ICMIF Focuses on Members' Intellectual Capital

This document has been made available in electronic format
     by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA
                     February 1996

      A New, Yet Experienced, ICMIF Focuses on Members'
                 Intellectual Capital

The International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) is
in the unusual and enviable position of being a new organization which came
into being (on 1 January 1993) with 70 years of experience already behind
it, Chairman Tan Kin Lian said as he addressed some 175 delegates from
around the world to the first conference of ICMIF held in Manchester on
16-18 September.

The history of this Federation, founded in 1922 as the insurance committee
of ICA, is almost exclusively in the co-operative sector, he said.
"Although we decided three years ago that we should open our doors a bit
wider (to mutual insurers which form part of the social economy), the
unique co-operative approach to business is still an essential part of our
purpose." Mr Tan was referring to constitutional changes approved by the
Tokyo conference in 1992, which resulted in a renewal of the Federation and
in the addition of an M for mutual in its former acronym ICIF.

Among new members that have joined ICMIF since then are three mutuals, from
Austria, Israel and Poland, and it now represents more than 150 insurers
worldwide grouped in some 75 member organisations, including conference
host, the CIS (Co-operative Insurance Society) of Manchester, the very
first co-operative insurer in the world. Alan Sneddon, Chief General
Manager of the CIS, welcomed delegates and described how, in the face of
rapid changes in the UK market, his organisation maintained a leading and
special position built upon the co-operative basis of trading.

Guest of honour at the opening session was  Pauline Green, Labour and
Co-operative Party Member of the European Parliament, who paid tribute to
the achievements of co-operative insurers around the world. Describing
Europe as a co-operative vision, not just an economic club, she said the
European Union (EU) was a model of economic and political co-operation
which could hold good in other parts of the world.

A special guest was ICA President, Lars Marcus, who lauded ICMIF as the
strongest and best-organised specialised organisation of the ICA, and
challenged members to work toward spreading insurance services more evenly
among established and emerging markets around the world.

A principal session of the conference was devoted to a review of the ground
the Federation has covered in implementing the Strategic Review Group (SRG)
recommendations since the last conference. Hans Dahlberg, Chief Executive,
said more and more organisations are attempting to put a value on the
intangible assets of knowledge, skill and information systems. "It is to
this intellectual capital that ICMIF services, put together, make a
significant contribution."

In markets becoming similar, in a world getting smaller, the international
exposure which ICMIF provides to managers of its member organizations
cannot easily be duplicated on the individual initiative of an insurer or
the collective initiative of a few, he added. "When there are generally
accepted accounting principles for intellectual capital, an ICMIF
membership will count for a great deal, as it provides a global reach for
local strength."

The main seminar of the conference was on social welfare provision, with
presentations from a number of countries exploring whether it was a fitting
opportunity in changing markets where governments were withdrawing from
social services.

The conference also included a development forum. It examined new
approaches to co-operative and mutual insurance development, from
networking to strategic alliances and joint ventures, in a dozen markets
previously driven by planned economies.

In his keynote speech to the forum, ICMIF Development Manager Zahid Qureshi
pointed out that in 1970 the well-to-do countries - USA, Canada, Japan,
Australia and Western Europe - accounted for 15% of the world population
and 75% of the gross domestic product (GDP). "In 1992, the same countries
controlled 80% of the world's wealth. The insurance gap is even wider, with
the well-to-do countries accounting for 92% of all insurance worldwide."

Just as it is the existence of a middle class that lends stability to the
social and economic well-being of a country, the existence of what may be
called middle-economy countries will help provide some socio-economic
stability in the world, he said. "It is vital that the present trend of a
growing gap between developed and developing countries is reversed, through
activities which focus on the progress of emerging economies - such as
insurance, which fosters savings and investments while covering risk, for
industry and commerce as well as individuals and families."

Zahid Qureshi