Maria Bianca Farina on insurance in Italy | Poste Vita | Video

World Finance interviews Maria Bianca Farina, CEO of Poste Vita, on the challenges in the Italian insurance sector

January 3, 2014

Following the financial crisis, Italy is undergoing social and economic change, representing interesting opportunities, but also challenges for the insurance sector. Maria Bianca Farina, CEO of Poste Vita and Poste Assicura, discusses Poste Vita’s strategy, how it tailors its solutions to meet the needs of Italian families and companies, and the impact the Italian government’s cuts are having on the Italian insurance industry.

World Finance: Maria, the Italian insurance sector was hit quite hard by the financial crisis, yet Poste Vita flourished, what are the reasons behind this success, do you think?

Maria Bianca Farina: Our success relies on many factors, but above all on our capability to protect and support Italy’s householders, through the offer of innovative experienced and savings solutions, tailored to fulfil the real needs of Italian families and companies.

To give you an example, thanks to our competitive pricing model, customers have access to affordable, high quality insurance coverage, as well as low premium investment and pension plans.

“The challenge insurance companies face is to make individuals aware today of their forthcoming needs”

World Finance: What challenges will the Italian insurance sector face over the next few years, and how do you plan to address them?

Maria Bianca Farina: Some convergent factors, such as the population ageing, the economic crisis, and the need to cut back on public expenditure, make it ever more and more urgent for people’s need to have access to covers to protect and manage both their present and future lifestyle.

The challenge insurance companies face is to make individuals aware today of their forthcoming needs.

Insurance companies can offer an essential contribution to promote a comprehensive, combined and efficient action, focused on designing affordable solutions that take into account daily problems.

With regard to the corporate and SME segment, we are developing collective welfare solutions for personal protection and health that employers can offer as an additional benefit to their employees.

Last but not least, the Italian insurance sector will have to face the impact of digitalisation on consumer behaviour. Given that in the future, traditional distribution channels will continue to dominate the scene, in the coming five to 10 years, we need to invest, to ‘digitally arm’ our distributors, as well as enhance our customer experience.

World Finance: What role will Italy’s insurance sector play in the future of the country?

Maria Bianca Farina: The decrease of the traditional welfare model increases people’s need to rely on alternative solutions to protect and manage their present and future. In this macroeconomic scenario, insurance companies have the opportunity to meet the new needs that have arisen in different fields – welfare, health, social services, and income security during the working age and afterwards – by supporting the development of new markets, and producing clients with a secure net compared to government expenditure cutbacks.

A greater access to insurance products could contribute to the whole welfare and health system, allowing public money to be allocated differently, and managing private assets more effectively.

“The decrease of the traditional welfare model increases people’s need for alternative solutions”

World Finance: Who do you target for your services, and how does that address the needs of the Italian consumer?

Maria Bianca Farina: We concentrate marketing new products that can meet people’s everyday needs, such as income assistance and health.

For example, Postapersona Sempre Presente, our new long term care cover, and Postaprotezione Casa Special, which includes all major house covers, plus the bill protection warranty, which covers all costs related to the household in case of job loss, disability, or long term illness.

We also intend to strengthen our position in the management of the new welfare, by making supplementary pension plans more easily accessible to companies for their employees through our new collective pension scheme that we will be launching very soon.

World Finance: So, what’s your strategy for the next few years, bearing in mind Italy’s current economic climate?

Maria Bianca Farina: Although we keep on improving our product range, our real commitment focuses on reinforcing sale assistance offered to post offices, developing new client services, leveraging on existing resources and competencies within the group, as well as continuing to improve and modernise information technology systems.

“Greater access to insurance products could contribute to the whole welfare and health system”

World Finance: Finally, the topic of boardroom composition is an interesting one; what does it take to succeed as a woman in this market?

Maria Bianca Farina: In fact, the world of insurance and finance is still predominantly male-dominated. But luckily, we are witnessing some changes. In the last decades, more and more women have become part of the financial services sector, and they brought in more feminine traits such as caution, reduced inclination to risk, and greater attention to taking action.

Today, a woman still has to make a much greater effort compared to a man to achieve the same goals. Nevertheless, her unique and irreplaceable features are what to put a stake on. Moreover, I believe that a woman doesn’t need to act like a man to break the glass ceiling. As far myself, I never changed my personal approach in a working environment, always preferring to be true to myself and my ideas.

World Finance: Maria, thank you.

Maria Bianca Farina: Thank you to you.