Assistance insurance: a growing sector

The business of assistance is witnessing a new dynamic. This recovery, which dates back to 2005, has been felt worldwide. The market has recovered its vitality. The craft is structured around new channels which provide even larger perspectives.

Apart from the traditional sectors like motor and travel assistance, it is the health and disability-related cares as well as home services that supply new and powerful growth leverage to assistance.


Assistance refers to an operation through which an insurance company, labelled as assistance one, and submitted to the state's oversight, commits to providing assistance to insured individuals enduring hardships, especially while traveling abroad.

Assistance insurance consists in providing a timely technical, material and legal assistance, if so required by the insured person.

Assistance insurance: Different types of cover

Image provided to Microsoft by iStockphoto. Used with permission from MicrosoftTraditionally, assistance insurance relates to three main classes of business:

  • Personal accident and health assistance cover: The insurer shall cater for the repatriation of the insured person and if need be, that of the persons in charge of accompanying him or her to the nearest hospital to his or her place of residence in case of serious accident or illness as well as medical fees.
  • Motor assistance cover: The insurer shall cater for the repatriation of the insured person if his or her car is out of order or provides spare parts. The contract may include a clause pertaining to towing services or the provision of a spare car.
  • Legal assistance cover: It pertains to legal assistance, the provision of lawyer's fees as stated in the contract and if need be advancing the sums needed for the payment of a bail.

The mentioned covers are valid only in the countries mentioned in the contract.

A new context for assistance insurance

Technological progress and social changes usually generate new needs which require as many adapted services. This evolution has pushed assistance insurance to elaborate comprehensive and innovative solutions to respond, in real time, to more and more complex situations.

Apart from the recourse to networks of enlarged and varied skills in terms of offer and geographic localisation, the service providers are, henceforth, endowed with a wide range of sophisticated tools and technologies such as telematics (on-line data processing), e-medicine, cartography, the automatic transmission of information and GPS/GSM positioning systems.

The major aspects of this evolution are linked to the following phenomena:

  • The improvement of life expectancy and the aging populations
  • The growing urbanisation and its consequences on public health
  • The dissemination of information and communication technologies
  • The geographic separation of families, the growth of female labour and people's mobility
  • The boom in tourism, travel, leisure businesses along with the practice of athletic activities
  • The emergence of new risks (terrorism, scientific progress and environment)
  • The appearance of new bugs
  • The new consumer behaviours in terms of forecasts and risk control

Assistance insurance: Tailor-made and comprehensive remedies

  • In motor assistance

Used with permission from Microsoft (modified picture)Motor assistance is responding well to the social and technological mutations by adopting innovative solutions such as:

  • The development of insurance contracts without mileage exemption
  • The dissemination of on-board electronics which results in numerous interventions such as remote diagnosis of car breakdowns and the geolocalisation used to rescue customers on the spot and in record times.

With the integration of “I care” service, the giant Europe Assistance has got a firm grip on the market as the specialist of the carmaker cover. It is present at all levels including long-term car hire, car makers, repair workshops and companies endowed with a car fleet.

  • In travel assistance

Basic medical assistance is included in the products of travel agents, tour operators and in banking cards. Assistants conclude distribution agreements with service providers following invitation to tender, which results in a wild competition for the management of big accounts.

By and large, the assistance insurance's initial mission has grown bigger. It is requested to further collaborate with the states, namely on the issues of training and preparedness to crisis, to major natural catastrophes impact (for instance the December 2004 Tsunami), to public health and to the principle of precaution in relation to epidemic risks (bird flu).

The range of travel assistance contracts has been widened so as to cope with the travellers' needs. The trend is toward the multiplication of covers to promptly secure this mobile population.

Examples of travel assistance services

  • Searching for lost luggage
  • Travel cancellation
  • Organising trips for health treatments
  • Programs designed to protect banking cards
  • Legal protection
  • E-medicine
  • Second opinion (confirmation of a medical diagnosis prescribed by a doctor)
  • Management of lingering diseases
  • Interrupted holiday abroad due to an attack or to a natural catastrophe requiring transfer or repatriation
  • The replacement, in case of a failure, of the baby-sitter in charge of looking after the children staying at home
  • Services for the benefit of enterprises having collaborators on duty abroad
  • Information and prevention services dealing with health and safety risks
  • Management of dispensaries on work sites (off-shore drilling platforms, mining sites or oil fields).
  • In health and disability assistance

Image provided to Microsoft by iStockphoto. Used with permission from Microsoft That is the sector that is witnessing the most spectacular development, due namely to population booms in industrialized countries.

Services provided to individuals are changing in nature. Home intervention problems are no longer related only to disaster but are linked to the principle of permanent assistance, a genuine monitoring in terms of health, retirement and disability for the elderly. As far as assistance insurers are concerned the task consists in creating offers, not punctual ones any longer, but over time, and in adapting them to more demanding clients.

This demand for new services has pushed the operators to create service purchase terminals as well as home assistance platforms that operate in networks with a view of providing a direct contact between the consumer and the service provider.

Among the facilities that are growing rapidly: e-assistance (remote surveillance, or remote control alarm) which provides remote control surveillance of individuals and property.
It provides an electronic surveillance assistance that connects the subscribed member's home to a network of emergency service providers. The system is steered by a specialized operator in a tapping terminal.

Assistance insurance: Market trends

The two major markets for assistance insurance are France and the United States which have developed a considerable experience under different schemes. In many countries, assistance insurance covers are due to witness a great boost, especially in Japan, the European Union, Canada and eventually in Asia where the Chinese insurance market is looming like an Eldorado up for grab.

The year 2005 has marked the return to growth of the world market of assistance which reported an 8% increase in comparison with 2004.
As to the French market, which thanks to a turnover of 1.2 billion EUR (1.421 billion USD) in 2005, has reported a 9% increase with the market poised to grow by 10% as regards home assistance services up to 2010.

Assistance insurance: Some figures about the market leaders

Mondial Assistance

Set up in 2000, the group Mondial Assistance is the fruit of a merger of the Swiss company Elvia travel Insurance and the French firm SACNAS-Mondial Assistance, followed in 2001 by the take-over of World Access (United States), of Worldcare (Australia) and AutoAssist (Thailand).

The group's shares are equally held by the French AGF and the Italian RAS, both members being members of the German group Allianz.
Mondial Assistance accounts for 33 operational centres scattered around 25 countries and employs 8000 staff members. It relies on an international network of 400 000 service providers and 240 correspondents.
It carries out 10 million interventions per year.

Worldwide turnover in 2005 amounted to 924 million EUR (1 094 million USD).

Europe Assistance

Regarded as the creator of assistance insurance, the group with the biggest penetration to Europe includes 62 companies consolidated throughout 33 countries and employs 4 500 staff members. It has 402 000 referenced service providers, 208 correspondents and 35 telephone platforms throughout the world.

Worldwide turnover in 2005 amounts to 777.2 million EUR (920 million USD) (+21.4% compared to 2004).

AXA Assistance Monde

AXA Assistance is operating in more than 30 countries and accounts for more than 3 600 collaborators all over the world.

Worldwide turnover in 2005 amounts to 621 million EUR (735 million USD).

Mapfre Asistencia

Leader in Spain and Latin America, Mapfre Asistencia accounts for 15 600 staff members employed in 205 companies scattered around 58 countries. It runs a portfolio of 60 million insured people.

31% of the company's operations are carried out in Spain while the remainder 69% account for the company's international activities.

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