The EURESA Experience

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    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
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                         June, 1995


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                    The EURESA Experience
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                    by Thierry  Jeantet*


The Origins of EURESA

The insurance market is gradually changing not only because of
the effects of the European single market but also because of
new types of competitors (banks for example), new forms of
sale (direct mail, telemarketing, etc). The insurance
societies belonging to the Social Economy are those closest to
consumers, the insured; they should use this time for
listening to the problems of the consumers and  to their new
needs in order to be once again  ahead of the others.  Social
Economy stands for a bit more than consumerism, it also means
solidarity and shared responsibility: these notions are more
topical today than ever before because of the social and
economic developments in Europe. Also from that point of view
the member societies of Euresa want to play  their role. They
are certainly not the only ones wanting to do that, the other
companies belonging to the Social Economy have similar aims
for their respective sectors. This shows that  co-operatives,
mutuals, associations and other organisations with this kind
of a social dimension are more stimulated than worried by a
single Europe and they want to contribute to its  development
in their  own way.

The alliance between the founding societies (Unipol, Macif,
P&V, Folksam) was formed or strengthened at the end of 1990.
The societies had contacts before then, particularly  through
their  membership in the International Cooperative and Mutual
Insurance Federation and its European association.
Cross-ownership, although modest, existed between Unipol and
P&V. The management had to a certain extent got to know each
other during European seminars. The approaching of the single
European market served as a stimulus. As from 1986 I organised
on behalf of GEMA (whose Secretary General I was at that time)
a series of meetings in Stockholm, Bologna, Brussels... so
that the leaders of the French mutuals could get to know their
counterparts. During this period, people have intensified
their dialogue, they have noted the basic similarities between
the societies and how they could concretely complement each
other.  They have appreciated that  although each society  was 
important in its respective domestic market, it would be too
small in a European single market. They also felt that the
traditional insurance companies should not be allowed to
monopolise this European market. 

Distinguishing Features

The decision not to be like everybody else was from the very
beginning a clear decision made by the members of Euresa.
Euresa should be a part of the Social Economy and and at the
disposal of the Social Economy. It was an ethical and
strategic  choice. Why otherwise should the member societies
have taken the risk of  blurring their identity  since that in
itself is one of the keys to their success?

The Social Economy certainly is the basic link among the
member societies of Euresa: it assures overall coherence. It
is an important asset. Confronted with large traditional
groups it is important not to imitate them but rather to find 
original solutions which will progressively allow  the
policyholders to take advantage of the European dimension as
P&V, Unipol, Folksam, Macif and now also Maif have already 
done. The actions of Euresa are taken in this spirit.
Confronted with the today`s large private traditional groups
it is also important to create a kind of network with
insurance societies belonging to the Social Economy and which
are able to respond to the needs of the single European
market. Through Euresa member societies  can be identified and
they can also easily identify other potential partners: other
insurance societies belonging to the Social Economy,
co-operatives, associations or mutuals, trade unions, for
example. It is not by  accident that Euresa works closely with
the European Trade Union Confederation and with the European
part of the International Association of Mutuality (health
insurance). Our societies and Euresa do not indulge in grand
spectacular manoeuvres, or in creating conglomerates, or in
buying up competitors, etc.

Euresa prefers to build brick-by-brick. And, furthermore, for
how long will the financial alliances last?  Look how fast 
certain combinations between insurance companies (and
sometimes also banks) are made and unmade. But there are of
course also large, lasting  and threatening groups.  They pose
a risk to the insurance societies of the Social Economy each
time they acquire one more insurance company  (e.g. the recent
purchases made by Allianz); these groups can take the
commercial initiatives and attempt to acquire a dominant
market position. 

Although the member societies of Euresa reject "capitalist"
strategies, they  certainly  try to consolidate their own
structures, their equity. This is an important subject.
Measures have already  been taken. Equity shares (minority) in
mother companies or subsidiaries have been taken. Other ideas
are being studied.

Three years old

Euresa is both too old and too young! Euresa GEIE and Euresa
Holding were born on paper in 1990 but became operational only
in November 1992. After this latter date, the management of
the GEIE and the board of the holding have established two
sets of objectives: those related to the collaboration between
the societies and those concerning the geographic projects.

Before going into them, I want to stress one thing: the
positive participation of the management and the specialists
concerned of the member societies in the various projects and
tasks . Euresa is the fruit of a work in common, a contact as
direct as possible between one another. This conctact creates
a certain dynamism. Better understanding - links are created.

So what has happened during these two and a half  years: 
 
Collaboration between members

The work of Euresa`s project groups have lead to the
following:

Life Insurance

Euresa-Life  was created (April 28, 1993) - an insurance
society registered in Luxembourg and established to work in
LPS in Europe. It is already marketing its products in Belgium
and since shortly also in Sweden and is ready to do so in
Italy.
Agreement about transfer of insurance contracts from one
member society to the other for policyholders who are moving
to another country (July 1994). 

Non-life Insurance

-    Creation of a manual  for policyholders travelling abroad
     - already distributed by P&V, Macif, and Unipol;

-    Agreement about authorised automobile repair workshops
     (P&V and Macif to be extended to Unipol through IMA),
     strengthening of the links between IMA/SOS Copenhagen
     (February 1994);

-    Drafting of a complementary legal protection insurance
     product for the European space;

-    Agreement about the transfer of contracts similar to the
     one concerning life insurance.


New Technology

Establishment of electronic mail and a system for claims
handling abroad. Exchange of information and know-how related
to hardware as well as software. Comparative studies, for
example, regarding document processing, the use of new
information technology  for customer communication, etc.

Finance, Treasury, Investment

Euresa-Finance, a finance society registered in Luxembourg,
was created only recently to create and administer financial
products for member societies and their policyholders. 

Prevention

For the moment, mainly information exchange.

The Social Economy/Trade Unions

The Bologna conference on "The new social frontiers in Europe"
was organised in November 1993 with the participation of the
ETUC and the trade unions in fifteen countries, the AIM, and
representatives of the European Commission. Three joint
seminars would be held in 1995 and 1996. The first one
(February 1995) dealt with pension funds.

European Legislation

Support to other working groups.

The Geographic Projects

The objective of the member societies is to assist in creating
and developing  insurance societies linked to the Social
Economy in other European countries.

European Union - Greece

Euresa entered into the capital of the insurance society
Syneteristiki General and participated in the recent creation
of Syneteristiki Life. This Greek society is linked to the
trade unions in the country.

Portugal 

This year, Euresa, and its Portuguese partners (Social Economy
+ the Municipalities` Associations + the Trade Unions) jointly
created a non- life  insurance society, responding to the
needs  of the Social Economy.

East and Central Europe - Poland

Since its very beginning Euresa has assisted the Polish
insurance mutual TUW in partnership  with the Foundations
close to Solidarnosc, the cooperative banks and the Banque
d`Initiative Socio-economique. 

The Future?

It is up to the members to decide what they want to do
together within the framework of Euresa. This is done
progressively at strategic meetings. Euresa is only in its
beginning phase. It is a small tool. First of all, we have to
consolidate and develop what has been created: for example
collaboration between the members in the field of information
technology: the knowledge acquired as regards material,
systems and software products used among members enables us to
anticipate an even closer and more structured co-operation in
this area.  

Let us particularly look at things from the policyholder`s
perspective: We have to offer him or her every possibility of
having a good insurance cover when  travelling or taking up
residence in another country. Here there is need for more
Euresa inventions both as regards insurance for private
individuals and insurance for enterprises, both in non-life
insurance and in life and pension savings insurance.Parallel
to that we have to analyse the products and services sold in
each country to see if there are new areas of collaboration
which would be in the interest of our policyholders. Maybe
developing "sister" concepts - adapted to national conditions.
There are other areas to be explored. We have to make sure 
that the societies started by Euresa or where Euresa has
contributed capital are successful: Euresa-Life and
Euresa-Finance, but also Euresap, Syneteristiki, TUW. There
will no doubt be other projects in the future.  Together with
its members, Euresa is developing a pragmatic and progressive
system of co-operation, oriented at all times towards the
Social Economy.

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* Mr Jeantet is Managing Director of EURESA, a joint venture
of several European co-operative and mutual insurance
companies. He is also coordinator of an ICA-Europe Project.