Basel was the setting for the most recent Swiss Life Network Conference held April 26 to 28, 2006, at which Network Partners from around the world gathered to discuss sales and coordination issues. They also heard from four multinational clients and two representatives of broker partners who shared their views and expectations of the Swiss Life Network and its Partners.
We were delighted to welcome the delegates of our new Network Partners. Some of them we asked to share with us their impressions of their first Swiss Life Network Conference: Anne Wan, Team Leader from Ping An Life Insurance Company (China); Leah Bytheway, Vice President Administration, and Brad Gary, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, both from Fort Dearborn Life (USA).

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think back to the Network Conference?

Anne Wan: Certainly the many people from all over the world and from different cultures is something that left a strong impression. And the experiences I had exchanging views with colleagues and professionals sharing the same interests.

Leah Bytheway: I enjoyed meeting all the Swiss Life Network HQ representatives and the Network Partners. It was a great opportunity to be able to demonstrate our commitment to the Network.

Brad Gary: The Conference offered invaluable networking opportunities for getting to know the people from Swiss Life Network in Zurich as well as the Partners.

Did your participation change your view of the Swiss Life Network?

Anne Wan: The Conference gave me the opportunity to learn more about Switzerland and its culture, which certainly has an influence on the Network. I also had the opportunity to visit other parts of Switzerland after the Conference. I had a good impression of the Swiss Life Network before the event, and that has now been confirmed.

Leah Bytheway: I don’t think so, but it enhanced my per-ception of the business opportunity that the Swiss Life Network provides to its Network Partners. I was impressed by the Network Conference as a whole and the commitment demonstrated by all participants. The already positive feeling I had about the Swiss Life Network is now even greater than before. The training session prior to the Conference was also excellent.

What was the most important session for you at the Network Conference?

Anne Wan: I would like to point out two. First, I found the session with face-to-face communication with the account managers a formal and professional way to discuss busi-ness. I have some experience with another network where a lot of business was actually discussed during breaks and dinners. I prefer the more professional approach of the Swiss Life Network Conference. I would also like to add that most account managers were well prepared.The other session to point out was that with the client presentations. Hearing the direct voice of the client is very important and useful. I would suggest, however, that the Swiss Life Network HQ sends out some background information on the client or broker in advance so that we are better prepared. This would help the discussions with the client or broker after the presentation. If I may, I also have a suggestion regarding the Gala Dinner: Why not have it at the end of the Conference? If you do so, all the participants have had the opportunity to get to know each other, including the invited brokers and clients. The Gala Dinner would also be a nice end to the Conference and provide an opportunity to discuss in a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s probably difficult for logistical reasons to organise a dinner at the end, but maybe a Gala Lunch would do the job?

Leah Bytheway: The Sales Marketplace – without question this was the most important session for us. Being able to meet the individuals responsible for the business as well as hold discussions at the case level was valuable. Having to deal with different languages, cultures and benefit systems often makes it difficult to do business. This session offered a common platform and creates communalities that make it easy to talk about business cases. I could see synergies for immediate partnership.

Brad Gary: Without doubt, the Sales Marketplace. It created a very positive impression also in that there are a lot of opportunities here and the right support to materialize them. Also, the “business case” approach stood out here. To be able to talk with the sales representatives was very valuable. We would actually prefer having more time for this session to go through all the cases.

What are your conclusions after attending the presentations of our multinational clients?

Anne Wan: It’s a big challenge both for the Network and the Network Partners to provide a good service to their multinational clients: At headquarters level there is a lot of competition to select the right network, but competition is also fierce at the local level. We should find ways to work together more closely and efficiently. I’m looking forward to receiving copies of the presentations to share with my colleagues back home.

Leah Bytheway: That the world is a very different place in regards to benefits. We have some similarities with the UK/UnumProvident disability model, but captives are still unfamiliar to us.

Brad Gary: Actually, I do not want to sound too negative, but this session didn’t add too much value for me. A lot of the information we got, like background information on the companies presenting, wasn’t much use to me. The part I had most value from was the experience UnumProvident had with its client. Also the concept of captives is interesting, since it is not very common in the US and looks worth exploring.

Did you enjoy the Sales Performance Awards ceremony? Will you strive to be one of the laureates in the future?
Anne Wan: Of course, the answer is yes to both questions! Leah Bytheway: Of course we would aspire to be recog-nized as an award winner. But the awards ceremony needs to have some “build up” or suspense. I think you should announce the winner last.Brad Gary: I appreciate rewards and recognition. To be frank, I want to get a reward next year. And we certainly have great opportunities to do so. I agree also with Leah that we should make the ceremony a bit more formal: have a proper slot for it and a podium where each winner can be presented. This kind of ceremony is important and would gain in value if it wasn’t just part of the dessert.

What would you like to say to colleagues around the world who have never attended a Network Conference?

Anne Wan: It’s a pity for them not to be here and I hope to meet them next year.

Leah Bytheway: At least come for the Sales Marketplace if possible. It’s valuable to be able to meet the Swiss Life Network representatives who control the business and whom they would work with on placing new business in their country. Maybe those who cannot travel to the event could join via telephone conference?

Brad Gary: I can only reiterate what I said at the beginning: The Network Conference and particularly the Sales Marketplace offer an invaluable experience to meet both with the Swiss Life Network executives and the Network Partners. It also gives a broader perspective of business worldwide, rather than only focussing on our own country.

Comments collected by Olivier Leutke, Swiss Life Network