The last year for GFIA, as for everyone, has been a difficult one — dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects adding to the many other major global issues we already face.
Nevertheless, I have witnessed causes for optimism in how GFIA and its members are helping to tackle those global challenges. I have been impressed by what our insurance industry has achieved during the pandemic, including our ability to stay in contact with our customers, despite the difficulties, and the steps we are taking to shape a sustainable post-COVID world.
And I believe the excellent cooperation between GFIA and key international bodies, such as the G20 and International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), provides a solid base from which we can take those steps to create more sustainable and resilient economies and societies.
A resilient and stable industry
So, first the pandemic. Devastating though COVID-19 continues to be, I have been heartened by the global insurance industry’s response to the crisis. We have remained financially resilient, despite the considerable volatility in financial markets, and that stability has allowed us to absorb fiscal shocks in the challenging current economic environment. Operationally, too, we have been resilient, as communication channels have been kept open with our customers and services have been maintained.
GFIA’s member associations and their member companies have also gone the extra mile — not just in supporting customers with non-contractual, goodwill gestures but also in supporting society as a whole through voluntary activities, both financial and practical.
And now GFIA and its members are working to support policymakers in shaping economies and societies fit for the future. You will find many examples of those actions in the articles of this Annual Report, covering areas such as cyber resilience, financial inclusion and trade, to name but three. Here in the foreword, I wish to focus on GFIA’s strong and regular communications with global policymakers and regulators.
Communication is key
Our regular exchanges of views with Victoria Saporta, Jonathan Dixon and their colleagues at the IAIS show the increasing natural alignment between the strategic priorities of our two organisations; well-crafted, appropriate regulation and supervision provide the bedrocks of consumer protection and financial stability on which the all-important trust of customers in our industry rests.
We liaise closely with the G20 too. Indeed, I write this foreword having just participated in a summit kindly organised by our Italian member, ANIA, in partnership with the Italian G20 presidency. These events with each G20 presidency have become something of an annual tradition for GFIA and its members. They build on the other communication we have with each presidency during its term — something that has been the case again this year, with constructive meetings with Italian Finance Minister Daniele Franco and Governor Ignazio Visco and Director General Luigi Federico Signorini from the Bank of Italy. The ANIA summit has explored the insurance sector’s pivotal role in three central priorities of the Italian G20: sustainable investment; integrated welfare systems that optimise public and private pensions, health and long-term care; and mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Last, but very much not least, this Report is published as leaders gather for the UN’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Here again, GFIA and its members are participating in the discussions. We are highlighting the dual role of our industry: that we were among the first to model and sound the alarm about climate risk over 40 years ago and have built up decades of expertise in managing climate risks; and that we have over US$30trn of assets under management that can be mobilised to finance the transition to a low-carbon economy.
So, although the challenges are clear, our global industry — represented by my dedicated GFIA colleagues — has the will and the skills to help tackle them. I trust you, too, will find causes for optimism as you read about our actions in this Annual Report.