In an attempt to settle the dispute with its restaurant clients, the insurance giant Axa has put 300 million euros on the table.
Thomas Buberl, its CEO, looks back on this announcement but also on the various actions implemented by his group during the crisis.
He also delivers his vision on the state of the French economy and pleads for the creation of a public / private scheme to cover the next pandemics.
After months of legal standoff over operating loss, you unlock 300 million for 15,000 restaurateurs that you insure.
But the reactions are mixed.
You understand ?
It was important to open the door.
We have just made the proposal, our agents will go to our customers to offer each one a transaction.
It was the right way and the right time to propose this solution, now that everyone is mobilized on the recovery.
Many restaurateurs believe that this is not enough ...
We reached out. Now is the time for dialogue. In three months, it will be time to take stock. This initiative should be seen as part of Axa's overall plan for recovery. During the crisis, the group supported the economy by making 500 million euros available to SMEs and
Editor's note: Mid-size companies
) to strengthen their equity and encourage them to invest. We have also strengthened our system to invest in climate transition, with the ambition of reducing our carbon footprint by 20% by 2025. Finally, employment: in 2020 we did not have recourse to partial unemployment and, this year, we are going to recruit 5,000 people in France, more than 30% of whom are young people.
Operating losses: a year ago, the relief of a restaurateur after having brought Axa to court
Do you believe that in this crisis, Axa's image has been unfairly tarnished?
Insurance has been the first and most important contributor in supporting the economy.
For example, we were the main private financier of the solidarity fund, with nearly 400 million euros.
Did the recognition towards the sector live up to our commitment?
The answer is clearly no.
And I regret it.
In 2020, you made a gain of 800 million euros on auto insurance.
Will drivers benefit, with premium discounts?
The principle of insurance is the collective.
Take a village of ten people: if one is sick, the other nine pay a little for him to be treated.
Last year, our business insurance activities were severely impacted as restaurateurs and traders suffered greatly economically.
This is not the case with the automotive sector.
And, in health, many treatments have been postponed.
It is imperative that they resume very quickly.
Obviously, health costs will increase and this is normal.
Insurance is a collective balance that works over time.
What will post-Covid insurance look like?
We have for the first time suffered a disaster that no insurance in the world can cover: that of a pandemic and containment on a global scale.
We have already had cases of restaurants closed because of salmonella, and in this case we were covering the operating loss.
But if all the restaurants close, we are no longer able to insure.
I will take my example from the village: if all 10 people fall ill at the same time, it no longer works.
This is why we have to imagine a new mechanism like the public / private regime put in place to cover natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
I hope, I hope, that we will succeed in creating a similar regime in the face of pandemics.
Because we must be clear: there will be others.
Is France on the right track to relaunch itself?
We see that there is a very positive state of mind.
You just have to walk past the restaurant terraces: they are full.
Everyone wants to move on.
This is very important because the growth of the economy depends a lot on confidence.
The French economy has nevertheless been severely affected ...
It is true, France is in a worse financial state than before the crisis.
But what was the alternative and who could have done better?
The country remains strong, the companies too and it is a very good base.
The energy is there, the numbers will follow.
However, it is clear that the budgetary situation must be treated in a sustainable way.
In an exceptional situation, exceptional means, but now you have to have the necessary financial discipline.
Read alsoFind staff, avoid bankruptcy ... the five challenges for restaurateurs when the terraces reopen
Is our recovery plan sufficient?
The United States has mobilized colossal sums, much higher than in Europe.
The European Union has invested 750 billion euros, which is already a miracle given the differences between the member states.
Is it enough ?
It is not the most important.
The real issue is the execution and the speed of execution.
Europe is in a global competition with the United States and China.
The winners will be those who have been the most clear on their objectives but also the most disciplined in the execution.
And the Chinese like the Americans have this discipline.
Europeans, not always.
Has France made progress in this area?
A concrete example: Axa is very committed to the climate transition.
We were the first to move out of coal and invest in green energies.
But to define a clear investment strategy, the energies themselves must be classified between black and green.
Is nuclear energy a transitional energy, yes or no?
This question remains open.
As long as it is not decided, we cannot really accelerate.
What lessons will Axa learn from the crisis?
Obviously, we will ask ourselves the question of how to ensure a pandemic. But also how to better help our client companies to protect themselves against cyber risk and climate issues. On the individual customer side, the crisis has brought to light the subject of health, which is at the heart of our strategy with prevention and telemedicine. Non-life insurance for individuals and companies, health and provident insurance, these have been major areas of development for Axa since 2016, and today they represent 80% of our activity. We are totally oriented towards these growth sectors.