Cementia Holding, the Zurich-based Swiss sister company of French cement group Lafarge, uses Swiss Life for its company death and invalidity cover, but not for any part of its pension provisions, an arrangement considered fairly rare amongst Swiss companies.

Willy Meier, vice director of human resources and pensions explains: Some Swiss companies operate their entire pensions and life cover through insurance groups, so we are a little different in that respect. Consequently we have quite an unusual relationship with Swiss Life and there can be some problems with administration details de-pending on who we are dealing with at the company."

This is an issue, he believes, that lies firmly in the court of Swiss Life. "We may be a special case but Swiss Life is a big enough company to accommodate our needs, so this is their problem," he adds.

Overall though Meier says he is satisfied with the insurance provision provided, despite stressing that fortunately the company has had no recourse for Swiss Life's services during the 20 years of cover.

On the pensions side, Cementia operates its asset management through two banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, using special investment funds, having switched from in-house management several years ago. However, the company still retains autonomous control over benchmarks and asset allocation.

Meier declares himself satisfied with the competitive aspect of the fees charged by Swiss Life for cover.

"This is essential, because as a small company we cannot afford to take on the insurance risk nor use the services of a captive insurer," he says.

However, he explains that it would not be possible in any case for Cementia to change its insurance, due to a binding agreement to retain cover in its present form, brought in by Lafarge as part of the takeover contract in 1990.

Any benefit/insurance decisions now have to be prompted by the mother group. With this in mind, a European insurance sector makes little difference to Cementia, Meier offers, due to its hands-off situation.

"In any case, the Swiss market is very safe due to the state cover of the AHV social security regulator, which protects against insolvency problems. And the Swiss insurance field is also very good on a service to price ratio.That's not to say though that Swiss companies will not look cross-border into Europe for possible better cost savings in insurance, should that prove to be the realitywith a more sectorial development," he says."