Responsibility in Business
Swiss Life maintains high standards for its consulting, service and product range. Diligence and responsible action form the basis for successful business operations as well as for long-term, sustainable customer and business relationships.
At Swiss Life, customer orientation is of central importance for corporate success. Swiss Life continuously assesses customer satisfaction at the key contact points. Customer centricity managers in all divisions analyse customer feedback with their teams locally.
Four focus topics of customer orientation
Progress on customer satisfaction
Customers are asked about their experience, satisfaction and willingness to recommend Swiss Life directly following an interaction with the company at selected contact points. Anyone who gives a negative response is contacted within 48 hours. This allows Swiss Life to ensure it has understood the reasons for a negative review and to offer the customer a solution. Customer satisfaction is surveyed in close collaboration with an independent market research institute.
Swiss Life aims to use customer feedback to detect systemic problems and drive appropriate process optimisation measures. Findings and lessons learned are shared at Group level.
Swiss Life has continuously expanded its Direct Customer Feedback programme in recent years. Since launching it in 2014, Swiss Life has received and analysed around 150 000 customer communications.
Development of Direct Customer Feedback programme
Swiss Life depends on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) for its quantitative measurement of customer satisfaction, which indicates a customer’s willingness to recommend a provider to family and friends. The NPS is surveyed continuously and reported internally on a quarterly basis. What is more, the NPS is a component of the objectives-setting and performance review of employees with customer contact.
Over the past four years, the NPS at Swiss Life has trended favourably at the key contact points Consulting and Service Center, thanks to regular customer feedback analysis and the appropriate improvements derived from it.
The development of the NPS in consulting at contact points
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The referral rate at the Service Center contact point has also enjoyed a positive trend. Thus for example, while at the outset of assessment in 2014 in Switzerland every third person surveyed was willing to actively recommend Swiss Life, today’s rate is already one out of two.
Swiss Life Switzerland, for instance, has repeatedly determined in recent years that willingness to recommend dropped at the turn of the year. Special focus placed during this period on personnel capacity has proved successful in counteracting this effect.
The development of the NPS at the Service Center contact point
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Promoting and consolidating a customer-oriented work culture
In addition, Swiss Life surveys the perception of customer orientation in-house through a biannual online questionnaire. The Employees’ Customer Centricity Index (ECCI) summarises the results. The Index rose in the last assessment, in 2017, by three index points over the previous year, to 81. Internal perception of customer centricity improved in 2017 in relation to all areas surveyed.
The reporting year saw a revision of the Group Competency Model, which sets out the behaviour principles for all employees and additional responsibilities for members of management. A consistent customer perspective is an integral component of objectives-setting between management and employees.
Products and Services
Swiss Life has over 160 years of experience in consulting and developing products and services in its life insurance and pensions business. In this endeavour, Swiss Life’s activities are always based on its customers and their needs. Swiss Life aims for its customers to lead their lives in an assured and self-determined way.
Swiss Life’s consulting and product strategy combines optimal customer value with profitability for the company. Regulators’ demands, regarding such things as solvency, as well as external factors like the economic and interest rate environment or demographic trends, must also be considered. Optimising and constantly developing the existing range of offerings so as to take into account all target groups, such as customers, investors, shareholders and supervisory authorities, are crucial in this endeavour.
The company offers private and corporate clients comprehensive and individual advice plus a broad range of proprietary and partner products through its own agents, financial advisors and distribution partners. Swiss Life Select, the subsidiary specialising in financial planning for private households and brokering financial products, as well as the advisers of Tecis, Horbach, Proventus, Chase de Vere and Fincentrum, use the Best Select approach to let their customers choose the product from the market that suits them best. This provides customers with access to the product range of the best providers in the market. In Germany, Swiss Life has developed a product for people who cannot afford conventional occupational disability insurance that allows them to insure their labour at favourable rates. Swiss Life thus does its part to help those living on lower incomes optimise their provisions and close gaps in coverage.
Transparent product information and promotion of financial literacy
Swiss Life sets great store by transparent and accessible information about product and service offerings. Swiss Life supports customer-oriented advice by providing clear and comprehensive documentation. Thus there are supporting video sequences on the various insurance and provisions topics available on the local internet pages or customer portals, along with publications for download.
Swiss Life would like to help people acquire financial literacy so they can make better decisions. Trust in one’s own finances and understanding how they work are basic conditions for a selfdetermined life and financial confidence, which is why Swiss Life has supported the Swiss financial literacy platform fintool.ch for years now. The internet start-up uses short videos to get to the heart of complex economic, financial or political issues. In Germany, by way of the Swiss Life Stiftung für Chancenreichtum und Zukunft (Foundation for opportunities and the future), Swiss Life also advocates projects that promote the growth of financial literacy.
Customer centricity and Group-wide value proposition standards
Long-term benefit commitments and obligations arising from pension and financial products demand a precise preliminary analysis of the legal and regulatory environment, and the associated risk. This also provides the basis for customer-oriented consulting and is a major factor in the avoidance of mistakes or violations in advising, and their possible consequences.
The practical design of products and services is guided by Group-wide standards and is in strict accordance with the local regulatory environment and legislation. The ability of the local Compliance teams to make adjustments, even to existing products and services, is guaranteed. Group-wide standards for the development of products and services are also adapted to framework conditions as required.
Product management is regulated through a number of directives at Group level. Swiss Life has established a uniform, auditable product development process to that end. This process defines the minimum requirements of local product development as well as the approval and escalation process for initiatives at Group level. The observance of laws and provisions, practical customer value and the quality of customer documentation are naturally essential criteria in the assessment process.
Group-wide compulsory regulations are implemented locally in the relevant directives. Swiss Life regularly reviews its product solutions.
Compliance at Swiss Life
Swiss Life sets great store by compliance with all applicable legal provisions and regulatory stipulations in all its activities. The Code of Conduct is an important tool. It contains Swiss Life’s values and principles, valid throughout the Group, as well as the rules of conduct, which are binding for all employees.
The Code of Conduct contains behavioural guidelines on the following themes:
The Code of Conduct valid throughout the Group was revised in 2018 and published on 1 January 2019. It is available for consultation at www.swisslife.com/en/coc.
Swiss Life has a comprehensive directives system as well as a Code of Conduct. The directives contain binding Group-wide minimum standards implemented in all business units and included in the regulations for the local offices. Regular training ensures that the employees are kept informed about the relevant compliance themes and directives. All new employees are given Group-wide Code of Conduct training within six months of beginning their position, and are instructed in the essential rules of conduct as well as data protection and data security provisions. All new employees are also trained within the same period in money-laundering prevention, combating terrorism financing, and sanctions and embargos, where relevant for their particular activities. Furthermore, all employees undergo a refresher course in these topics every two years. Participation in such training courses is mandatory and subject to monitoring, and the aim is a 100% attendance and success rate. Divisions for which the regulator has prescribed more frequent training must undergo refreshers more often.
Swiss Life has established processes to ensure adequate identification, management and control of compliance and data protection risks. The duties, responsibilities and competencies in terms of compliance are also included in the directives system.
Swiss Life takes data protection very seriously and implements all legal, regulatory and internal requirements. Group-wide standards for data protection have been defined, which are specified and implemented by way of divisional guidelines. These last govern the processing, storage, deletion, archiving and transfer of data and documents, uniform data classification, the handling of personal data and highly sensitive information and trade secrets. Data protection infringements must be reported to Compliance, while information security incidents are dealt with consistently on a Group-wide basis as part of operational risk management. There were no significant data protection infringements within the Swiss Life Group during the reporting year.
The individual divisions have their own data protection officers and ensure that their employees are all provided with regular mandatory training in the material. The line implements these requirements and assesses their observance in collaboration with the relevant divisional Compliance teams, as well as at Group level. Compliance regularly assesses the implementation and observance of applicable provisions. Corporate Internal Audit regularly reviews data protection as part of its auditing activities and addresses any weak spots with the appropriate measures.
Data are secured and protected with the appropriate organisational and technical protection measures and are a part of risk management. More information on the subject of risk management can be found in the Annual Report in the “Risk Management” chapter.
Lawful business activity
Compliance monitors and assesses the legal and regulatory environment, taking account of local legislation. The aim is not to infringe any legal and/or regulatory requirements, and to prevent all forms of corruption and bribery. Swiss Life also considers it very important to comply with sanctions and embargos. Regular risk assessments as well as permanent and comprehensive compliance reporting to the top echelons provide support for the implementation of all requisite measures at Group level and within the business units. The compliance framework is subject to periodic review and is reworked and adapted to new prerequisites as necessary.
Swiss Life incurred no monetary penalties or significant fines during the year under review, nor did the company make any settlements in connection with corruption charges.
The economic performance and sustainable profitability of Swiss Life are fundamental requirements for the long-term success of its corporate management. The consistent implementation of its plans has allowed Swiss Life to successfully complete its last three Group-wide programmes and to continuously develop its business model in a difficult political, social and economic environment.
Swiss Life’s operations are oriented towards the long term. We must be able to keep promises we make to our customers for decades. That is why long-term investing plays a central role in the life insurance business. Swiss Life has crafted its investment strategy to ensure that the interest margin remains positive even when interest rates stay low for more than three decades. In addition, Swiss Life has continuously developed its business model in recent years. With its successful enhancement of asset management for third parties, owned IFA channels, modern products and new initiatives, Swiss Life has over the past years significantly increased the contribution made to its result by so-called fee business, and thus reduced its dependency on investment results. In addition to the focus on profitability, capital efficiency remains a relevant control parameter in new business.
Swiss Life reports regularly on its strategic priorities. At its Investor Day in November 2018, Swiss Life presented the plans for its Group-wide programme into 2021. With “Swiss Life 2021” the company is aiming at a continuous and yet ambitious further development of its profit sources, efficiency and distribution to shareholders, based on four strategic thrusts and comprising practical financial objectives for the period from 2019 until 2021.
Further information on the Group-wide programme and the Swiss Life Group strategy may be found in the Annual Report in the “Strategy & Brand” chapter.
At the heart of Swiss Life’s mission as an asset manager for its proprietary insurance companies and for third parties – such as pension funds, other insurers and private investors via collective investments – are the protection of customer funds and the optimal allocation of risk capital. Invested assets must be secure, profitable and liquid in their entirety. Due to the long-term nature of its liabilities, Swiss Life invests predominantly in fixed-income securities, such as government and corporate bonds, real estate and equity and infrastructure investments. And its investment decisions have always been informed by a long-term assessment of risks and returns.
In keeping with this investment philosophy, Swiss Life systematically integrates environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into its investment process and the risk management of all asset classes. This will in turn address and enhance the sustainability aspects of its risk management approach and investment decisions and assess potential consequences for climate change, among other things.
Swiss Life also orients its investment objectives to the individual requirements of its customers, who would increasingly like to consider more than simply financial matters when making investment decisions. This also means a better quality of investment portfolio. Such specific customer solutions include for example Swiss Life in Germany’s investment in 2018, via a special fund in Germany, of EUR 100 million in a bond launched by the World Bank for the financing of sustainable water projects.
As for investments in securities – including equities or corporate and government bonds – Swiss Life depends on analyses prepared by an independent international ESG research and assessment provider. This affords Swiss Life access to ESG information from over 13 000 issuers around the world, as well as early detection of risks arising from social controversy, involving such things as violations of labour law, faulty corporate governance and signs of corruption or environmental risks in relation to climate change.
With its integration of ESG information, Swiss Life aims to establish a broader information basis for its investment decisions, and thus to achieve more balanced risk coverage in its investment portfolios. Swiss Life has set out its principles for responsible investing in a position paper, available at www.swisslife-am.com/responsible-investment.
In 2018, Swiss Life signed the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) supported by the United Nations. As a result, Swiss Life is publishing its first publicly accessible PRI Transparency Report in the first quarter of 2019. During the year under review, Swiss Life also joined the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and the European Sustainable Investment Forum (EuroSIF).
As an asset manager, Swiss Life also represents its customers’ interests in the exercise of voting rights, to which end it also follows ESG criteria in its voting guidelines and subjects votes on sustainability issues to close scrutiny.
Sustainable Construction and Renovation
Swiss Life is one of Europe’s leading real estate investors and has the biggest private real estate portfolio in Switzerland. The long-term conservation, appreciation and protection of sustainable earnings is of central significance to Swiss Life. All decisions are thus oriented to a long-term property life cycle.
ESG criteria are a part of the acquisition process for real estate transactions and serve to detect risks and sharpen risk awareness. Sustainability aspects play a central role in real estate development, from feasibility studies to building decisions. This involves defining minimum energy standards, reviewing ecological risk profiles and analysing the socio-economic consequences of property development projects. Such an approach demands that real estate holdings are continuously optimised with regard to social and environmental concerns. In this endeavour Swiss Life aims to steadily reduce its energy consumption to have a positive effect on, among other things, climate change. ESG criteria are taken into account in property upkeep, in both the maintenance and renovation cycles. Swiss Life uses strategies adapted to each location to monitor attainment of financial objectives and optimisation of building sustainability.
Since 2018, Swiss Life has evaluated the sustainability of its property management using the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), which allows it to consistently measure the sustainability aspects of parts of its real estate portfolio and to integrate them into its management.
In addition to the annual GRESB review, all risks in the real estate area are continuously monitored at the property level and subject to detailed oversight using cutting-edge analytical and benchmarking methods. The focus of this scrutiny is on property and market risks as well as the early detection of structural and socio-economic changes.
Swiss Life has tested the energy efficiency of its directly held real estate portfolio in Switzerland and aims at its continuous improvement. For the latest available accounting period, 2016/2017, the energy consumption (excl. tenant electricity) of real estate holdings amounts to 103.6 kWh/m2 energy reference area (ERA), while their CO2 emissions are 19.9 kg/m2 ERA. The proportion of renewable energy is around 7%. Thanks to strategic operations optimisation measures, such as the use of more efficient building services facilities and repairs, energy consumption and CO2 emissions are to be reduced by 2023 by some 8%. In addition, with a targeted reduction of fossil fuels (gas: 54% and oil: 29%) in favour of renewable energy sources (photovoltaic, geothermal, use of river and seawater etc.), the aim is a reduction of CO2 emissions.
The growing scarcity of available building land makes increasing density a sensible strategy from an economic and an ecological standpoint, with an eye to supplying supplementary requirements for land and realising portfolio growth. An internal analysis of around 800 properties in Swiss Life’s Swiss real estate portfolio has shown that there is sustainable consolidation potential in 15% of its real estate holdings. Some 50 properties have a reserve of more than 1000 m2 of main surface area, while the remaining properties have a reserve of 300 to 1000 m2.
An example of successful consolidation is the replacement new construction at Baslerstrasse 71 in Zurich, where an aging commercial construction of 4200 m2 from 1960 is being replaced with a new residential high-rise comprising 161 apartments and commercial space of 1100 m2. By 2021, the property will comprise over 14 000 m2 of new residential and commercial space.
The Buckhauserstrasse 41 project in Zurich, where offices are also being converted into residential space, is a further example of increased density. In place of the existing office building with its 5943 m2 of office space, a new building is to go up comprising 8790 m2 of residential space, divided among 109 apartments, and 1142 m2 of commercial space.
In France in 2018, Swiss Life refined its ESG evaluation grid as part of its sustainable real estate strategy and applied it to all properties in the office, retail, apartment, hotel, healthcare facility and student housing use classes. At the same time a system for the measurement of energy efficiency was introduced. The climate risk of all properties was also analysed, with both the current risk and risks associated with the energy transition taken into account.
A calculation of the carbon footprint of all properties is planned for 2019, alongside the launch of a reporting portal to enable a uniform and comprehensive view of the sustainability performance of individual funds and mandates.
In Germany the Corpus Sireo subsidiary enjoys comprehensive expertise in sustainable property management and project development. Numerous energy-efficient new building projects have been realised, both in apartment construction and in the commercial segment. One example is the acquisition of a new construction project with LEED Platinum pre-certification in Augsburg. The property is distinguished by the following sustainability features: open-space design, a rooftop solar plant and concrete core activation to optimise heating costs. Lighting is entirely LED, while six electric filling stations are available as a contribution to ecological mobility.
At Mayfair Capital in the United Kingdom, ecological and economic sustainability aspects are also a regular element of the investment process and risk management. This involves the deliberate selection of properties that are already sustainable and enjoy good public transport connections, or those whose potential can be better exploited by means of improvements. In addition, energy consumption, waste recycling and water use are all monitored and measured. As a rule, operational optimisation measures are implemented once a property has been purchased. Such measures include the optimisation of building management systems (heating and cooling), the installation of LED lighting and motion detectors, the use of water-saving devices and the improvement of recycling facilities.
Risk and trend monitoring
All risks in the real estate area are continuously monitored at the property level and subject to detailed oversight using cutting-edge analytical and benchmarking methods. The focus of this scrutiny is on property and market risks as well as the early detection of structural and socioeconomic changes.
As a leading European provider of comprehensive life and pensions and financial solutions, the Swiss Life Group places strong emphasis on complying with environmental and social standards in its own operations. Swiss Life also demands compliance with these high sustainability standards from its external service providers and suppliers, which extends to their responsibility towards their employees, society and the environment.
Swiss Life mainly accesses products and services from the following categories:
- Professional services (advisory services for example)
- Marketing and public relations
- Human Resources
- IT services and telecoms
- IT software and IT hardware
- Facility management services (e.g. security personnel, building maintenance, cleaning) and general services (refreshments, electricity, gas etc.)
- Travel and events
Swiss Life is one of Europe’s leading real estate investors and has the biggest private real estate portfolio in Switzerland. As part of this activity, Swiss Life mainly uses external services for architecture and expert planning services plus general construction services.
Local distribution of suppliers and role of sourcing
Most of the suppliers and service providers in Switzerland are domestically based. About 20% are from the EU.
Swiss Life also works mainly with national suppliers in its other core markets of France and Germany. Foreign suppliers account for under 5% in both countries.
When working with major international companies in the IT area, Swiss Life works with its national companies wherever possible in all locations.
Sourcing at Swiss Life
Guidelines for suppliers and service providers
When concluding contracts with suppliers and service providers in France and Switzerland, Swiss Life stipulates that they must guarantee the following standards as a rule:
- Compliance with legal guidelines on working hours and ensuring working conditions that do not endanger employee health or security.
- Fulfilment of legal regulations relating to salaries, compensating overtime and payouts. – Ensuring that their employees can work in an environment free of discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, handicap or other attributes.
- Respect for employees’ rights of association and collective bargaining.
- Renunciation of child and forced labour.
- Compliance with applicable environmental and climate protection standards.
Swiss Life Germany stipulates, for example, in its contracts with partners that they must guarantee all health and safety regulations and payment of the minimum annual salary. Moreover, Swiss Life Germany checks the sustainability and recyclability of purchased products.
All companies in all locations that wish to work with Swiss Life ensure compliance with the standard statutory provisions. Evaluation of key suppliers and service providers is integrated in the Swiss Life Group risk management framework.
Swiss Life demands corrective action against any violations of agreed standards. The cooperation is terminated in the event of serious or repeated violations.
In France, Swiss Life commits to monitoring its strategic suppliers’ environmental, social and ethical risks based on the EcoVadis methodology, which is derived from a framework of 21 corporate social responsibility criteria. The methodology is oriented towards leading and recognised standards, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), “UN Global Compact” and ISO 26000, and is supervised by an international scientific committee.
Swiss Life contractually asserts its right to conduct audits of suppliers and service providers. That includes requesting, for example, confirmation of ISO certification, the validity of such certification and analysis of the underlying reports.
At its Swiss location, Swiss Life also gives priority to products and services from companies that can prove they hold a certified environmental management system (ISO 14001 or EMAS) and a general quality certification (e.g. ISO 9001 or ISAE 3402).
When issuing tenders, Swiss Life France asks standard questions on any available rating results in the area of corporate responsibility and ISO certification and decides on a case-by-case basis whether certification is required as a basis for cooperation.