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Etera restructures after a poor year

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Helsinki-based Etera Mutual Pension Insurance has revamped its organisation with three new business units in a bid to increase efficiency and make the most of its new insurance system.

“We are simply looking for efficiencies to the benefit of our customers,” Stefan Björkman, deputy managing director of Etera, told IPE.

The company’s three new business units are customer relations and insurance; work capacity and pensions; and investment and corporate finance.

The restructuring is part of the company’s Etera 2020 programme which includes savings initiatives as well as investments for the future, Björkman said.

Björkman is due to take over as managing director of Etera at the beginning of August when the current managing director, Hannu Tarkkonen, retires. He came to the firm at the beginning of February from Aktia Bank, where he was deputy managing director.

As part of the restructuring, executive vice president Timo Hietasen will lead the first of Etera’s new business units, increasing his current responsibilities to cover customer relations work as well as insurance.

Tuula Kallio, who was Etera’s director of communications, legal affairs and planning, will take charge of the second unit – capacity for work and pensions. Jari Puhakka will continue to serve as leader of investment and corporate finance.

Björkman said restructuring consisted of two major elements: ”We have simplified our management structure and are leveraging the new insurance system that is now in operation after a few years of investment and intensive work. Much focus is on retaining our excellent service levels, but with less cost.”

He also said there would be no change to the core of the pension insurer’s investment strategy, and Etera still offered a great alternative as a workplace pensions provider.

“Our DNA is based on temporary employment and handling varied-job careers. 

“It’s a good position to build from, especially now that we have the systems to truly support us in this work,” he said.

In addition to the three business units, Etera now has four support functions – actuarial services; human resources, communications and legal affairs, information management, and finance and risk control.

The management team consists of managing director, three business leaders and chief actuary, it said, with the support unit managers included in the extended management team.

Earlier this year, Etera described its investment returns in 2013 of just 0.3% as disappointing and Tarkkonen said the investment strategy had not worked.

Etera’s 2013 investment returns were flat, at 0,3%, and its solvency ratio weakened to 15.2% at end-2013 compared with 21.3% the year before. In December, it denied media claims it might merge with another Finnish mutual pension insurance company in 2014.

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