<IR> Insurance Network: Getting to grips with <IR>

3 February, 2015

The <IR> Insurance Network was set up just over five months ago. We wanted it to be very practical – a network that would help companies get to grips with the realities of Integrated Reporting (and not just the theory!).

Just to give you the background – the IIRC first floated the idea of an insurance network, and we were asked to co-chair the group, along with the Italian insurer Generali. Also involved were Mazars, the consulting firm – who’ve done an incredible amount of research and coordination work over the past few months.

Our aims for the network were quite straightforward:

  •  To share our experience as integrated reporters – from both ends of the scale – what worked and, just as importantly, what didn’t
  • To discuss how the <IR> Framework could be applied by insurance companies, given changes in their operating environment (changing regulations, uncertain economic conditions, the arrival of new technologies and so on…)
  • To provide feedback to the IIRC, increase communication between insurers and, more broadly, to support the whole movement towards Integrated Reporting.

So far, we think the network has been a success. We’re putting together a business case which can be used by other companies to support the case for Integrated Reporting. The business case is due for publication in early 2015 – and we’re about to embark on perhaps the most interesting phase: gathering feedback from investors and insurance associations on what they expect to see from corporate reporting.

We’ve also been steadily expanding the network. We now have representation from across Europe, including some of the continent’s leading insurers, and we were recently joined by the South African insurer, Discovery. Of course, we can always go further – the more companies we bring in, the more effective the network will be.

As a company, Aegon made the switch to Integrated Reporting fairly early. We’re now busy with our fourth integrated report, which will be out in March next year. Both we and Generali have experience to share – particularly when it comes to subjects like management buy-in, materiality and the use of different reporting frameworks. But we’re also learning a lot from other members of the network. After all, we’re all grappling with the same issues and the same reporting rules.

For the insurance industry, we think Integrated Reporting represents a real opportunity: to build public trust, to give a much better and more complete view of performance and to explain how the industry creates value for society. For us, the key benefit has been in transforming Integrated Reporting into genuine integrated thinking. This is where we’ve seen the most progress: where reporting, perhaps surprisingly in some areas, plays a role in encouraging a change in thinking, simply by raising questions, or making connections that wouldn’t have otherwise been made.

In our view, the opportunity goes further. Insurance, along with banking, has an important function as an investor. If we apply some of the basic principles of Integrated Reporting to the way we invest – especially when it comes to value creation and impact on ‘capitals’ (not just financial, but also human, natural etc.) – we can help drive positive change in other sectors. Insurance, we think, could help expand the use of Integrated Reporting, and could be instrumental in helping improve corporate reporting. The <IR> Insurance Network, we hope, is just the first step in this direction.