Bancassurance Not So Sure, As Big Deals Fail

March 1, 2001

CGNU’s recent announcement that it was selling 2 percent of its 6.8 percent holding in French bank Société Générale to its new partner UniCredito Italiano, marked the end of the line for its hopes to build a bancassurance network in France. At the same time the marathon negotiations between Allianz and Deutsche Bank appear to be nearing an end with little hope for an agreement.

While sales of insurance products through retail banks – “bancassurance”- is quite common in Europe, some of the larger banks seem to be reluctant to turn their branch networks into insurance agencies.

When CGU doubled its 3.1 percent stake in Soc Gen in July 1999, it effectively saved the bank from becoming an unwilling partner in a tripartite merger with two other French banks, BNP and Paribas. At the time it was widely anticipated that there would be further cooperation between the companies, but, despite protracted negotiations, no deal was made.

CGNU CEO Bob Scott told the Financial Times that the, “best brains had been applied to it – but we can’t make it work for both of us.” He indicated that the insurer would continue to expand in France through its existing network with agents and investment advisors.

The attempt by Deutsche Bank to take over Dresdner Bank, in which Allianz has a 21 percent stake, failed, but the two companies continued negotiations. Allianz wants access to Deutsche Bank’s retail network, particularly Bank 24, DB’s successful on line venture.

However, as the talks dragged on, it became apparent that little progress was being made. Now both sides have indicated that a top level meeting, scheduled to be held soon between Allianz CEO Henning Scholte-Noelle and its financial head, Paul Achleitner and DB’s former Chairman Rolf Breuer and his successor Josef Ackermann, will be “make or break.” Most analysts feel that no agreement will be reached.

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