Please note: This text is an extract of the article published on the Global Benefits Vision platform (global-benefits-vision.com).
The beginnings of the Allianz Group employee benefits network date back to 1978, when four leading European life insurance companies founded the AREA Benefits Network with headquarters in Brussels. The late 1970s were marked by internationalization and an increasing number of companies operating abroad. Offering German companies with international operations a wider service was the reason for Allianz to expand its involvement in the joint project with the other four insurers. The idea of AREA was to enable multinational corporate clients to provide company benefits in their respective countries by combining national group insurance contracts of these companies into a worldwide risk network – in other words to provide “pooling”. The cooperation network allowed Allianz to respond to emerged client needs, in particular the ability to offer employee benefits via its partners abroad while achieving cost savings and profit sharing.
In 1994 Allianz decided to leave AREA to found its own employee benefits network. The rationale for an own network was to use the company’s global footprint as well as vast knowledge to serve the needs of multinational companies from within the Group. Cooperation with selected external partners were entered in some markets in order to ensure a comprehensive and seamless group insurance coverage for companies wherever they were located.
All Net, the Allianz International Network for Worldwide Employee Benefits was then subsequently founded in 1996 in order to assist corporate clients with employee risks and savings and to take advantage of buying requirements of large multinational clients.
It is in the 1990s that the slogan “Think global, act local” appears for the first time. All Net’s primary proposition was to assist its international clients with the worldwide coordination of their employee benefits plans with the main focus on pooling solutions. This strategy was in line with the market needs as multinational companies of all sizes were increasingly becoming more international and therefore looking for information on local employee benefits as well as options to better manage claims and reduce their costs in this area. All Net provided global solutions for third country nationals and expatriates, customized reinsurance and risk management solutions for international companies - captive solutions were successfully introduced in 2009 - assistance to new and start-up companies in coordinating employee benefits programs worldwide, information on products, practices and changes as they affected clients in the local market.
The next milestone from an historical perspective was the Allianz Group’s launch of Allianz Global Benefits five years ago, in 2014. The purpose was to globally coordinate the provision of employee benefits solutions and to respond to the increasing market trend of multinational companies shifting from looking at employee benefits at a country level towards more centralization. It made sense to offer solutions and service through a global business line as the market had become even more international with an increasing demand from customers for multinational solutions. Clients could benefit from tailor-made solutions reflecting the individual situation, optimized employee benefits schemes across countries, a clear overview of the worldwide employee benefits and a more advanced, international risk management perspective. All Net and its existing global and local network of Allianz subsidiaries and selected external partners were integrated into this new unit. Its offering included the full range of corporate life, health, pension and asset management solutions available within Allianz Group with one face to the customer.
Today, Allianz Global Benefits offers multinational companies the most appropriate international programs for their specific needs. Pooling is one of the options - the global program has been continuously improved to suit multinational corporation’s changing requirements. It is still based on the consolidation of local employee benefit plans into one pool for experience sharing purposes. The feedback from the market in the course of the last years has motivated us to include more desired client and broker risk management experiences in our pooling proposition and to further add options to our program. This is reflected by the market trend to stronger link employee benefits to risk management and viewing employee benefits not only as costs but also as a liability or a possible opportunity. The advantage for multinational companies of linking employee benefits to risk management is the realization of long term results, including the optimization of cash flows and the creation of sustainable business.
Whereas our predecessor, AREA, started as a pure pooling network, Allianz Global Benefits has expanded its offer and today offers multinational companies a complete range of global employee benefits programs for all company key stakeholders. This includes three types of risk management programs: Multinational Pooling, Global Underwriting and Captive Reinsurance.
It seems that, despite the enhancements made in the pooling offer throughout the years, the other risk management programs seem to offer integration that support the needs of multinational clients and their increasing governance requirements. Whether for risk retaining (increased risk retaining as risk retaining options that pooling offers are modest), reporting (quarterly reporting available instead of the annual report within pooling) or cost reduction (the offer of discounts instead of dividends in the case of global underwriting). This is also justifiable as employee benefits have shifted from being a pure HR topic towards being looked at from a risk management, finance and procurement perspective. Ideas related to the P&C area, such as central buying, found their way into the employee benefits world, generating a special demand that cannot be covered by pooling alone. Therefore it is comprehensible that the pooling market has not grown in the last decades.
Nevertheless, pooling remains a popular option for multinational corporations – it is one tool of many to optimize their global employee benefits on a worldwide level and the ideal solution for multinational companies looking for an entry-level program to manage employee benefits on a regional or global level. Once a pooling program has gained a certain maturity - an increase in size, a change in risk behavior or an increased data availability - it can pave the way for a client to switch to the other risk management programs, a global underwriting solution and subsequently at a later stage a captive solution.
We consider pooling as one of the key programs to service multinational companies in the long term and therefore an important component of our holistic offer: The program is an appropriate entry port to global risk management programs and valued by many multinational companies as it fully addresses their needs for transparent reporting, financial savings, global partnership and risk management. The major challenge – that we are ready to meet – will be to even more tailor the product around the clients’ needs and enhance their experience with data, reporting and service. In a long term view, data management and advanced technologies will push for more transparency for the clients within the program. Allianz is strongly investing in state-of-the-art data analytics in order to transform the organization to become simple, digital and scalable. Will big data and the subsequent possibility of stronger upfront steering allow for pooling to be replaced by global underwriting? Or will we see more combined approaches? Either way, we at Allianz Global Benefits feel prepared to meet the future demands and expectations of our clients. Due to extensive investments in the current setup of our global programs we have successfully bridged the gap between desired client experiences and the original pooling concept. We have constantly evolved our offering which today includes all risk management programs available in the employee benefits market.