Christoforos Sardelis

CHAIRMAN OF ETHNIKI INSURANCE SA

Greece 2019  I  Finance  I  Leader

BIOGRAPHY He studied Economics at Stockholm University, where he also taught for over a decade. He joined Ethniki Insurance as an independent member of the Board of Directors in 2010 and is the Chairman since 2016. In recent years he held executive positions at various investment banks (Handelsbanken, Bank of America and Banca IMI). Between 1999 and 2004 he was the General Director of the Public Debt Management Agency.

“I BELIEVE THAT IF A PENSION REFORM IN LINE WITH OUR PROPOSALS IS ADOPTED, WE WILL SEE THE INSURANCE SECTOR TRIPLE IN SIZE IN THE COURSE OF A FEW YEARS.”

ETHNIKI IS THE LEADING INSURANCE COMPANY IN GREECE. WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF SECTOR?

 

Adverse demographic projections outline a steadily increasing pension bill until 2060, despite repeated cuts in previous years, and with pension funds already heavily underfunded. Without spectacular rates of growth, this trend is bound to lead to a new fiscal impasse. The private insurance sector, on the other hand, keeps proposing a three-pillar system with fully funded schemes and personal accounts, as a complement to a slimmer but sustainable public pay-as-you-go system. Despite the fact that such a shift would imply several advantages, political resistance proves challenging to overcome. In an economy with lack of means to fund investment (currently around 10% of GDP and less than annual amortization), with obvious difficulties to attract foreign direct investment, there is hardly any rational explanation for insisting in the current one pillar “pay-as-you-go” system.

 

Successful completion of the economic adjustment program allows the country’s return to regularity. At the same time, a number of critical issues will have a decisive impact on the course and prospects of the Greek economy. Evidence has shown that countries with better developed financial systems enjoy faster and more stable long-term growth. The insurance sector plays an important role in the economy and has the capacity to provide real alternatives in some areas, reducing the risks for future imbalances. One of the main structural problems in Greece is the lack of savings and the insurance sector can have a boost to domestic savings, reducing existing constraints for investment funding. 

 

Another major challenge is the pension system in Greece. Although a burgeoning pension deficit has been a burden for public finances since at least the 1990s, successive governments have lacked the political will to tackle the issue. It took the financial crisis to kick-start a comprehensive pension reform programme combining spending cuts alongside a structural overhaul of the country’s sprawling pension system. I believe that if a pension reform with a three pillar system is adopted, we will see the insurance sector double or triple in a few years, with premiums moving towards €12 billion, from the current €4 billion level.

 

ETHNIKI IS IMPLEMENTING A BOLD BUSINESS PLAN WHICH WILL SEE AN INCREASE OF ITS MARKET SHARE AND PROFITS. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS STRATEGY?

 

Since its establishment, in 1891, Ethniki has always been loyal to its vision and its mission to offer quality services through modern products and processes. For 128 years now, it has been leading the way, with its drivers being timeless values such as reliability, ethos, trust, safety and its experience. Building on a successful course of many years and despite the harsh financial conditions, Ethniki is more robust and powerful than ever, having profits and productivity placing it at the top of the Greek insurance market. Ethniki is today a point of reference and of credibility both for its insured persons and for the whole Greek insurance market. 

 

“WE DON'T TAKE OUR LEADERSHIP FOR GRANTED AND WANT TO CONTINUE TO OFFER THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE, PRODUCTS AND SERVICES IN THE INSURANCE MARKET.”

 

The soundness and leading position of Ethniki did not come out of nowhere. They reflect the coordinated, systematic and firm commitment of its people -- including management, employees and partners -- to keep it at the top. Every major plan, every strategic goal, every decision is inspired by those timeless values shaping its people-focused strategy, making it friendly and humane towards the persons insured and the society. Today our market share in the life business is 24.3%, 18% of the non-life business and approximately 30% of the group life, health, disability, and pension market. Ethniki was the first Hellenic insurance company to be certified according to ISO protocols and today most of our 48 branches throughout the country have achieved ISO 9002 certification. We employ today an experienced and knowledgeable staff of over 1,200 people and more than 5,000 field agents. 

 

Together with our management team, we have established our business plan towards 2023. We are working closely with all our employees to continue to improve our company's efficiency and competitiveness in the market. We don't take our leadership for granted and want to continue to offer the best customer service, products and services in the insurance market. We are aiming to achieve €220 million profit by 2023, from the current €63 million. Among the plan's objectives is also to increase our market share to 29% of the market within the next four years. 

 

ETHNIKI HAS BEEN AWARDED THE MOST ADMIRED ENTREPRISE IN GREECE IN 2018. THE COMPANY IS COMMITTED TO SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY SINCE ITS INCEPTION, WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES TODAY?

 

Ethniki actively supports culture, the environment, science and sports, while being more sensitive towards vulnerable groups of the society. Focusing mainly on the implementation of actions for children, it continues supporting associations such as SOS Children’s Villages Greece, Cerebral Palsy Greece, To Hamogelo tou Paidiou and Together for Children. At the same time, Ethniki has organized various actions to collect and donate food and basic commodities to relieve economically disadvantaged groups and refugees.

 

As to culture, art space “STOart Korai” has been created by Ethniki Asfalistiki and hosts exhibitions of well-known and new artists, along with an Archive of Greek Art and a museum in the basement called “Memorial Site 1941-1944”, which was the actual place used as a German prison during the occupation years.