Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators

Liz Green, Executive Vice President, ICMIF

“Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators” is a series of interviews with co-operators from around the world with whom ILO officials have crossed paths during the course of their work on cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy (SSE). On this occasion, the ILO interviewed Liz Green, Executive Vice President at ICMIF.

Article | 13 May 2021

Could you tell us about your background?

Liz Green
Before joining the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) in 2012, I spent 15 years in the UK life insurance sector working for two large mutuals - Swiss Life (UK) and the Royal Liver Group - leading the institutional communications function in each organisation. I have always been far more energized by the concept of mutuality as a point of difference for various stakeholders, as opposed to the more technical sides of insurance.  Before then I was a public relations consultant, specializing in professional services.

I have recently been promoted to the role of Executive Vice President, reporting to the CEO; with responsibility for managing the implementation of our strategy, with special focus on member engagement, recruitment and strategy. I am a Board Member of Liverpool Chambers of Commerce and am mid-way through my Masters (Level 7) CIPD Coaching and Mentoring Certification.

Could you tell us about ICMIF?

ICMIF Communications Forum
The International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) will celebrate its centenary next year and is the world’s only global network for the cooperative and mutual insurance sector.

ICMIF’s purpose is to help its member organisations achieve their strategic goals and sustainably grow in their markets by leveraging the knowledge, competencies and experience of ICMIF’s global network and to represent the sector’s interests to key stakeholders.

ICMIF’s network is diverse in terms of size of organisation and the many different business lines offered by our 204 member organisations around the world. It is, however, united by the members’ mutualist values and an enduring spirit of solidarity. Spread across almost 70 countries, ICMIF member organisations are collaborative by nature and typically outperform their national markets. Trust and mutual support are the hallmarks of the relationships that exist between ICMIF members; they enable meaningful exchanges which range from strategic learning and staff development to benchmarking and joint business ventures.

ICMIF’s members are predominantly national but look to their international peers within the ICMIF membership to assist in developing and growing their businesses by sharing best practices, strategies and innovations that work for mutuals and cooperatives. Due to the diverse nature of ICMIF’s global network, members have access to global knowledge from connections with fellow ICMIF members, and due to the lack of competition existing between members operating in different markets, can exchange in an open and honest manner.

What is the role of cooperative and mutual insurers toward building a sustainable world?

The simple answer is that cooperative and mutual insurers are playing an increasingly pivotal role in terms of creating a safer, fairer world. More than 900 million people worldwide are served by mutual, cooperative or other forms of member-owned insurers. When added to the millions of people in emerging countries who rely on more informal, community-run insurance arrangements, the true scale and impact of this type of insurance becomes apparent.

Cooperatives and mutuals were originally founded to bring people together in response to deprivation, exclusion and inequality caused by seismic technological and economic changes in the nineteenth century. They have played pivotal roles particularly during times of crisis and were key to the rebuilding of communities after the Second World War and re-establishing consumer trust after the world financial crisis of 2007/2008.

Insurance is inherently a mutual concept: it is based on communities supporting each other by pooling funds to compensate those in the community that have suffered a loss or a hardship. It is an instrument for both risk pooling and risk mitigation which helps build more resilient communities.

The mutual/cooperative business model focuses on using surpluses primarily for the benefit of the members and their communities; it is the original form of insurance and remains the true alternative to today’s widespread shareholder, profit-driven model.

Mutual and cooperative insurers also serve many of the world’s most economically excluded populations, offering simple products to some of the most vulnerable communities on the planet where having the right insurance policy can be critical to peoples’ economic wellbeing.

They are ideally positioned to help solve many of the world’s most pressing socio-economic problems, from enabling economic development in both the richest and poorest countries of the world, through to helping societies prevent risk and, if needed, prepare and respond to the effects of natural disasters and environmental change.

I would like to share some key trends with you here:

Over ten years (2007-2017), ICMIF’s unique data shows how mutuals and cooperatives, particularly ICMIF members, have outperformed the market globally. Mutuals and cooperatives saw a 28 per cent growth in premium income compared to 17 per cent growth for the insurance market as a whole. This outstanding performance followed the world’s financial crisis 2007/2008 and, once again, when consumer trust was at its lowest, values-based insurers grew. What is particularly remarkable, is that ICMIF members outperformed the overall mutual market during the last ten years. We believe this is largely down to our members’ outstanding leadership, a focus on diversity and social impact and a genuine desire to share strategies and information with other members.

Could you tell us about some of ICMIF members’ sustainability initiatives?

Sustainability - the undertaking of activities which demonstrate forward-looking social, environmental and ethical responsibility - is increasingly seen by ICMIF members as essential to the long-term success of their respective businesses as it plays an important role in generating value for an organisation. This success is usually shared within annual integrated reports or as a separate sustainability report. ICMIF members tell us they find producing such reports valuable because they provide a comprehensive picture of the organisation which can be shared with a broad range of stakeholders.

They also recognise that social issues are increasingly important to their business and to society. Some ICMIF members started issuing sustainability reports more than a two decades ago as it provides the opportunity to demonstrate the company's ethos and demonstrate how its values align to those of policyholders, communities and society.

The new way of reporting by integrating the UN Sustainability Development Goal (SDGs) is gathering significant momentum in all industries and is a natural fit for purpose-driven businesses like mutuals and cooperatives. The SDGs are a key component of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and are seen by many as a blueprint for human development with the end-goal of ‘prosperity for all on a healthy planet’.

Since the adoption of both the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, a wide array of sustainability initiatives, networks, platforms, coalitions, commitments and pledges have emerged, transforming the finance ecosystem at all levels towards delivering a sustainable economy. ICMIF has been working in this arena since 2013 and has, along with a number of its members, been involved in leading the industry in many of the current initiatives.

ICMIF’s Board approved three global partnerships in November 2019, with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and Accounting for Sustainability (A4S). All have progressed considerably in the last year to both showcase the mutual sector and allow influence in key institutions.

A new, first-of-its-kind joint report, From protection to prevention: The role of cooperative and mutual insurance in disaster risk reduction, was launched on Friday 30 April 2021. We are hosting a webinar as the formal launch event for the report which identifies seven practical mechanisms for how the cooperative and mutual insurance sector can help drive prevention and disaster risk reduction. Based on an analysis of twenty case studies from ICMIF members around the world, the mechanisms provide a practical way for the cooperative and mutual insurance sector to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

ICMIF will continue to partner with other insurers and industry partners as we head towards COP26. It will be here that commitments are made and key decisions for our planet and our industry decided. Being sustainable leaders and first to market in environmental, social and governance issues is more important now than at any other time. This is a very important area of focus for many mutual and cooperative insurers and will be another opportunity for our sector to lead in.

What are ways cooperative and mutual insurance sector addresses gender equality concerns?

We like to think that ICMIF mirrors our members’ aspirations and we are proud to say that our secretariat of 20 staff is evenly balanced in terms of gender. Almost a quarter of ICMIF member organisations and the ICMIF Board are currently led by women (and that number just keeps rising!). That said, our members recognise there is still a way to go and diversity is high on most members’ agendas.

When we consider recent research from the Swiss Re Institute, we can report that compared to the industry, ICMIF members are well ahead in terms of gender balance: only one in five company executives from the total industry are women and one in ten are female CEOs. So ICMIF’s members are leading the way for our industry.

I will share three examples of ICMIF members which are especially committed to gender equality, and there are many more examples on our news and blog pages.

In her recent guest blog, for ICMIF LB Forsikring’s CEO Anne Mette Toftegaard says she believes diversity is not a quota or a box to tick - it’s an amazing strategic opportunity and strength. It is about having the right culture. LB is ranked top in Denmark’s insurance sector in terms of employee satisfaction, brand and reputation. Her team is focused on paying claims as fast as possible when crisis hits and thinking about what is right for communities, not just individuals

“You do not create diversity from the bottom up. It starts with a management decision – or perhaps rather with a management case for diversity. And once diversity is a reality, it then becomes a matter of course to continue on the same path, for it creates great results, and who does not want that! And if you are in favour of team leadership, as I am, it is indispensable.”

Swedish mutual, Folksam’s vision is that all their customers should feel safe in a sustainable world. This vision therefore has led to their commitment to be the largest private investors in green bonds in the world with USD 3.1 bn corresponding to more than 6 per cent of asset under management and for their investment portfolio to become Net Zero of Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2040.

In a blog, Folksam’s President and CEO, Ylva Wessen highlights the advantage of gender balance and ensures that her organisation lobbies for cars in Sweden to be built in ways to mitigate the higher risk that women face.

Folksam says that women have three times the risk of serious injury in a car accident compared to men but the crash test dummies used for testing cars are normally just male. Thanks to their focus on gender balance, Folksam has managed to get a female version of a crash test dummy made, hence these insights!

“For Folksam, the work for gender equality is a matter of the heart. It is about everything from equal pensions, to how we work to ensure that cars are safe for both men and women, to the importance of balanced companies and diversity. Our two most recent key recruitments; The CFO of the Folksam Group and the CEO of KPA Pension are both women,” says Ylva Wessen.

Roy Miclat, CEO and President of 1 Cooperative Insurance System of the Philippines Life and General Insurance (1CISP) has made his authentic passion for inclusion and diversity a strategic advantage. Their slogan to ‘protect you like family’ drives their strategy and culture. In celebration of the 2021 International Women's Month, 1CISP developed the 1KOOP4HER programme.

This programme delivers holistic learning, entrepreneurship and risk management. It is open to all women who are members of cooperatives in the Philippines. 1CISP says “64 per cent of our insured clients are women and 66 per cent of our employees are women.”

“The 1KOOP4HER is one of our ways to recognise women and their important contributions in the sector. This pandemic has particularly impacted women, especially those mothers who are physically and mentally exhausted from the demands of job, childcare, and housework. This drives 1CISP towards its goals to create a value-added programme focused to serve all the women in the sector.”#1CISP #ProtectingYouLikeFamily #1Koop4HER