‘Our only focus is on our client’s and people’s needs’

Ante_Banovac_GrECo

Ante Banovac, a member of our Executive Board, shares his thoughts about future risks facing the insurance industry, the state of the insurance market in Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia and the role that risk specialists have in a world full of increasing risks. The interview was originally published in the Svet osiguranja, an insurance specialized publication issued in Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia. 

 

Insurance today is facing a number of challenges posed by the risks of the new age that are constantly increasing. What are the biggest risks today that companies should pay attention to as insurance brokers?
At GrECo we see four mega trends and their consequences as the main risk changers driving a fundamental transformation of our client’s risk landscape. These are the challenging development of our environment, leading to climate risks such as an increasing impact of natural hazards as a result of climate change, but also the reaction of the global industry adapting their business models to reach their sustainability targets. Furthermore, the digital transition leads to great opportunities for innovation with the result, that corporate assets and therefore the risk landscape of a company nowadays is increasingly affected by intangible risks such as cyber or reputational risks.

Another area that keeps our clients busy is the limitations which are arising from our globalized economy. The global pandemic and the current war in Ukraine lead to dramatic impacts on supply chains impacting prices and therefore also endangering our level of welfare. Finally, all industries are more and more struggling with the enormous lack of skilled labour, and this leads to a war for talents and changes in the labour market where employees are more and more dictating the rules.
 
And what do you see as the biggest challenge for insurers in responding to those risks that companies and citizens face? Are there risks that are in danger of exceeding the capacity of re (insurers), which have been insurable so far? (The issue of cyber risk, supply chain disruption due to the pandemic, and also due to other risks is mentioned …)
The situation for insurers is not easy. The new risks are challenging them and are very difficult to calculate, leading to a rather cautious approach with respect to coverage and limits. For example, capacities in the cyber insurance market are currently very scarce and insurers and reinsurers cannot provide sufficient balance sheet protection for our large corporate clients, where insurance should traditionally be the last line of defence in a corporate risk management strategy.

Another example of their difficult situation is the need to contribute to a carbon-free future. Companies must change their processes and sometimes even business models in order to fulfil their new sustainability targets over time. These measures lead to new risks. To react to those necessities insurers are looking into their ESG agenda and for example blacklisting carbon-heavy industries such as coal, because they must. At the same time, proper solutions helping this industry to manage the challenges of transformation in front of them are somewhat disregarded.  

Serbia is generally the least developed when it comes to insurance compared to Croatia and Slovenia. What do you think could and should be better? In which segments should changes be made?
I think the key components in a long process are financial education for younger generations and stable, strong and reliable domestic insurance markets together with a growing overall economy. You see, how insurance is perceived in the mind of citizens is strongly influenced by claims experiences made in the past and the reliability of institutions in general. Changing perception to the positive requires time. Serbia has some very good insurers today. Jointly, constant efforts need to be made to educate insurance takers, both private and corporate, to keep conducting image campaigns and convincing through professional and transparent claims handling. GrECo is a corporate specialist broker. We have been pioneers in developing risk awareness and understanding of insurance as one possible tool for risk mitigation in Central- and Southeast Europe for more than 30 years. Together with our insurer partners, we are continuing to contribute to this development every day.
 
What type of insurance do you think has a better chance of developing in Serbia, and is not sufficiently represented now?
Next to the classical and established coverages like Property damage and motor insurance lines, we see a rapidly growing need for Health & Benefits solutions. This is mostly connected to the already mentioned war for talent and skilled labour as companies are looking for ways of attracting and retaining employees. Another area which from our point of view is not yet developed enough is all lines of liability including specialty casualty lines. Those require specialist knowledge and proper consultancy, so clients would see their huge benefit. Increasing awareness of liability risks would also contribute to the overall development of the acceptance of risk consulting and advisory in Serbia.

When we talk about the activities of insurance brokers, can you compare these three markets in which you are present? What is the situation, where it is most developed, who uses your services the most in terms of the industry that is most represented in your portfolios?
In all three markets, I’d say that most registered insurance brokers are acting as generalists, offering services in all insurance lines, mostly collecting offers from the insurance market and focusing on product and price comparison, leaving claims handling completely to insurers. Those are competing with insurers and their agents directly, especially in the retail segment, servicing private individuals. A few brokers take it one step further and are also assisting clients with knowledge and expertise during claims handling, but still being generalists. Very few brokers are offering true risk management and specialty advisory with innovative solutions to improve a company’s corporate risk management. Being a strictly corporate & specialty broker, we belong to the latter group and we believe this is where true value is created for corporates. To do this in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia you need patience in explaining the difference between a pure product comparison and price-driven approach on the one hand side and highly skilled, often very specialized teams on the other.

We are not insurance dealers, but risk advisors. Major industries we specialize in and we are advising are financial institutions, construction, Oil & gas, Power generation and distribution, Food & beverage, Tourism, Transportation & Logistics, Aviation, and Telecommunication. The need for professional risk advisory has developed and grown over the years and we believe it will continue to grow as economies in all three countries continue to grow over the longer term. Recently, the fragility of global supply chains became apparent due to the pandemic. We expect to see certain effects of nearshoring in the future. Countries like Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia have the chance to benefit from this development.

Insurers have recently faced major flood damage, but on the other hand, most assets are still uninsured against such risks. Only 35 per cent of economically relevant climate losses are currently insured in the EU. How to bridge that gap? Will insurance become more expensive precisely because of the growing climate risks?
Climate change represents one of the most critical challenges in the future in general and for insurance companies as Nat Cat risks are clearly on the rise. Because of a rapidly changing exposure arising from climate risks, there are limits to insurability and economic affordability of insurance covers for corporations. Current risk transfer strategies, relying on traditional insurance solutions alone, without adapting their facilities to these changes, will not bridge the gap. While insurers and risk consultants like us are constantly developing new, innovative concepts of coverage, corporations who have not yet done so will still need to think about Nat Cat Management – meaning analysing and understanding their risks properly, then managing, i.e., mitigating those risks technically. In the longer run, we believe those whole industries will have to transform their business models, factories, and supply chains to increase their resilience and adapt to climate change. Therefore, also our business models are transforming as we are increasingly becoming risk specialists helping our clients to thrive in a changing world.

Although insurance companies have shown great resilience in volatile times over the past two years, how will the current geopolitical instability still affect the work of insurers? And in what way? How much do you think all this geopolitical tension will disrupt general stability, the economy, and finances in 2022 when it comes to this region (Adriatic)?
The insurance industry is one of the most resilient industries and will continue to be one. The consequences of geopolitical instability in the insurance sector that we have seen so far relate to the revocation of coverage of international insurance programmes in Russia because of imposed sanctions, but also in Ukraine. Further, after many years of ultra-loose interest policies of the European Central Bank, inflation has now manifested itself in Europe while economies are not really growing significantly. We are looking at stagflation. Inflation will for instance lead to higher unpredictability of losses as higher replacement costs can be expected, but it is difficult to predict upfront how much higher. The ongoing instability of supply chains also affects replacement times, adding another element of uncertainty. So, predominantly the work of insurers, but especially professional risk advisors and brokers is affected in the way that an even higher level of diligence needs to be applied when consulting clients to safeguard them from such significant, unexpected losses. The ones best technically skilled and prepared to provide professional risk management and advisory will even benefit.

When it comes to the Adriatic region, I believe the same principle of increased diligence applies. It is difficult to say how current geopolitical tensions will translate to this region during the rest of the year and look further ahead, but I hope that we will see a general trend of de-escalation. Economic interdependencies between nations are significant and it is hard to imagine that further escalation would do any good, economically and also from a civil and social perspective for the people in the region.

However, challenging times have always also been phases of opportunity to than in calmer times innovate, adapt and improve. I am very happy to see that corporations, including insurers, became more agile, by showing efforts towards necessary transformation and adaption to this constant crisis. The insurance industry is, thankfully, wide awake and moving ahead.
 
Although the Croatian insurance sector has so far proved to be relatively stable during the corona crisis, could the effect of the crisis on insurance companies occur with a certain time lag?
That depends on whether we will see new, again significantly more dangerous variants of the virus or not. If yes, it is fair to assume that protective measures like further lockdowns will fuel the current stagflation and make another serious dent in the Croatian economy. This may then also influence the results of insurers. If not, I’m quite positive that such a scenario will not occur.
 
How should risk monitoring be approached in these unstable times (pandemic, war, disturbed international relations, pronounced climate change)?

As I stated already in the beginning, from my point of view it is most important to include a proper risk prognosis within a company´s risk management process. This means, that forward-looking companies adapt early to uncertainty by constantly applying methods for assessing their business model and their supply chains, checking vulnerabilities and potential impacts. The risk management department must be aware of these changes at the earliest possible stage, to anticipate the possible impact on their specific risk landscape and develop appropriate treatment strategies. Therefore, it is now more than ever of utmost importance that risk advisors and insurers are finally much more included in the clients’ strategic planning. We are increasingly rendering such services and we see more and more clients understanding and appreciating this. This is a good trend.

Croatia is intensively preparing for the introduction of the euro, on January 1, 2023? How will this affect the insurance industry?
Yes, after a long process of preparation and fulfilment of EU requirements Croatia will be taking this major step, which I personally welcome. In the best scenario, this will contribute to increasing foreign investment which in turn could create additional value and increase the total amount of economic assets in Croatia, leading to increased demand for insurance. The pure change from HRK to EUR itself will have no major impact on insurers. In fact, the HRK has been linked to the EUR for decades now. Many major economic transactions in the country have effectively been executed in EUR. It remains to be seen whether insurers will try to use the currency change for (unjustified) price increases. However, the insurance industry is a competitive market with sufficient choices for clients, so I believe this risk shouldn’t be too pronounced.

Croatia has a relatively developed insurance market. Where is insurance in Croatia most developed in comparison to the region? Where does the market in Croatia still need to catch up with the more developed countries in Europe?
Interesting question. Yes, I would agree that Croatia’s insurance market is generally relatively well developed when comparing it to other economies in the region, but there is not a huge difference. In fact, in the Adriatic region, the Slovenian market seems to be the most advanced. This is also reflected in the per-capita expenditure for insurance in general which is highest in Slovenia. In general, we see well-established Lines of Business and really good products, especially in Property and Business Interruption, of course, motor insurance, but also general liability coverages and to a certain extent in Health & Benefits across the region.

Unfortunately, and this is the major difference to more mature western economies, the focus for many companies seems to still rather be on basic protection of assets, based on a Casco mentality translating into possibly no or low deductibles. This shows that understanding of risk- and insurance management is still on a level which offers potential for improvement. This is where we need to catch up. However, this is changing for the better. The understanding of benefits and the value of professional risk management is increasing among Croatian corporations and in fact, there are some very mature companies in this respect we service in already for many years. Those companies are blazing the trail for others and the number will increase.

We observe that the understanding of risk and risk management today correlates with the size of the business rather than with any specific country in the region. The more mid-sized companies learn how to analyse and calculate all their business risks – hence, knowing their total cost of risk (TCOR), the more we will see purchasing behaviour moving closer to more developed western European insurance takers. At GrECo, we are passionate about helping companies increase their awareness of a holistic approach to risk.

GrECo recently acquired MAI CEE. What exactly will that acquisition bring you?
We like to see this transaction rather as joining forces than an acquisition. This is a strategic investment into a joint future. Unlike private equity or other financial investors, our shareholders are thinking long-term and our full focus is on servicing our clients, being a trusted and loyal partner to them offering first-class specialist solutions. After thirty years of dedicated work, GrECo is the leading independent insurance broker & risk advisor in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe today. This region is what we call our home territory. We are constantly striving to improve and strengthen our leading position by offering talented people from the region a superb platform to develop and grow. MAI is also an independent broker, traditionally rooted in CEE and SEE, just like us.

Also, MAI is home to many incredibly talented and motivated people. I know this first-hand, as I have been deeply involved in making this transaction happen. Together we will be expanding and improving the portfolio of our professional services for our clients. MAI brings, among many other things, superb expertise in servicing international business, first-class international network affiliations and strong Health & Benefits and HR advisory into the Group. We are proud that MAI has chosen to shape the future of risk advisory in Eastern Europe together with us.

Until recently, you were at the helm of GrECo nova, an international network of brokers. Who is gathered in that network and what is its basic role?
GrECo nova is is our global specialist insurance broking network which provides our clients with decisive benefits in all their global ventures. What we do here is ensure GrECo’s quality of service for our multinational clients worldwide. We are having a wide range of long-standing partnerships with other leading independent international brokers in their parts of the world. Under our network GrECo nova, we foster active collaboration of insurance experts who are sharing our culture and values. As the international broker landscape is dynamic, we work with them on a non-exclusive basis, constantly monitoring the quality of services via a sophisticated process. We go the extra mile and have a team that is travelling extensively meeting partners in person around the globe. This way we build trust beyond the usual level and our clients can feel this in the international servicing we put together for them every day.

How much can a broker actually contribute to a company in terms of choosing the right policy and achieving the best price?
The broker is the client’s advocate and expert. He represents the client in front of the insurance market. If the client understands the value of a broker, then the broker is selected carefully, maybe in a broker tender, and appointed exclusively. The broker speaks thoroughly with the client in the analysis phase, gaining a full understanding of all aspects of the risks the client is facing and forming a risk mitigation strategy. Then, the professional broker and risk advisor – not only the insurance dealer as described previously – can engage in a serious process of what we call marketing the risk, or broking. He can approach all insurers, locally and if needed internationally, making it clear that he is appointed exclusively, and the negotiation is about the best possible terms for the risk coverage at the best possible price for his client. This very often means designing the coverage instead of selecting an existing insurance product. The outcome for the client in such cooperation is usually very good. The value of the cooperation between client and broker is then periodically assessed, say once a year, or every three years.

This still happens too rarely in South-eastern Europe, unfortunately. What we often see is that companies appoint multiple brokers, very often not engaging in a risk dialogue before. They think the more brokers they appoint, the better the result will be because there is a higher probability that someone will bring the best price to them. However, the opposite is the case. This is very important to understand: when multiple brokers are appointed, then the brokers who are supposed to be the clients’ advocates and experts are having a difficult task. All those brokers go to the different available insurers. The insurers then have the difficulty of not knowing which broker will be the one whose offer will be selected by the client and hence, usually settle on one offer and send it to all the brokers to maintain fair competition. A deeper conversation about the risk between broker and insurer is often neglected and the risk is not marketed in the best way. The outcome is that, while the offer may be cheaper, it may often also be lacking fundamental aspects of coverage and is hence not the best possible solution for the client. Although not in anyone’s interest, the broker in this case in effect becomes an agent of the insurers, an insurance product dealer. This can seriously harm the client in case of a major claim when the client then finds out what he has bought.

So, the right broker, appointed exclusively, can bring enormous value to the client when engaging in a risk dialogue first, setting the right risk mitigation and insurance strategy, before approaching insurance markets. Then, marketing the risk as the exclusively appointed broker can make all the difference.

GrECo is a family business, does it give it any advantages over other brokers that are mostly owned by funds?
I believe yes. At first sight, it might seem that for a client it does not matter who is the owner of a broker. But, what does matter is the people performing services for the client. Now, there is a saying that when you care about your people then they will take care of your clients with all their hearts. I believe this to be true and we are offering a lot to our teams.

The first is stability. GrECo has a long tradition of sticking closely to its people, especially during difficult times and providing them with a very stable business environment. For example, during the pandemic, there were no layoffs and no salary cuts at GrECo.

Second, continuity at the management level. We are a hands-on, flat organisation and management is very much approachable to everybody, decisions can be made quickly and without complicated processes. Also, management is carefully selected, and there for the long-term. There is no hire-and-fire mentality. This helps us to set a strategy, pursue it and establish much deeper trust with our people. In our daily work, we don’t need to focus on some financial investors’ or stock market analysts’ expectations. Our only focus is on our client’s and people’s needs. We believe that this is more attractive to skilled employees and talented young people than working for PE-backed brokers who are strongly EBIT-focused and interested to resell the company after a determined period. While we are a very successful company, those owners are in the investment banking business, not in the corporate insurance broking business. We are. And people, as well as our clients, can feel this.

You recently became a member of the Executive Board of GrECo Holding. Where did you come from in insurance and among insurance brokers, how did your career develop and what do you think brought you to that high position?
Yes. And I am very grateful that our supervisory board and our shareholders are placing so much trust in me. I started my career in 1997 in Germany as an apprentice, working for one of the major German insurers. I went through all departments from property-, motor-, liability-, and health- to life insurance and claims and enjoyed a very good, classical insurance education. I went into sales and client servicing after this and learned what it means to understand and satisfy clients’ needs while running my own brokerage company. During this time, I also studied insurance management and economics in Munich and attained my bachelor’s degree. I continued my professional education at the Chartered Insurance Institute in London and became a Fellow of the CII. Finally, I completed my studies with an MBA in General Management in the UK. I joined GrECo in 2014 and had the chance to contribute to our Group’s international development, always putting people first, working hard and (hopefully) smart. I guess when you love what you do this is visible to others and can be inspiring.

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Adam Riley becomes new Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits for GrECo

GrECo has appointed Adam Riley as Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits, a newly created executive leadership role, to run, build and develop GrECo’s specialist Health & Benefits business across 17 countries throughout Central & Eastern Europe (CEE).
 
Adam joins from Howden Group where he was Director of Global Sales, Employee Benefits, part of their specialist Global Employee Benefits Practice Group. Adam was also the Howden One International Network Global Employee Benefits Manager for Howden’s own international network. Previously, Adam held senior roles at Aon, Portus Consulting and Pannells in the UK.

Georg Winter, CEO GrECo Group commented: “We warmly welcome Adam to GrECo and are delighted he has joined us at this very important juncture in our growth. Adam is highly regarded and well-respected across the Health & Benefits profession, he brings significant experience, insights, and importantly as we have already seen, a fresh outlook to GrECo. On behalf of the Executive Board, I personally wish Adam every success in the role.

So, Adam, welcome to GrECo! Why did you decide to join GrECo?
Following the acquisition of MAI CEE, GrECo has become the leading specialist insurance broker & consultant across CEE. The creation of my new role to run, build and develop GrECo´s growing Health & Benefits (H&B) business reflects the demands of clients and employers across countries in which they operate. We will relaunch our H&B offering across CEE, and wider international markets and thus follow our growth strategy to become the leading Health & Benefits consultancy across CEE, which further enhances the value proposition for clients, partners and carriers.
 
What key topics are you seeing employer’s discussing?
Beyond insured benefits, employers are looking at other factors which are part of the wider HR & organisational strategy. Areas such as, ESG (Environment, Social and Governance), alignment of benefits with corporate objectives, employee value proposition and achieving a balanced work / life harmony across their domestic and international workforce, are impacting decisions around benefits design and strategy.
 
What do you feel employers are looking for from a H&B partner?
A great question! Employers want to work with a trusted loyal partner who will provide greater support and tailored and progressive solutions, coupled with expert and professional advice, ensuring they have the right benefits, strategy, and direction in place to meet the changing needs of their employees and business.
 
Tell us about the Adam, outside of work:
I’m married, with two daughters. I also love SCUBA diving – and am a PADI Assistant Instructor. When I’m not talking H&B, the two most fantastic places in the world are either being with my family, or underwater!
 
Thanks, Adam. A final word from you?
Joining GrECo in their next phase of strategic growth is hugely exciting and provides an amazing opportunity to build and run their H&B business. I am hugely excited to be part of this team and its future strategy.

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Advanced Insurance Solutions for C&P Immobilien

Our specialists in the Construction & Real Estate practice group develop and provide insurance solutions

Our specialists in the Construction & Real Estate practice group develop and provide insurance solutions along the industry’s entire value chain.

Giving C&P the Edge with Insurance Solutions

C&P Immobilien AG, founded in 2006, develops, sells and manages investor apartments, and more. The company operates from its head offices in the Styrian capital Graz and employs 168 people at 6 locations (Graz, Vienna, Klagenfurt, Berlin, Munich, and Dubai). Since 2011, C&P is positioned as Austria’s market leader for private property investment.

GrECo Austria has been accompanying C&P on its road to success for almost a decade, having provided tailored risk and insurance solutions. Thomas Schober Plankl, CFO and Management Board Member at C&P Immobilien AG is convinced that “GrECo has put our minds at ease. Their experts know the construction and real estate business inside out and provide us with the right tailored solutions for each individual project.”

GrECo has been supporting a large number of construction and real estate clients for many years. Our special-
ists in the Construction & Real Estate practice group develop and provide solutions along the industry’s entire
value chain, from planning and financing through to project implementation, its operation and warranty period.

Being a forward-looking company, we need a partner with
an open mind for our ideas, a partner who matches these
ideas with advanced solutions and watches our back while
we go about our business.

Andreas Grabner
COO Management Board Member at C&P Immobilien AG

Our finger on the pulse

C&P treats sustainability as a matter close to its heart and as a key strategic aspect. The construction sector
will have to tackle major climate issues, such as the production of greenhouse gases, over the next few years.

To strategically set the course for future construction methods that will substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions, C&P collaborates with the Technical University Graz. C&P pursues a clear climate strategy. It holds a
stake in the mobility start-up ELOOP, it aims to optimise the energy concepts of buildings, and its sole objective
are projects that bear a climate certification.

A lot of the company’s success can be attributed to innovative and forward-looking solutions. New living concepts, focusing on sustainability, ecology, a new sense of communality, more flexibility as well as individuality nowadays receive a lot of the company’s attention. These include serviced apartments and co-living concepts. For C&P though, social issues are just as important, e.g.: an optimal contemporary working environment, striking a balance between work and family life, and promoting professional training and education.

“Being a forward-looking company, we need a partner with an open mind for our ideas, a partner who matches these ideas with advanced solutions and watches our back while we go about our business,” sums up Andreas Grabner, COO Management Board Member at C&P Immobilien AG the collaboration with GrECo.


This article is part of our new Annual report 2021. The annual report gives you a review on GrECo`s facts & figures of the last business year and our most important developments. In addition you can find testimonials on the services the GrECo Group provides to its clients. The case studies are from different industries and GrECo regions.

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How Insurance Companies Pursue ESG Targets

People working on ESG goals in insurance

ESG aspects play an increasingly important role when it comes to allocating insurers’ monies. Apart from these legal requirements insurers have already installed many ESG measures in their companies on a voluntary basis.

ESG and Sustainable Risk Management

Media headlines are dominated these days by the tragic news of the Ukraine war, the threat of further SARS-
CoV-2 mutations leading to new pandemic phenomena as well as the spectre of inflation that is haunting the global community. While these problems may be overcome in the medium-term, the fight against climate change and other widespread problems is here to stay.

Insurance as key stakeholder in the Green Deal

In their function as both risk carriers and investors, insurance companies are expected to contribute to many measures within the framework of the European Union Green Deal and to influence society in general. Although they offer intangible products and will thus probably not pollute the environment, there is a lot of things insurers can do. EU legislation has set out the rules for this part of the financial market through the:

  • Taxonomy regulation (2020/852 EU) applicable to all branches of the economy
  • The Regulation 2019/2088 “on sustainability-related disclosures in the financial services sector
  • The Delegated Regulation 2021/1257 concerning “the integration of sustainability factors, risks and preferences into the product oversight and governance requirements for insurance undertakings and insurance distributors and into the rules on conduct of business and investment advice for insurance-based investment products”, in force as from 2nd August, 2022
  • A set of Regulatory Technical Standards issued by European supervisor IOPA to be published during the course of this year.

Apart from these legal requirements insurers have already installed many ESG measures in their companies on a voluntary basis, the details of which are published in annual sustainability reports – attached, in most cases, to the annual financial reports. There is no standard yet regarding content and presentation of these reports, unlike financial reports that follow specific standards (e.g. IFRS –International Financial Reporting Standards). Although reports tend to look like marketing presentations, their contents are impressive, showing first substantial results and the direction further developments may take. Exemplary activities comprise the following fields of operation.

Underwriting and insurance products

Major international insurance groups founded the Net Zero Insurance Alliance in 2021 with the target to reduce insurance of coal risks (mining, transport, thermal use) to zero and to decrease the capacities for oil and gas risks (prospection, production, transport, thermal use). Other insurers will follow.

Moreover, there is a clear increase in offering insurance capacity and services for new, green technology despite
initial experiences that new technical applications may constitute a higher risk exposure.

It can be expected that insurance questionnaires will contain queries not only in respect of traditional risks
but also regarding details of ESG in general. After 2023, sustainability reports will become one of the basic documents for underwriting decisions and the calculation of insurance rates.

Investment and financial products

ESG aspects play an increasingly important role when it comes to allocating insurers’ monies. The Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, established by large asset owners stipulates that there will be no purchase of shares or granting of loans for industries engaged in coal and other environmentally critical business or for those who cannot give satisfactory answers in respect of their general ESG behaviour and measures.

These monies will be reinvested in promising new green technologies and projects that develop both enviromental and social sustainability on a world-wide scale. Investments focus not only on energy production but also on projects for the sustainable use of water and other natural resources or for cleaning polluted areas. Deciding on an investment therefore means considering not only the enterprise itself but also its suppliers, clients and cooperation partners.

This change in investment strategies not only concerns insurers’ own investments but extends to the creation of
investment products in connection with life and pension insurance, the so called PRIIP. First data show that billions of Euros have already been re-allocated in this manner.

Insurance operations and ESG

As the main operation costs of insurance companies consist of expenses for personnel, IT, energy and office space, many decisions can be made in compliance with ESG targets.

Remote working, which had its breakthrough during the pandemic, will be maintained. It reduces traffic volumes
because employees no longer commute every day, and cuts on costs for heating and cooling office spaces. Energy supply will shift to green energy produced on the spot by e.g. solar panels mounted on rooftops. Corporate build-ings with a glass facade will be equipped with better shading, and (air) travel for business purposes will be reduced to a large extent. The supply of office equipment and energy is constantly evaluated, material will have to be produced in a sustainable way, and energy will need green certificates. The use of paper has already been reduced through electronic communication with clients, partners and within the company.

Social and Governance targets

Some companies are running skills enhancement programmes to make employees aware of and fit for ESG
requirements, while increasing job satisfaction.

Gender diversity, up to management board level, has already been given much more attention than in the past
years. The focus is now on equal training opportunities for both sexes at an early stage with clear perspectives for further career options that are based on skills and knowledge.

Many companies and their employees support initiatives that reduce the vulnerability of society beyond the scope of insurance indemnities by lending a helping hand in catastrophes, assisting and supporting our elderly, refugees or even precarious households both financially and through direct action.

Subsidies and grants are given to non-profit organisations, educational facilities, research laboratories and other institutions in order to overcome the problems we are facing in the entire world.

The insurance sector is very well capitalised, there is knowledge about opportunities and risks as well as an acute sense for catastrophes and how to avoid them. These factors provide the grounds for the industry contributing its fair share to making the world a better and safer place. This is it what ESG is about.


This article is a part of our latest Spotlight publication focusing on supply chain issues. Read the publication and learn more about how you can protect your business from changes and unpredictable supply chain disruptions.

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Risk Management Fit for Global Risks

GrECo was invited to take part in a tender for the insurance and risk management of ENGEL, a global leader in the manufacture of plastics processing machines.

GrECo Austria was invited to take part in a tender for the insurance and risk management of ENGEL in 2019. ENGEL is one of the global leaders in the manufacture of plastics processing machines.

ENGEL is one of the global leaders in the manufacture of plastics processing machines. The Group offers a full range of technology modules for plastics processing as a single source supplier: injection moulding machines for thermoplastics and elastomers, complete with the required automation. Their individual components are equally competitive and successful in the market. The family company was founded in 1945. Today, ENGEL operates with about 7,000 employees at 9 production plants in Europe, North America and Asia (China and Korea) has subsidiaries and representatives in more than 85 countries

Insurance based on risk management

GrECo Austria was invited to take part in a tender for the insurance and risk management of ENGEL in 2019. The tender aimed at changing the focus of ENGEL ́s insurance management to a dedicated risk-based approach for the Group’s worldwide companies. The decision to mandate GrECo was based on their integration of operational risk management and risk engineering into our insurance programmes. In addition, they are an owner managed company, like we are. They understand our values of a family business rooted in the region and the visions of a global company”, recalls Christian Zoidl, Head of Legal/Insurance at ENGEL Group.

The cornerstone of the new strategy was the provision of services along the entire risk management process of operational risks. GrECo‘s own subsidiary, GrECo Risk Engineering GmbH, comprises specialists who are familiar with the development and implementation of company-wide risk management systems. The specialist team looks back on many years of industry experience and has used efficient tools to support ENGEL ́s operational risk management activities.

GrECo is an owner-managed company, like we are. They understand our values of a family business rooted in the region and the visions of a global company.

Michael Grininger
VP HR/Legal/Insurance at ENGEL Group

New setup of worldwide property & liability programmes

In order to optimise the property insurance cover and minimise the operational risk, all sites around the globe are and were subject to a risk assessment. During the pandemic, remote and hybrid risk surveys were the order of the day. After the first recommendations were implemented and the risk made “fit” for further treatment, GrECo experts were able to arrange the transfer of the remaining risk to a suitable insurer. “In a change management process, the quality of the risk manager becomes all the more visible. GrECo has displayed its determination and professionalism, has achieved the best results in the insurance market and has shown us the way forward with comprehensive risk management measures,” comments Michael Grininger, VP HR/Legal/Insurance at ENGEL Group.

As far as liability insurance is concerned, a dedicated programme solution for ENGELS ́s state-of-the-art
industry 4.0 solutions was created. The integration of peripheral equipment with customised automation concepts and the development towards a network-based, self-optimising injection moulding production demanded a new worldwide setup. The new programme takes into account ENGEL ́s digitisation efforts by including IT insurance into the worldwide liability programme.

Christian Zoidl sums up: “We made the right choice in partnering with GrECo. They are also a 3rd-generation family business that has successfully ventured out internationally, GrECo is a stable, reliable, and global partner for us.”


This article is part of our new Annual report 2021. The annual report gives you a review on GrECo`s facts & figures of the last business year and our most important developments. In addition you can find testimonials on the services the GrECo Group provides to its clients. The case studies are from different industries and GrECo regions.

Related Insights

GrECo Annual Report 2021

Read about new GrECo clients, claims management successes and our plans for a more sustainable future in our publication Annual Report 2021.

The risk environment has never been so complex to navigate. In line with our risk-based approach, we look at risks from a business perspective. This has been our key mission in the last year, and you can read how we overcame risk challenges in our Annual Report 2021!

Read about new clients, claims management successes and our plans for a more sustainable future. Some of the highlights in this edition of the Annual report include:

  • GrECo & MAI – Stronger Together: Everything you wanted to know about our recent merger with MAI.
  • Spotlight on GrECo Romania: Read about hard-working colleagues in Romania and their client successes so far. 
  • GrECo nova in Portugal and Brazil: With the GrECo nova network, we can connect clients with brokers all over the world and for this occasion we talked with Jose Manuel Fonseca, CEO of MDS group, our partner in Portugal and Brazil. 
  • GrECo Specialty – Food & Agri: Learn in-depth about what are the services we currently offer in the field of food and agriculture. 
  • Claims Management: What happens when a huge fire causes a major financial loss for our clients? Read how we were able to assist Fischer Sports, our client, during a huge claims management process. 
  • Health & Benefits: During the current war on talents and Great Resignation, offering health and safety protection to employees is particularly important. Read how our Health & Benefits team analysis and determines the best employee benefits package for each client. 
  • Many pages on our CSR topics. 
Read the Annual Report 2021

Related News

Behind the Scenes of Successful Insurance Claims Management

Behind the Scenes of Successful Major Claims Management

Insurance claims management is our core business, especially when it comes to complex or major claims. In doing so, we strive to achieve successful, swift, and fair results.

Our clients and Insurance Claims Management

Fischer Sports GmbH is the global leader in Nordic skiing and one of the world’s leading brands in Alpine skiing, as well as one of the biggest manufacturers of high-quality ice hockey sticks. The privately held company employs nearly 2000 individuals who all share a passion for and dedication to winter sports. Fischer Sports GmbH was founded in 1924 in Ried im Innkreis, Austria, where the global headquarter is still located. Manufacturing
of skis takes place in Austria and Ukraine.

In October 2020 a fire occurred in the Ukrainian production site, caused by a fluorescent tube. The small incident quickly became a major loss, although the building was equipped with a sprinkler system. The reason for this was that the fire could spread through a suspended ceiling over most of the production hall.

GrECo took over the claims management and immediately identified the stakeholders in the process. In addition to the central and local Account Team, GrECo experts in property and business interruption insurance were nominated, the respective insurers were informed, and appropriate loss adjusters were added to the team. Despite that this was a major loss and the location was outside the EU, the claim has been managed successfully, and the reconstruction was started within a year. Unfortunately, the full start-up of the new facility had to be interrupted due to the outbreak of the Ukrainian war, but could be restarted in the meantime.

“Part of our Alpine and Nordic skis are produced in the Ukraine. In order not to miss a whole season we were under a huge time pressure to rebuild our site. GrECo performed extremely well in this case: they established a qualified claims handling team, were on-site in just a few days, managed the relations to all stakeholders and guided us to settle the claim successfully and in time together.”

Christian Egger
CFO at Fischer Sports

What is necessary for successful insurance claims management?

Managing insurance claims is our core business, especially when it comes to complex or major claims. In doing so, we strive to achieve successful, swift, and fair results. Our goal is to ensure our clients receive the contractually agreed benefits and services. We therefore pool all our resources to assist our clients from the very beginning.

Experience shows that 6 key factors largely determine a professional claims management:

  • Crisis management as an effective precaution for an emergency: Being an experienced risk specialist, GrECo steps in long before a claim or other potential threat arises. We provide companies with project-specific support and targeted engineering services. We also help our clients to help themselves. During the last two years, we noted a sharp rise in the demand for crisis and business continuity management. Hence, we assist companies to prepare themselves, act systematically, and be one step ahead in the event of a major claim. The aim is to enable them to handle a crisis in the best possible way and emerge from it largely unscathed. The focus has long since shifted away from mere fire events to new drivers, such as increasing cyber crime and natural catastrophes as well as volatile supply and value-added chains.
  • Adequate risk transfer: Managing risks via a risk transfer requires tailored and transparent insurance programmes. Ideally, there should be no nasty surprises in the event of a claim, e.g.: the lack of risk adequate components in coverage or insufficient insurance sums. Changes in risks –whether due to new markets, products, services, regulatory changes or economic issues – must be constantly evaluated. Currently, the high inflation rate, driven by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has led to huge adjustments in both insurance sums and limits on the compensation sums payable.
  • Documented loss adjustments and sensitisation: Special contractual provisions for loss adjustments help speed up the process and avoid potential pitfalls. We step in right at the beginning and agree upon independent assessors with the insurer, implement claims handling procedures and sensitise key stakeholders during workshops with clients. That way, we professionally support and help manage our clients’ claims management as soon as an event occurs.
  • Industry insight and technical expertise: Handling complex and major claims professionally requires us to be familiar with our clients’ busines smodels, their processes, products and services as well as their industry sector. Our vast insight enables us to manage claims proactively and meet assessors, crisis communication experts and loss adjusters at eye level – irrespective of whether we are dealing with production faults or assembly errors in plant engineering, with worldwide recalls of cars due to faulty supplier products or a ransomware attack on a food producer. Every member of our expert team is a specialist in his or her field. Besides lawyers and business economists, our teams comprise experts in machine and plant engineering, chemistry and chemical technology, geodesy and geoinformatics, cultural engineering and water management, natural hazard management, environmental technology and ecotoxicology as well as cybersecurity, IT and communication technology.
  • Knowledge of the insurance markets and selected expert networks: Given GrECo’s strong market position, we are in touch with all decision-makers in the insurance market and work hand in hand with independent, highly specialised loss adjustors who are part of our international network which we have established over the years. During the entire claims settlement process we are in close consultation with all stakeholders: our clients, the assessors and loss adjusters we engage as well as the respective insurers. By acting as “facilitators” and “translators”, we take care of the strategy and communicate in a transparent manner to shed light on facts, answer any technically related questions, and clarify matters concerning economic impacts and insurance coverage.
  • Best in Class – GrECo Complex Claims Team: Complex and major claims are best managed by ou Complex Claims Team. In the event of a claim, they nominate a Complex Claims Manager to steer the entire claims settlement process. Depending on the specifics of an individual case, we combine GrECo’s most suitable resources with the Complex Claims Team. We add client insights via the Account Team and make sure that the diversity of our experts delivers a best-in class claims management. This means that the team is not only familiar with our clients and their industry sectors, but also knows the specifics of the insurance programmes’ coverage inside out. That way, we make sure our clients receive the insurer’s contractually agreed services while securing their liquidity at the same time. In line with our international programmes, our team also manages major claims abroad and collaborates closely with the respective local GrECo nova brokers.

This article is part of our new Annual report 2021. The annual report gives you a review on GrECo`s facts & figures of the last business year and our most important developments. In addition you can find testimonials on the services the GrECo Group provides to its clients. The case studies are from different industries and GrECo regions.

Related Insights

GrECo Group sets course for the future

GrECo Group Specialist Insurance and Risk Management
  • Friedrich Neubrand retires from the Supervisory Board
  • Friedrich Neubrand jun. moves from the Executive Board to the Supervisory Board
  • Ante Banovac becomes new member of the Executive Board

The market leader in risk and insurance management in Austria and Eastern Europe is preparing a reorganisation in the Executive Board and Supervisory Board of GrECo International Holding AG.

Friedrich Neubrand, company founder and long-standing Chairman of the Supervisory Board, will retire from the Supervisory Board in mid-2023, to be succeeded by his son Friedrich Neubrand jun. Friedrich Neubrand is convinced “that with the strategic realignment we have set the course for a successful and independent future in full agreement with all stakeholders.”

Friedrich Neubrand jun. joined the family business in 1987 and has been a member of the Executive Board since 2005. He has been instrumental in driving the company’s international expansion into Central and Eastern Europe over the past decades. The GrECo Group is currently present in 18 markets in Eastern Europe. “My move to the Supervisory Board ensures that we as a family are represented on the Supervisory Board as well as on the Executive Board by my brother Georg.” emphasises Friedrich Neubrand jun.

Georg Winter, who has been a member of the Executive Board of GrECo International Holding AG for almost 10 years, will take over his responsibility for Sales & Account Management.

Ante Banovac joins the Board as the third member, alongside the long-standing Board members Georg Neubrand and Georg Winter. “I am pleased that with Ante Banovac we were able to fill a strategically important position from within our own ranks; he is an ideal addition to the Executive Board,” says KR Friedrich Neubrand. After several years in leading positions in the insurance industry, Ante Banovac joined GrECo in 2014. As a member of the Executive Committee in the area of Sales and Market Coordination, he has in particular shaped the establishment and further development of the markets internationally.

Friedrich Neubrand sums up: “I would like to thank all colleagues, clients and partners, as well as the Supervisory Board of GrECo for the great cooperation over the past decades. The time has now come for me to retire from the Supervisory Board. At almost 82 years of age and after an intense professional career, I will now focus on family matters and my hobbies.”

The necessary resolutions will be passed at the Annual General Meeting and the Supervisory Board meeting in June and subsequently implemented.

About GrECo

The GrECo Group offers its clients individual solutions in risk and insurance management and is the leading insurance broker & consultant for corporations, associations and authorities in CEE. GrECo was founded in 1925 and is an independent, family-owned company, with the family Neubrand holding 86.67% of the shares. The GrECo Group is headquartered in Vienna, Austria and employs more than 1,000 people in 60 offices. In 2020 the Group placed a premium volume of 871 million EUR and generated total consolidated revenues of 101 million EUR.

Related Company News

GrECo to withdraw from Russia

Today GrECo, the leading insurance broker and risk management provider in Central and Eastern Europe, has announced to transfer its operation in Russia to the local management. The Russian team will continue to advise its clients following strict service delivery guidelines. After 24 years of entrepreneurial activity in Russia, GrECo´s priority is the well-being of its colleagues on site and ensuring service continuity for its clients.

“As a family-run company, we are loyal to our teams and a trusted partner for our clients. The violation of peace and human rights is in sharp contradiction to the values which underpin our organisation. We fully support the demands to stop warfare and to end the tremendous human suffering in Ukraine.” said the broker.

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GrECo and MAI combine forces in Central and Eastern Europe

Specialist insurance broker GrECo acquires 100% of MAI CEE Ltd., a major risk, insurance and employee benefits consultant in CEE

The combined company, to be named GrECo, will be the leading professional services firm focused on the areas of risk and insurance management and employee benefits consultancy in CEE. GrECo has been active in Eastern Europe since 1989 and established a market-leading position with more than 1,000 employees in 16 countries.
MAI was founded in 1991 in Hungary and is active in 13 CEE countries with more than 240 employees, generating a revenue of 16 million EUR. MAI services over 15,000 corporate clients and places insurance premiums of 150 million EUR. With 20+ years in the company, the MAI executive board members are staying on board as part of GrECo’s leadership team.

“We followed MAI’s successful progress over the last decades, and made no secret of our long-standing respect for MAI and belief in the cultural compatibility of the two groups. I am confident that, as we bring the strengths of MAI into GrECo, we will have a significant influx of talent and create a combined group with deep expert skills and an unmatched CEE network in 18 countries. The acquisition of MAI adds a decisive momentum to the growth strategy of our entire group and significantly enhances our value proposition for clients and partners” says Friedrich Neubrand, Chief Executive Officer, GrECo International Holding AG.

Piotr Cieślak, MAI CEE Group´s Chief Executive Officer, summarizes: “MAI’s foundation was traditionally the servicing of international business, meeting the requirements of over 260 insurance brokers and their clients from all over the world. Today we serve both international and local clients across the CEE, CIS and Caucasus region. GrECo, being fully committed to an independent future, is the best fit. The combination of the specialist solutions of GrECo and the network of MAI creates the largest broker in the region. Together we will continue to be an independent, professional and reliable partner for our clients and international broker partners.”

Steve Bonynge, Group Chief Executive of the Oman based RMS LLC states: “RMS’s decision to sell our 72.08% stake in MAI CEE reflects our strategy of serving clients in the Middle East and Asia. We believe the combination of GrECo and MAI CEE represents the best outcome for our clients in Central and Eastern Europe.”

The transaction was signed on the 14th of September 2021, and the parties have agreed not to disclose the underlying purchase price of the transaction. Closing is subject to regulatory approvals.

About GrECo

The insurance market has become extreThe GrECo Group offers its clients individual solutions in risk and insurance management and is the leading insurance broker & consultant for corporations, associations and authorities in CEE. GrECo was founded in 1925 and is an independent, family-owned company, with the family Neubrand holding 86.67% of the shares. The GrECo Group is headquartered in Vienna, Austria and employs more than 1,000 people in 60 offices. In 2020 the Group placed a premium volume of 871 million EUR and generated total consolidated revenues of 101 million EUR.

About MAI

MAI CEE Insurance Brokers Group was established in 1991 to bring international standards and a broad range of insurances to clients in the CEE, CIS and Caucases regions. MAI CEE has since grown considerably, gaining a presence in 26 countries in Central and Eastern Europe with 13 owned operations and 13 cooperation partners. In 2016 MAI CEE‘s shareholder structure changed following an MBO and the RMS Group, a leading Omani insurance broker, became the majority shareholder. The RMS Group operates throughout the Middle East and Indian Sub-Continent as well as through MAI CEE in CEE, CIS and Caucases.

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