the UK health and care markets and evidences its commitment to developing trusted propositions that enable older people to maintain their independence, dignity and wellbeing while living in their own homes.

Keith Gibbs, Chief Executive, AXA PPP healthcare said, “We are delighted to be acquiring Aid-Call Limited from Age UK – an organisation with whom we have a shared ethos and a shared commitment to delivering exceptional customer service. Aid-Call Limited, with its size, well established operating procedures, direct to consumer experience and its deep understanding of the needs of older people, is an excellent fit for AXA.

“Strengthening and extending our presence in the health and care markets further signals AXA’s ambition to become the trusted partner that enables people to live life well and to the full – whatever their age.”

Tom Wright, Chief Executive, Age UK said, “We are delighted that AXA PPP healthcare is taking on ownership of Aid-Call Limited and firmly believe this is in the best interests of both today’s and tomorrow’s users of the Age UK Personal Alarm. Current Age UK Personal Alarm users can expect the same level of care and service they enjoy now and AXA PPP healthcare has committed to further investment in the platforms that support the service. Age UK’s trading arm will continue to be involved for the foreseeable future and, in our fast changing technological world, we think it makes a lot of sense for us to be partnering on the Personal Alarm with such a major company as AXA PPP healthcare, with its impressive global reach.”

International health and medical insurance industry news


AXA To Sell Its Romanian Operations To Vienna Insurance Group

AXA has announced it had entered into an agreement with Vienna Insurance Group to sell its Life & Savings insurance operations in Romania and exit the Romanian market.

Under the terms of the agreement, Vienna Insurance Group would acquire 100% of AXA Life Insurance SA1 through its BCR Life and Omniasig entities. The parties agreed not to disclose the terms and conditions of the transaction. Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals.


Jumia And AXA Partner To Provide Insurance Products And Services To African Customers

Africa Internet Group (“AIG”), a leading e-commerce group in Africa, and AXA, a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, announced a partnership whereby AXA will become the exclusive provider of insurance products and services through Jumia and other AIG online and mobile platforms in Africa.

Going forward, AXA’s African insurance companies plan to propose custom-made insurance products to Jumia and AIG’s e-commerce client base through its ecosystem of marketplaces and classifieds services. As part of the partnership, AXA will also become a shareholder of AIG, along with MTN, Rocket Internet and Millicom. AXA and Jumia view Africa as a fast developing market for financial services and insurance products, benefitting from strong fundamentals such as low penetration rates, rise in middle class, urbanization as well as the youth of its population.

“Internet is creating unparalleled opportunities for consumers and businesses in Africa to connect and do business in a new way. We continue to be very excited about the growth prospects of Jumia and this new partnership will enable us to capture them,” said Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara, founders and co-CEOs of Jumia and AIG. “We expect Africa’s e-commerce and online businesses to develop rapidly as a result of the strong growth of the middle class coupled with the increasing mobile phone and internet penetration. With Rocket Internet’s extensive background in online business models, MTN as leading mobile carrier with its broad African presence, and now the partnership with AXA in insurance products and services, we are in a great position to continue to innovate and connect businesses to the fast growing consumer demand.”

"This transaction confirms AXA's long-term commitment towards the African markets and represents another step in our development on the continent. Africa is home to some of the most dynamic and promising insurance markets in the world and our partnership with Africa Internet Group will enable us to accelerate materially our development by having access to their rich customer base and to their state-of-the-art e-commerce technology. Going forward, we aim to enable African consumers to better access insurance solutions to create sustainable financial well-being throughout their lives and those of their dependants", added Denis Duverne, Deputy CEO of AXA.

As a result of the transaction, AXA will invest Euro 75 million and own approximately 8% of the capital of AIG. Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the closing of the previous investment round, and is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2016 The additional capital contributed by AXA will further strengthen the balance sheet and support AIG’s continued growth. Jumia, AIG’s main subsidiary, is currently present in 11 African markets and grew its transaction volume (GMV) by 265% during first 9 months of 2015 to reach Euro 206 million. Jumia is part of broader ecosystem of services providing opportunities for local African businesses to do business with the fast-growing African consumers and middle class. Other services include Kaymu, a leading online shopping community, as well as leading marketplaces in food delivery (Hellofood), travel (Jovago) and leading classifieds in real estate (Lamudi), jobs (Everjobs) and cars (Carmudi).


Travel Insurance Claims Soar As Families Hit The Slopes

February half term is the most dangerous time of the year for a trip to the slopes, with more than twice the average number of winter sports travel claims this week, compared to the rest of the ski season. This is according to travel insurance claims data revealed by Aviva.1

New research from the travel insurer also reveals that six out of 10 (57%) parents would consider taking a winter sports break with their family2, citing good activities for children (23%) and health and fitness benefits (22%) as their main reasons.

Accessibility and location (15%) are also popular motivations for parents, although one in eight (13%) say that they would consider winter sports holidays because summer breaks during school holidays are too expensive.

Accidents on the slopes

Additional Aviva research shows that health and safety at winter resorts is a top priority for many parents, with more than half admitting that either they or an immediate family member had suffered an accident or near-miss while on the slopes3. However, more than half (55%) say they only sometimes take out travel insurance when going on holiday with their family2, and a similar number (47%) say they don’t always make sure they have cover that specifically covers winter sports.

Adam Beckett, propositions director for Aviva, said:

“A medical emergency is the most common reason for claiming on winter sports insurance and the cost of treating minor injuries can be expensive – the average cost of a winter sports claim is around £1,000. The largest winter sports claim settled by Aviva in recent years was for a customer who suffered a hip injury while skiing in Austria, the cost of which was over £15,000.

“The EHIC card offers state-provided emergency medical treatment in EEA countries. However, the level of treatment varies between countries and it may not cover all the treatment costs and services that are free through the NHS. It will not provide the same levels of cover that insurance does and would not cover a rescue from a mountain top or repatriation home if you needed it.

“For example, the cost of bringing someone with a damaged spinal cord home to the UK by air ambulance could be in the region of £20,000 from the European Union, or even as much as £80,000 from the United States.”

In spite of parents’ attention to health and safety, not all insist that their children wear helmets when taking part in winter sports. The Aviva poll showed that only four out of five parents would insist their children always wore helmets2, potentially meaning a heightened risk of injury for some youngsters on the slopes.

Adam Beckett adds: “Some resorts may not enforce the use of helmets for children, so check their guidelines. If they don’t, and your children are hitting the slopes this half term, make sure their equipment is in good order and they wear a helmet.”

For more tips and advice for a safe winter sports holiday, visit:

Aviva’s top 10 tips for staying safe on the slopes

  1. Take out the right winter sports travel insurance package. Make sure your travel insurance suits your needs before you buy it and keep your travel insurance medical emergency helpline number and your policy number to hand.
  2. Make sure your skiing equipment - or the gear you hire - is in good order. 
  3. Don’t borrow skiing equipment - it should fit your height, weight and skill level.
  4. Wear a protective headgear or a helmet - make a helmet mandatory for your children.
  5. Take lessons if you’ve never skied before. If you haven’t been on the piste for a while, a lesson or two will polish up your skills.
  6. Remember that skiers or boarders in front or below you on the piste have right of way. 
  7. Know your limits - ski or snowboard to your skill level on the nursery slopes, the green (beginner), blue (intermediate), red (intermediate/advanced) or black (advanced) runs.
  8. Respect the mountain and make sure you obey all warning signs - especially during avalanche season. Never go off-piste unless you are authorised to do so by the resort. If you are authorised to go off-piste, don’t ski or board alone, go with a qualified guide. Under Aviva Travel Insurance, you will not be covered for off-piste skiing unless you are accompanied by a qualified guide.
  9. Carry a fully charged mobile phone with you. 
  10. Don’t drink and ski. Excess alcohol will slow your reactions and affect your observation and balance.

1 Based on Aviva claims data, 01 January 2012 to 31 December 2014 (inclusive).

2 Based on a study of 537 parents who take holidays with children aged 0-16. Research commissioned by Aviva and carried out by ICM research 29-31 January, 2016.

3 Based on research commissioned by Aviva in a One Poll survey of over 1,000 parents who go on winter sports holidays with their children (aged 0-16 years old).

* The EHIC card entitles you to: state-provided emergency medical treatment in European Economic Area (EEA) countries. However, the level of state-provided emergency medical treatment will vary between countries and it may not cover all the treatment costs and services that are free through the NHS. For example, the following ARE covered by a typical travel insurance policy but NOT by the EHIC:

- Rescue services (eg from mountain in ski resort)
- Additional accommodation & travel costs if you need treatment or need to return to the UK
- Accommodation you have lost through being hospitalised
- Repatriation back to the UK
- Support and advice through 24 hour helplines with multi-lingual staff


AXA Publishes Latest Insurance Claims Stats

Since January 2015, AXA has published online the overall percentage of claims made which are paid, and is pleased to now display that information at the product level for Motor, Home and Travel. 

AXA believes that increased transparency is crucial to lifting consumer trust, and addressing the concern, held by some, that insurers seek to avoid claims. To the contrary, AXA will quickly pay a valid claim, but has a duty to its customers to ensure their premiums are not inflated by the cost of paying fraudulent claims, or claims not covered by the policy purchased.

AXA understands that there can be confusion over what protection insurance policies provide, therefore it has made it a key objective to help customers by making it clearer what they are and aren't covered for and what information they need to provide when taking out a policy.

The claims statistics for the last 12 months to the end of December 2015, published today, show that a high proportion of claims are paid. AXA paid 99.8 per cent of motor claims, at an average value of £3,090, (including the cost of claims made by 3rd parties against our policyholders).

88.5 per cent of travel insurance claims were paid, at an average claims value of £644.  Some of the reasons travel claims may be turned down include non-disclosure of a pre-existing medical condition which led to a claim, lack of evidence for the loss, and/or the loss not being covered by the policy. This information and other examples are also provided on AXA’s web pages for travel insurance.

Additionally, AXA PPP healthcare paid over £760 million for over 360,000 of its members in the UK and approved 92 per cent of enquiries for treatment. It also paid 90 per cent of the value of all the medical bills it was sent (information based on data from 2014, 2015 data will be published shortly). Reasons claims may be turned down include the condition or treatment isn’t covered as standard, a benefit limit on the member's plan and/or the condition is pre-existing.

In addition to information on the relevant web pages for home, travel and motor insurance, AXA has introduced short on-line films to help consumers understand some aspects of health insurance, and highlighting the medical conditions customers should declare when taking out a travel insurance policy. The company has also developed a series of documents that explain the common reasons claims are turned down and the most important exclusions that customers should be aware of when taking out a policy.

These measures form part of AXA’s wider agenda to build consumer trust by improving transparency. In May 2015, AXA became the first insurer to publish the previous year’s renewal price for all its motor and home policyholders and this practice has now been extended to direct business insurance customers. AXA also publishes customer reviews of both the buying and claiming experience across all its product lines so that it is easier for consumers to make an immediate assessment of the company’s service.

For home insurance, 83.7 per cent of claims were paid at an average value of £3,019.  The smaller proportion of claims not paid are largely related to damage caused by wear and tear, or lack of maintenance which are not covered by insurance, and claims for accidental damage (for example wine spilt onto a carpet) made by customers who did not purchase that feature for their policy. AXA informs customers about this and other situations where claims might not be paid on their home insurance web site.

Paul Evans, Chief Executive Officer, AXA UK and Ireland said, “I believe that introducing this level of transparency is a real watershed moment and I hope it goes a long way to reassure our customers that we are there for them when they need us most. That is our role - to protect our customers as they go about their daily lives, so that they do not need to worry about the financial consequences when things go wrong. Although the vast majority of claims are paid, there is still work to be done in making it absolutely clear to our customers, not just what their policy covers, but also what it does not cover and we will continue to look for new ways to do that. There is a misconception that insurers will try to avoid paying claims, but by publishing this data we are demonstrating that the opposite is true. Fundamentally it is an issue of trust and such transparency is a good step towards earning that trust."


AXA PPP Healthcare Introduces New Cost-Effective Health Cover

AXA PPP healthcare is now offering medium and larger-sized businesses a new approach to securing affordable health cover and support for the whole workforce.

Benefiting employees who are not covered by ‘traditional’ medical insurance, AccessHEALTH focuses on early intervention and support and, in turn, helps employers tackle key health risks to productivity in their business such as musculoskeletal conditions and mental ill health.

Designed for schemes of 100+ employees and available from 01 January 2016, AccessHealth has:

  • NO exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions
  • NO excess to pay
  • NO ‘qualifying period’ to use the benefits.

And it comes with two cover level options, Core and Plus.

Core level includes:

  • Online private GP appointments from AXA PPP healthcare’s Doctor@Hand service, delivered by Doctor Care Anywhere (up to three consultations per membership year)
  • Mental health counselling – telephone support, with five face-to-face counselling sessions where clinically appropriate
  • Musculoskeletal – over-the-phone guidance plus ten physiotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathy sessions (per membership year)
  • 24/7 telephone access to AXA PPP’s dedicated team of nurses, midwives and pharmacists for support with any medical matter or concern
  • Health Gateway – the proactive health portal that provides an intelligent personaised approach to health risk management.

In addition to these features, Plus level covers:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – 12 sessions upon GP referral (per membership year)
  • Consultations – up to three specialist consultations (per membership year)
  • Diagnostics – full refund for specialist-referred in and day-patient tests, scans and surgery to establish a diagnosis.

Chris Horlick, Distribution Director at AXA PPP healthcare, said, “For organisations who want to safeguard their employees’ health but are unable to provide full medical insurance for the whole workforce, AccessHEALTH provides cost-effective access to expert healthcare without any delays and engages people in their own wellbeing.

“As well as bringing a highly valued benefit to workers who, ordinarily, would not have the benefit of company-paid medical insurance cover, AccessHEALTH will help employers to keep their workforce active and healthy and, if they should become ill or injured, provide early access to investigation and treatment of the two biggest causes of sickness absence – musculoskeletal conditions and psychological issues.” 


UK Gaps In ISA knowledge Revealed

While the investment industry prepares for a radical shake-up to pensions, AXA research shows that the financial decisions of millions of UK adults are being held back by widespread confusion on the basics on how ISAs work. 

The research carried out on behalf of AXA Self Investor suggests there is too much complexity regarding investments as the over 55s, those closest to retirement, are unclear about the ISA basics –raising the concern that many people close to retirement age are failing to make full use of the new ISA allowance as an effective long-term financial planning tool. Only 41 per cent of those aged 55 and over thought they could put stocks and shares into an ISA and only 18 per cent thought they could take out more than one ISA each tax year.

The financial industry must do more to make investing more straightforward, as the research uncovered regional pockets of confusion about certain features of ISA investing:

  • 22 per cent of people in Northern Ireland think you can only put cash in an ISA
  • When asked to select which of six statements about ISAs were true, 33 per cent of Londoners selected don’t know.
  • 70 per cent of people in Wales have not invested in an ISA in the current tax year
  • 76 per cent of those in the North East don't know the new ISA limit is £15,000
  • 36 per cent of Scottish people don't know the month in which the tax year ends.

Adrian Lowcock, head of investing, AXA Self Investor, said “With so much attention on the pension changes just weeks away, the financial services industry continues to focus on these issues and not those of potential investors. We need to take a step back and revisit the basics; be more transparent, cut out the complexity and communicate simply. We are an ‘instant gratification nation’; comfortable making complex financial decisions that deliver immediate or short-term results through things like comparison websites, or discount deals. If we are going to increase the amount of confident investors, we need to make longer term financial arrangements and decision-making far more engaging.”

Five top tips to consider when ISA investing:

  1. Know why you are investing - Before you start investing you need to set a clear goal of what you want to achieve; perhaps it’s for your children’s education or a special wedding anniversary treat. This will help you decide what risk you can take and what you should invest in. It is important to remember that investing is not for the short term.
  2. What is your appetite for risk - Your attitude to risk is quite personal and it will change, as will your capacity for loss.  Age, lifestyle and surroundings can all impact how much risk you want to take and what your tolerance for loss is, and there are online tools to help you determine this. A simple measure is you shouldn’t be having sleepless nights over concerns of an investment falling in value.
  3. Do your research - Take some time reading up about the different types of asset classes, the benefits of ISAs, different types of investment styles. There’s lots of information around, try websites such as Give yourself time to digest the information before proceeding.  
  4. Finding the right investment service - There are a number of choices in this market and several important factors to consider including costs, service and jargon. Watch out for hidden fees’ such as exit charges. Keep an eye out for comparison tables from industry experts.
  5. Be more tax efficient, use your ISA - Taxes are another cost to the portfolio taken out of any profits you make. Investments held in an ISA will not incur any capital gains tax on capital growth, nor is there further tax to pay on any income earned. You get a new ISA allowance each tax year. In the current tax year (2014/2015) you can invest up to £15,000 within an ISA.

To learn more about ISAs visit:


AXA Completes Acquisition Of A 7% Stake In Africa Re

AXA has announced that it has completed the acquisition of a 7.15% stake in African Reinsurance Corporation (“Africa Re”), the leading reinsurance company in Africa1 , for a total consideration of USD 61 million (or Euro 54 million2 ).

The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with 157,000 employees serving 103 million clients in 59 countries. In 2014, IFRS revenues amounted to Euro 92.0 billion and IFRS underlying earnings to Euro 5.1 billion. AXA had Euro 1,277 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2014. The AXA ordinary share is listed on compartment A of Euronext Paris under the ticker symbol CS (ISN FR 0000120628 – Bloomberg: CS FP – Reuters: AXAF.PA).

AXA’s American Depository Share is also quoted on the OTC QX platform under the ticker symbol AXAHY. The AXA Group is included in the main international SRI indexes, such as Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and FTSE4GOOD. It is a founding member of the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Sustainable Insurance and a signatory of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.

1 Source: Africa Re Information Memorandum, based on 2013 gross written premiums. 2 EUR 1 = USD 1.13.

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