Employees and policyholders left in limbo after Aspis Pronoia licence suspended

In September 2009, the Board of Directors of the Private Insurance Supervisory Committee unanimously decided to revoke the operating licence of the Aspis Pronoia Group on an indefinite basis. The decision was taken due to the group’s failure to meet its obligations to both policyholders and employees. The development affects some one million insured persons and the future of more than 700 of the company’s permanent employees.

Reasons for licence suspension

In September 2009, the Board of Directors of the Private Insurance Supervisory Committee (PISC) unanimously decided to suspend the operating licence of the Aspis Pronia Group – in particular, of the Aspis Pronoia General Insurance Company and the Aspis Pronoia Life Insurance Company.

According to PISC, the companies in question:

  • did not meet their obligations to cover the necessary solvency margins enabling them to fulfil their obligations;
  • failed to meet their obligations to policyholders and employees.

Aspis Pronia, one of the largest private Greek insurance companies listed on the stock exchange, has been covering the entire range of life, health and general insurance benefits since 1944. The group delivers a network of services and sales that included more than 500 contracted agents and brokers.

Impact of decision

According to estimates, PISC’s decision will affect some one million insured persons and the future of more than 700 of the group’s permanent employees, along with 3,000 of its external insurance associates.

The group’s management opposed this decision and announced that ‘the operating licence of these four companies was revoked despite the short extension that had been requested so that the capital increase and the resultant capital injection would be completed’. The request, however, was not granted and the management further highlighted that ‘they would employ all remedies against the decision that is a blow to the Group and to the hundreds of thousands of its policyholders’.

Legislative framework

It should be emphasised, nonetheless, that according to the applicable legislative framework (Legislative Decree No. 400/1970 on Private Insurance Companies (Government Gazette A10/15/17 January 1970), as amended by Law No. 3455/2006):

  • no person insured through the life branch loses their rights and the amount saved because all of the life insurance portfolios are transferred to other insurance companies;
  • all persons insured in the vehicle branch are covered by the auxiliary capital for 30 days, as provided for in the law;
  • all the employees will be compensated since they are given top priority during the liquidation.

Government position

The developments in the Aspis Pronia Group coincided with a transitional period in the country’s political circumstances since early elections were announced, making any attempts at smoothing out the situation more difficult.

The country’s former Minister of Economy stressed that ‘no insured person and no employee will lose their rights while the latter will keep on working and being paid’. At the same time, the former Minister of Employment and Social Protection signed a decision providing for extraordinary financial aid of €1,000 per person working in the insurance companies of the Aspis Pronia Group. Currently, Greece’s new government is holding discussions to try to find a solution.

Meanwhile, the company’s employees recently organised protest demonstrations asking the new Minister of Finance to immediately take steps concerning the issues facing the employees and insured persons due to the ‘closure’ of the companies.

Response of social partners

The Greek General Confederation of Labour (Γενική Συνομοσπονδία Εργατών Ελλάδας, GSEE) offered its support to the demonstrations. GSEE is calling on the employees of the insurance companies whose licences have been revoked to ‘join their voice and their demands’ with those of its affiliated Association of Insurance Companies’ Employees and the Greek Federation of Insurance Employee Unions ‘to secure employment for all the employees of the above companies and to preserve all their working rights’.

Meanwhile, 57 insurance companies that are members of the Hellenic Association of Insurance Companies (Ασφαλιστικών Εταιρειών Ελλάδας, ΕΑΕΕ) made efforts to redeploy the employees ‘insofar as they undertake a portfolio originating from the insurance companies whose operating licence has been revoked’. At the same time, EAEE in cooperation with the Greek Institute for Insurance Education (Ελληνικό Ινστιτούτο Ασφαλιστικών Σπουδών, ΕΙΑS) will be assisting in the organisation of special retraining programmes for the unemployed persons.

Commentary

Aspis Pronoia is just one of the many companies that have been severely affected by the global economic crisis. Hundreds of thousands of customers feel let down by this latest announcement. However, most importantly, hundreds of employees, who are the real victims of these developments, have been dealt a strong blow and are feeling the uncertainty. Many monthly payments along with indemnities are pending for these employees. Also pending is the urgent need to absorb these employees in new working areas in order to secure their chance of financial survival and to ensure greater social cohesion.

Elena Kousta, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)

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