Bankers and insurers have always had a difficult relationship. In the past, mergers to create bancassurance groups offering the full range of financial products under one roof have often failed. German insurance giant Allianz suffered a debacle when it swallowed up Dresdner Bank in 2001, only to disgorge the institution seven years later after losing several billion euros. No wonder that in 2008 the then head of Axa, Henri de Castries, declared bancassurance dead.
But eight years on, it’s enjoying something of a renaissance. Increasingly pressured to deliver returns and faced with the upheavals of digitalization, banks and insurance companies are once again encroaching on each other’s territory. Bancassurance is back in fashion – this time in a new cloak.
“Banks and insurance companies will close ranks via distribution channels and the related processes. But that won’t mean it’s also necessary to combine them into a single company,” said the chief financial officer of Allianz, Dieter Wemmer. He’s not alone in that opinion. The head of Dutch group ING, Ralph Hamers, recently commented on the inclusion of insurance products in the digital offerings of banks: “I’m absolutely convinced this development will take place.”