Working and conducting surveys during the pandemic

If’s unique international network covers 170 countries globally, serving our clients on all the continents.

Locally compliant service

The wide and versatile network of 200 carefully chosen partners enables locally compliant service and readiness for If to go wherever the clients need us to. ll countries have their own, often widely different regulatory framework, as well as cultural issues affecting the business environment and operations.

With an established partner network, If can offer specialised and in-depth knowledge and insight from each area and country, along with close connections everywhere we operate. Essential parts of the cooperation with our Network are mutual visits and knowledge-sharing activities.

If is a frontrunner compared to its Nordic competitors, both on the width of the network and on the different aspects of cooperation.

Seeking the best expertise

“We work differently in this field from our competitors. Instead of opening our own offices around the world, we have decided to seek the best expertise in each continent and country, so we are able to offer services more widely and in more detail”, the head of International Services, Mia Himberg, says. “We know our partners, their operations and their expertise – and they again know their countries, the culture, regulations, and the insurance field. Through our partners, we have up-to-date business intelligence on 170 countries.”

“No one has full knowledge or control of this field”, Mia says. “It’s kind of like surfing – you never know what kind of wave is coming, but you still have to make a decision to jump onto it and surf through it. When we are making the decision to jump in and create international insurance solutions for our clients, we want to know as much as possible about the wave – what’s going on in each country
we offer solutions in.”

“With the intelligence we gain through our partner network, we have the ability to give true and versatile insight to our clients, and with that we have the ability and courage to surf the wave – which is so much better than staying on shore. We think this way of operating is the most efficient and productive - we develop and learn in both directions. In developing good and close relationships with our partners, they learn as much as possible and know what awaits our clients in different parts of the world”, Mia concludes.

Knowledge-sharing to build commitment

If’s operation with its partner network is a three-way relationship, beneficial both for If and the network partners, as well as for our clients.

Knowledge-sharing is one of the great benefits gained from this cooperation. Through its vast network of international partners, If gains not just the cultural and local knowledge crucial for successful insurance solutions, but also knowledge and insight into how the insurance market is developing and changing in each country of operation. Given that the width of our services covers 170 countries, deeper insights into specific countries through our partners is very valuable.

Encouraging partners to visit us

In addition to the day-to-day tight cooperation that If has with its partners, we also encourage our partners to visit If in the Nordic countries to increase our partners’ understanding of If and our clients’ operations, as well as to strengthen our relationship. These visits are made regularly by our different partners and often include corporate workshops to offer more opportunities for knowledge-sharing.

“The effort of these visits and workshops is very worthwhile to us, as by deepening the level of knowledge and the relationship, we can ensure an even smoother and higher quality operation”, Mia Himberg says. “We want to learn from our partners and also willingly share our expertise with them. This is also a way to strengthen the commitment on both sides, which is a fundamental factor of the high-level services we offer to our clients”, Mia continues. “Building strong commitment, we also support long-term relationships with our partners.”

When visiting the If countries, when­ever possible, the partners will also visit clients. If’s client Wärtsilä and their corporate risk manager, Jan Virtavuori, have been involved in several partner meetings, and partners have visited Wärtsilä in Finland, as well.

“For us, there is a clear added value from meeting the local partners and having direct contact with them. We get immediate information if something changes in our country of operation. For example, if the insurance regulations in one of our African countries of business change, it is very valuable for us to know that as early as possible”, Jan says.

There is a clear added value from meeting the local partners.

Jan Virtavuori, Wärtsilä

Insights from Africa

If has clients, such as Wärtsilä, with vast operations in Africa, spreading across the different countries on the continent. Wärtsilä has been active in Africa for the past 40 years and has delivered power plants to 51 of the 54 countries. Part of the business is a continuing service agreement after the delivery, and in many countries, Wärtsilä remains to handle the operation of the power plant on behalf of the client.

“Africa is a market with a lot of potential for us, especially in the renewable energy sector. Almost all African countries have inadequate supplies of energy or electricity”, Jan Virtavuori says, with Wärtsilä having just delivered the first solar power plant to Burkina Faso at a 17 M€ value.

Conducting business in Africa is not without challenges, with the cultures and way of business being quite different. Government and safety can sometimes also bring their own issues, and on the insurance side, there are different regulations. French-speaking Africa, for example, has its own CIMA insurance regulation, requiring that 50% for Property and Liability and 100% for Cargo risk is invested in the local insurance market (except in cases where we have negotiated specific set-up with an admitted local reinsurer).

“For us as a client, the first thing is to ensure that we can be insured in a certain country, and to know what kind of setup is needed when the different regulations are taken into consideration”, Jan contemplates.

Globus Network

If’s partner in Africa is Globus Network. Globus is the first Pan-African, multi-lingual Insurance Network with members in 47 countries, covering almost the entire continent.

A cooperation agreement with Globus gives us one point of contact to most of Africa. The partnership with Globus

opens up access to local insurance companies, brokers and market knowledge and importantly, to firsthand information of changes in local legislation. Cooperation with Globus gives us access to their Reinsurance captive, Globus Re, an admitted reinsurer in the CIMA region, enabling us to offer to our clients an additional option in terms of retrocession.

If’s African portfolio has grown significantly during the last few years, and the same growth is expected to continue.­ Despite the challenging market, the solution that If has built up with Globus in Africa enables us to implement global­ insurance programmes that are in full compliance with the local regulations. Especially in Africa, cooperation with a professional network partner is utterly crucial for our global insurance offering.

Visit from Africa

As part of our knowledge-sharing principle, one of the most recent visits was from Africa. Two Globus risk engineers visited If in Finland and Denmark, as well as several clients in both countries, one of them being Wärtsilä in Finland.

Margaret­ Selasi Esi ASHIAGBOR from Activa in Ghana and Sahar MOHSEN from Orient­ Takaful Insurance Company in Egypt shared knowledge and topical info on their respective countries, as well as insight into the way of working. In several training sessions, If again shared our risk management knowledge and operations in detail, among other things, and the client visits gave valuable on-hands insight to the visitors.

 “These visits are very fruitful for both parties. We at If learn about the local conditions and can share knowledge on risks and risk management with our partners. It is a strength for both us and our clients to have local contacts in Africa and all over the world. These people are the true experts of the business, legislation and culture in their countries and that is a competitive edge for both If and its large corporate clients”, says Pekka Sarpila, Head of Risk Management Finland, who was hosting the visit.

These visits are very fruitful for both parties.

Pekka Sarpila, Head of Risk Management Finland

“It was a very useful visit. I like it that we work as a team, all working together towards a common goal for our clients”, Margaret says. “I gained a lot of useful information and especially valued the insight into If’s risk management system and operation, as well as the underwriting policy. I gained a lot to apply at home and something that goes a long way, benefitting both us and If – and the client of course”, Margaret concludes.

“I was very impressed by the client visits and I feel both sides now know better how the other party is thinking and working”, Sahar says. “When visiting Wärtsilä and meeting Jan, it helped us understand the risk and insurance needs so much better.”

“We learned a lot about a variety of topics and have a lot to share in our companies when we go back home. This visit will undoubtedly make our cooperation more concrete and even closer and easier than before”, both Sahar and Margaret conclude.

Participants in the Globus visit
From the left: Mia Himberg, If, Sahar Mohsen, Orient Takaful Insurance in Egypt, Jan Virtavuori, Wärtsilä, Margaret Selasi Esi Ashiagbor from Activa in Ghana and Pekka Sarpila,If.

Flexibility and fast reactions

“We have a long and steady experience from operating in Africa and with our partners there”, the head of If International Network, Mia Himberg, says. We have been doing concrete cooperation on the frontline and with our active risk engineers on the other side of the world. We have seen from experience in other countries that this sort of cooperation has a direct meaning and benefit for our clients, and we are happy to have reached this high structure and level in Africa as well”, Mia continues.

“We believe that through sharing each other’s missions, strategies, and way of working, we will increase understanding of the respective countries’ and markets’ business cultures and market environments. This understanding can be decisive when we have a challenging and/or urgent request”, Mia says.

“Our cooperation with If and Globus has gone really well”, Jan Virtavuori adds. “We have been positively surprised how well the model that If has with its partner network functions, not creating any of the bottlenecks that we have often seen in the more traditional insurer’s own local office model.”

“We have also been very happy with the flexibility of the insurance solutions, as well as the response speed we have had from both If and Globus”, Jan continues.

Regulation is increasing in Africa, and officials in all countries want to safeguard their own insurance markets. This means that insurance in Africa will definitely not get any easier.

With long experience, vast insight, and a well-established network of partners on the front-line in the changing market, If will seek to continue to provide the best possible insurance solutions to its clients in Africa.

“We go where our clients go”, Mia says. “We have a large number of references from different countries, and we are proud that we never have to start from scratch. We have done this so many times that we know what to go for and where to look for the pitfalls”, Mia ends.

We go where our clients go.

Mia Himberg, If

Article by

Ida Tuononen