This year’s Swiss Life Network Conference held in September in St Gallen, Switzerland, provided an excellent opportunity for Network Partners to focus on the hot topics facing the employee benefits industry, and to hear about future enhancements to our services for clients.

Under the motto: 'Our Journey into the Next Decade', the two-day conference was attended by 35 Network Partners from 31 countries. The goal: to strengthen knowledge-exchange and cooperation among Swiss Life Network Partners, with the aim of increasing business volume, profitability and efficiency.

Guest speakers at the conference included top executives from international intermediaries Marsh and Willis, and from Swiss Life Network clients Veolia and Rexel, who shared their insights into the latest developments in global employee benefit solutions and mobile employee benefits. New Network Partners China Life of China, Prudential of Singapore, Apollo Munich of India, and Dubai Insurance of the UAE, took the opportunity to introduce themselves to the wider network.

Excellent growth – many future plans

Opening the conference, Margrit Schmid, Head of the Swiss Life Network, gave an overview of recent successes: over 22 new global clients in 2010, regular premium up by over 10% by August 2011, and the introduction of important innovations including SL Expat, a better CRM system, more transparency in the Profit and Loss Accounts, new specialist staff, and a more consultative sales approach. She also outlined several new value-added services and solutions for clients that will be rolled out in the near future.

The need to manage costs
According to Chris Burns, CEO of Willis insurance brokers, a major focus in the global employee benefits industry is on finding new strategies to manage the rising costs of retirement and health plans. Another key area is active global financing strategies, by which insurers help their clients to reduce costs throughout pooling. When it comes to global benefit governance, the trend is towards reducing risks and costs by offering more long-term strategies.

The mobile employee challenge
Representing Veolia, William Seemuller, International HR Director, focused on the challenge of finding a globally consistent approach for the very diverse mobile employee group. Veolia creates a career path for each employee that encourages a versatile skill-set, spreads best practices, and promotes the company’s values. Ensuring equity between the packages offered to local and international teams at the same level of responsibility and experience, and the creation of worldwide values are key, because Veolia sees diversity as an advantage, and its people as its main asset.

Employee benefits update
Greg Arm, Global Head of Employee Benefits at Marsh, observed that employee benefits need to be tailored closely to local market conditions, cultures, and work practices in order to maximize benefits spend, minimize administrative burdens, improve employee productivity, and be compliant in the local legal environment. Combining market power for lower premiums and optimizing healthcare management solutions are important trends.

Global Employee Benefits strategy
Gurvan Le Guern, title of Rexel, highlighted the issues of employee motivation in a post-crisis environment and the ageing workforce. Delegates heard that in this tough environment, employees are looking for more customized solutions, greater employer social responsibility, adequate pensions, and greater focus on a good work/ life balance (which also helps to prevent absenteeism). Rexel’s Group Pension Committee ensures that the company’s pension plans are correctly funded, and Rexel is also widening pooling access for its subsidiaries around the globe.

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