European Business: Mr. Lambert, tell us a little about L’Ardenne Prévoyante’s insurance. What kind of coverage do you provide?
Vincent Lambert: At L’Ardenne Prévoyante, we specialize in car, home contents, liability and some life insurance. Health insurance is not part of the spectrum. The vast majority of our coverage is home and auto insurance, and there are only about 5,000 policies for life insurance. That’s more of a traditional product, and we no longer actively sell life. In the long run, we’ll be turning that over to AXA completely.
European Business: L’Ardenne Prévoyante focuses on the French-speaking areas of Belgium. How would you describe your typical customers?
Vincent Lambert: We have about 130,000 customers, largely from rural regions and smaller cities. These include farmers, of course, but we also have a number of small and medium-sized businesses among our clientele. It’s not unusual for us to provide coverage for families over generations. After all, our company has been in business for more than 100 years.
European Business: How do you find new clients – the ones whose families aren’t covered yet?
Vincent Lambert: We rely entirely on insurance brokers. The agencies tend to be on the smaller side, not major players on the market. We’re currently working with about 500 active brokers who are in constant contact with the clients. L’Ardenne Prévoyante supports these brokers and provides them with the tools they need when the insurance policy actually has to be used. These are the brokers who process claims, as well.
European Business: What makes Belgian consumers different from those in other markets?
Vincent Lambert: On the one hand, the Belgian market is fairly conservative, especially compared to the markets in Italy and the UK. With being more conservative, that also means that consumers have a closer tie to their brokers. 60 to 75% of consumers in Belgium buy their insurance through a broker, which is not typical for the insurance sector. We also have some hybrid clients who inform themselves online but make their final decision only after speaking to a broker. Motor insurance is mandatory in Belgium, so it’s no surprise that we offer so much coverage for vehicles. Liability and home contents insurance are not required, though, and yet between 90 and 95% of our clients have these policies with us. In that sense, Belgium really stands out from other countries.
European Business: In other sectors, especially manufacturing, we’re hearing a lot about Industry 4.0 and digital transformation. What impact are you seeing on the insurance market?
Vincent Lambert: Many of our clients use the internet in general and our website in particular to find out about the kinds of coverage available. However, it’s important to keep pace with developments and take part in the digital transformation, especially for our internal processes. We don’t have an online portal for direct insurance, but we do want to simplify processes for our brokers and restructure them. The key is to make it easy to work with.
European Business: Where do you see L’Ardenne Prévoyante heading in the coming years?
Vincent Lambert: We have a growth rate of about 5 to 6% annually, and we aim to keep that up in the future. To achieve that goal, we need to support our brokers and continue making tools, especially new ones, available to our brokers. They’re very close to the end consumers, and that’s a success strategy we want to uphold for the next 20 to 30 years. We intend to stay where we are and serve the rural areas and small towns of French-speaking Belgium for many years to come.