WARSAW, Poland -- Aetna International Inc. is attempting to leverage its experience in Latin America into success in the embryonic Polish pension market.
Polish pension reform will be launched April 1, and Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna is one of the latest Western financial services firms to swoop in on the opportunity. Taking a 40% stake in a proposed joint venture with Powszechny Bank Kredytowy SA Warszawie (PBK), Poland's sixth-largest bank, Aetna International is trying to apply some of the lessons learned elsewhere to Poland.
Aetna was an early player in the Chilean pension market, creating AFP Santa Maria at the market's startup in 1981. Today, the Chilean entity has 15% of the Chilean market, with 1 million pension fund participants and $3.9 billion in assets under management.
Aetna is using the expertise it acquired in Chile in Poland, devoting 4,000 staff hours of its Chilean team and sending two Chileans to Poland for one to two years each, said Bruce McCoy, vice president of Aetna International in Santiago. Transferred to the Warsaw operation were Chief Operating Officer Claudio Due?as and Assistant National Sales Manager Claudio von Kretchmann.
Unlike many of its competitors in the Polish market, the joint venture -- known as Powszechne Towarzystwo Emerytalne PBK -- will rely primarily on its own sales force, projected to number 2,000 to 3,000 agents. The sales force will be full time and will not market other products, at least initially.
"The opportunity to enter the pension market in Poland fits well with the emerging markets strategy we have executed successfully in other parts of the world," said Frederick C. Copeland Jr., president and chief executive of Aetna International Inc., in a release. "Already, we have three of the largest private pension businesses in Latin America -- in Chile, Mexico and Peru -- and we expect to leverage this expertise in building our business in Poland."
Meanwhile, London-based Commercial Union Investment Management Ltd. will try to leverage its 17.5% market share of the Polish life insurance market in the Polish pension market.
"We currently have 1 million clients in life contracts. They will be part and parcel of our target market," said Ian Ainscow, a London-based director for CUIM.
Similarly, Boston-based Pioneer Group -- Poland's largest mutual fund provider with a 78% market share -- seeks to play on its brand recognition in the pension market.
Winterthur Group also has won a license to run a pension fund in Poland.
The Swiss insurer, named after its home town, is pushing into central and eastern Europe; it already has more than 400,000 workers signed up in pension funds it runs in Hungary and the Czech Republic.
In Poland, the insurer will operate the Winterthur OFE Pension Fund, which will be administered by Winterthur PTE SA, Warsaw.
Elsewhere, three other consortia have applied for pension licenses since late December, bringing the total to 22.
New entries are: an all-Polish consortium of Polsat, PAI Media, Invest-Bank and Totalizator Sportowy; a Korean-Polish group consisting of Daewoo-FSO, Polski Fundusz Kapitalowy, Fundusz Gornoslask, and Daewoo TU; and an American-Polish group of CIGNA International Holdings, Bank Wspolpracy Europejskiej, Prokom Investment, Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne, and ZNP.