Marie-Hélène Massard told Delano: “Brexit has also highlighted the appeal of Luxembourg as an insurance hub for international non-life insurers”
Photo: Axa Luxembourg
In the latest interview from our Celebrating Luxembourg series, Delano interviews Marie-Hélène Massard, Axa Luxembourg general director and chairwoman of Luxembourg’s assurance association ACA.
Jess Bauldry: Would you have had the same career had you lived anywhere other than in Luxembourg? How has the country enabled you to have the career you have?
Marie-Hélène Massard: Luxembourg is certainly a learning accelerator for those who aspire to take on responsibilities, to be committed actors of change and development. The country and our companies, are on a human scale, which allows a great proximity with the economic and political decision-makers, and with all of our teams. This environment makes it easier to have a global vision of the issues to be addressed, to make appropriate decisions by analysing all the dimensions, and to effectively implement the necessary actions.
There is also a great openness to new ideas, an ability to cooperate for the good of the country and an invitation to act that I find very stimulating. Luxembourg is a country that offers you a favorable environment to realise your full potential. To repeat the motto that Luxembourg has chosen: “Let's make it happen!”
What brought you to Luxembourg?
I arrived with my family in Luxembourg in 2012, thanks to the Axa Group for which I have worked for more than 20 years, and more precisely thanks to Jacques de Vaucleroy, then CEO of the Northern and Eastern Europe zone, who has appointed me as Axa's CEO in Luxembourg. The attraction was twofold: the interest of the post of course, but also the country. I have always had international missions or been posted abroad. Luxembourg offered me these two aspects: an international environment in a foreign country.
When did you first realise that your work contributes to the international influence of Luxembourg?
I first became aware of this within my group, when I started receiving spontaneous applications from Axa employees from other subsidiaries, and especially when we obtained the agreement in 2015 to create Axa Wealth Europe, a new Luxembourg subsidiary dedicated to freedom to provide services [a regime to create a single market in insurance] in life insurance. We have to convince our managers of the attractiveness of the Luxembourg offer and its complementary nature with our existing range. After 1 year of activity, the results are promising.
How is the insurance sector positioned in Luxembourg internationally?
The most visible international insurance business in Luxembourg today is the life insurance business under the freedom to provide services. It represents more than 20 billion premiums per year, about two thirds of the insurance and reinsurance turnover in Luxembourg. Its success in Europe is confirmed year after year. It is an activity that has been able to adapt to a sustainable low interest rate environment and meet customer expectations. In particular, it offers portability sought by mobile customers internationally and a wide variety of investment vehicles.
Recently, Brexit has also highlighted the appeal of Luxembourg as an insurance hub for international non-life insurers. A dozen companies have already taken steps to settle or develop in Luxembourg. The international insurance sector in Luxembourg therefore still has good growth prospects.
What do people who you speak to and work with abroad say about Luxembourg?
Before or after we have spoken? They are still often surprised by the gap between the idea that they have and what I describe to them of my life in Luxembourg. They mainly mention the quality of life that the country offers. Compared to other capitals, everything seems simpler here, especially for those with children. Those who do not know Luxembourg often see it as a calm country where everything revolves around finance! It is true that finance occupies an important place but the activities of the country are far from being confined to it.
Industry is still present, there are research centers, laboratories, film production is noticeable in festivals. Luxembourg cultivates this diversity! Finally, our discussions always end with an invitation to discover Luxembourg on the spot!
And what do you say to them to make them want to visit Luxembourg?
To make them want to visit, I describe to them the charm of the pedestrian downtown, the casemates, the choice of good restaurants and good wines from the vineyards of the Moselle, the forest trails of Luxembourg's Little Switzerland, the variety of the architecture of old or modern buildings like the Philharmonie…there is something for everyone in Luxembourg!
But our exchanges also give them a lot of food for thought to come and settle here. The quality of life of Luxembourg residents attracts those who live in other larger, more anonymous, less green, less international capitals.