Buzzwords such as the ageing population, diversity in the workplace, and the need for flexibility, are on everyone’s lips these days. In most cases, these are associated initially with additional costs and tough challenges. There’s always a flip side, however: what appears problematic from one point of view can also be seen as an opportunity for business innovation.

As a global employee benefits provider, we see ageing as more than just one of several major social changes now taking place, such as globalizing economies, continuing urbanisation, and rapidly evolving technology. Ageing is a key challenge, and as such also a major opportunity.

People in developed and many developing economies are having fewer children, often live in one-person households, and are thus less likely to live with older generations. With declining support from families, new ways are needed to ensure the well-being of the world’s growing number of older citizens without loading the entire burden onto younger generations.

The level of longevity is related to multiple factors, including gender, genetics, access to healthcare, and crime rates – which often depend on geography and economic development. Nonetheless, there are obvious differences between life expectancy in developed countries and in developing countries. 

 
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There are also differences in the speed at which life expectancy is increasing. Not only are we seeing rising numbers of old people, but also increasingly fast growth of the oldest sector of the population. The “oldest old” (people aged 85 or older) constitute 8% of the world’s 65-and-over population, accounting for 12% in more developed countries, and 6% in less developed countries. In many countries, this group is the fastest growing sector of the total population.

Longevity means that older people spend many more years in retirement. As well as causing obvious problems for retirement and healthcare financing, this also creates a challenge for workforce resource planning. Western Europe and North America in particular face shortages of know-how and talent as more people leave for retirement than join the workforce.

What is the flip side? How can these challenges be seen as an opportunity to tap new business potential and new markets? We can illustrate this with a few concrete examples.

New ideas and youth can be optimally complemented by experience, business networks, and sometimes even access to financial support from retirees. Young retirees are often glad to share their knowledge by acting as business advisors or business angels. Numerous organisations around the globe have been founded to tap into this potential.

One example is Innovage, an independent Swiss association set up in 2006 as a platform for 150 retired or soon-to-be retired executives and professionals from business, government, education, consulting and the media, who offer their experience and knowledge free of charge to younger people setting up social projects. Another example is the SCORE Association (previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives), which provides free business mentoring services to entrepreneurs in the United States.

Furthermore, retirees are an important and growing customer segment that needs very specific products and services. These extend from tailor-made travel or leisure services adapted to the requirements of elderly persons, to products and services needed beyond retirement, such as financial planning, ongoing wealth accumulation services, and health and life insurance.

This is why we are working to expand our offering beyond retirement in order to provide employee benefit-type solutions after retirement as well. This issue of “Global Employee Benefits” includes several illustrations of innovative solutions offered by our Network Partners to take care of customer needs after retirement.

While ageing is a key challenge and opportunity for us, we also consider the high level of diversity in the workplace, increased requests for flexibility and sustainability, and continuously evolving technology – and the combination of these trends - as an opportunity to respond with matching solutions to help our customers manage these challenges successfully. Whether the challenges occur before retirement, during employment, or after retirement, the Swiss Life Network can help.

Read on in this issue of 'Global Employee Benefits' to see examples of innovative approaches by our Network Partners, as we work hard to remain at the forefront of innovative global employee benefit solutions and support our clients in today’s fast changing world.

Swiss Life is in top shape

The Swiss Life Group achieves profitable growth, increasing premium income by 7% to CHF 19.1 billion and net profit by 4% to CHF 818 million.

Please click on the link below to see all 2014 key figures.