Swiss Re's 150 Years Anniversary in Paris brought together more than 500 guests at l'Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild on 10 October. But the gathering was not just a celebration of this landmark moment in the company's history. It was also an opportunity for foster dialogue with clients, brokers and other stakeholders from across France's re/insurance industry through a panel discussion featuring a cross-disciplinary sample of experts discussing the financial and sociological aspects of Longevity.
The panel focused on a very practical question: How will we organize our lives and, more importantly, our societies with an increasing number of people living beyond the age of 65?
The lively discussion covered a series of aspects related to longevity -- from its philosophical to its economic implications. The panel's participants confronted two lines of thought: Living longer could be both a risk and an opportunity.
The risk is clearly that many governments do not have the financial resources to fund bigger retirement schemes. Our economic model needs to change to adapt to an older population. Working longer is one of the obvious solutions.
However, an ageing population also brings opportunities: This new "Silver economy" is likely to generate an immense new market for new and different products, such as housing for an older population.
"We see Longevity as extremely positive," said Swiss Re expert Christian Mumenthaler. "But it does pose some risks. These risks are also relevant for the insurance industry because if everyone lives longer, it often means that he/she hasn't put enough away for retirement." And who will fill that gap?
One way to address these many complex questions would be through an inter-disciplinary approach. Sociologist Serge Guérin for instance encouraged the audience and the other panel experts to think differently about ageing. Instead of discriminating against older people, employers should embrace the ageing workforce - along the lines of "Vive les vieux" or long live the old.
Additionally, philosopher Pierre-Henri Tavoillot asked the participants what does being "old" really means? Even within retirement we now have different life stages, or phases. The old perception of the three phases in life – childhood, adulthood and old age – is no longer a viable concept. "The world has fundamentally changed," he claimed.
As the longevity debate goes on, so do the options. Some ideas being shuffled include taking some time off -- "retire" for a certain amount of time before the official retirement age -- and work longer over the full span of our lives. The re/insurance industry could play a leading role in devising tailored products/solutions which could bridge a looming income gap.
What’s on your mind?
Category: Funding longer lives: Longevity risk, Pension/retirement, Social contract