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MAE: why the school insurance pioneer is struggling

You have to live with the times… That’s how MAE, this almost century-old mutual, now includes in its famous policy, which was originally designed to protect our darlings from breaking their glasses and injuries from playgrounds, a guarantee against school bullying , including on social networks. And therefore promises access to five sessions with psychologists or psychiatrists, as well as a legal hotline about our children’s e-reputation.

But that is the only modern thing about this specialist who, until a few months ago, relied on a network created in the 1950s by about a hundred permanent agencies. Or where teachers, albeit volunteers, exercised commercial management functions and received remuneration for the contracts sold. And who only appointed, including for technical positions such as internal audit manager, administrators also from the teaching environment! Rather anachronistically, the structure, which had been unchanged for years, proved particularly unsuitable as his business grew.

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From nearly 7 million school children insured at the height of its glory, the MAE has actually fallen to 2.2 million in 2021, a figure down 2.5% over a year. And if in recent years the company had managed to maintain its turnover of around one hundred million euros, it could not prevent its losses from growing. The gap thus reached 14 million euros in 2021, for a cumulative 50 million over the last five years.

And yet the story got off to a good start. Thus, a group of teachers got the idea in 1932 to collect small financial contributions from the students’ parents to form a kitty to be paid in the event of an accident involving a child. A mutual system inspired by those already in place to insure cars (Maif) or cover health costs (MGEN). From regional, the project became national, and MAE (for Mutual Education Insurance) became a true mutual in 1956: Skoleforsikringen was born.

And she seduced a lot at first. It must be said that the original way of distributing its policies gave it a virtual monopoly: the membership forms were actually communicated at the beginning of the year by the teachers and heads of institutions at the same time as the documents. . Enough to give parents confidence, because contracts still only cost 20 to 30 euros a year today…

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However, the situation began to deteriorate in the mid-1980s, when the then Minister of Education, René Monory, decided that teachers had better things to do than hand out contracts, and invited parent representatives of the students to take care of it. The MAE then merged with the main union, the FCPE. But the parents of pupils who make it up do not have the same power of prescription as the teachers. To make matters worse, the competition wakes up at the same time. On the side of the MMA, for example, which is allied with an association of parents of competing students, Peep, to place its contracts. Or traditional insurers, who are quick to point out that their multi-risk residential (MRH) contracts automatically protect children. Even today, Maaf states to 640,000 families each year that its HRM includes coverage for school and leisure activities.

To be sure, the mutual has sought to adapt, by multiplying the distribution channels and by expanding the range of its products. In 2004 it launched its own home insurance, with some success as it has 200,000 policyholders. But this risk is far from the most profitable, due to the cost of damage caused by hailstorms, storms or floods, and while the price of building materials continues to rise.

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The mutual organization didn’t help either. It is based on a simple but rather expensive idea: a mutual delegation, and therefore one agency per department, whether Hauts-de-Seine, but also Lozère or Creuse. “At some businesses, you can almost say that there were more employees than insured people,” laughs a former employee. And it is hardly better on the government side, which consists mainly, as we have seen, of volunteer teachers. Either at departmental level, through the election of delegates. or at board level. With the difference that these administrators’ travel and accommodation expenses are covered.

As for the Presidents and Vice-Presidents who are members of the National Office, detached from their teaching duties, they benefit from the reimbursement of their salaries from the MAE. And receive compensation, up to 80% of the social security ceiling. This is a monthly amount of 2,742 euros gross in 2022.

This could have lasted a long time if a complete change of management had not been decided under the watchful eye of the Prudential Control and Resolution Authority (ACPR), the sector’s supervisory body. It must be said that the equity had begun to melt. This safety cushion has thus increased from 233 million euros in 2016 to 201 million euros in 2021. “Our solvency has never been in default, but indicates that Stéphane Coste, deputy general manager, arrived from Macif in 2019 to rectify the matter. Thus, our obligations were covered up to 235% in 2021.” It is a level in line with other mutuals. Dubbed Mætamorphosis, the adopted recovery plan intends in any case to bring the reciprocity into balance for the financial year that ended at the end of August 2022.

It provides some horse funds, starting with a job protection plan that saw 160 employees leave, or nearly a third of the workforce. This is a hundred more than expected at the start, so MAE finds itself in the situation of having to recruit 50 new employees! The distribution network has been reduced by 85%. Only 14 agencies will remain, as the original goal was to retain 24. The plan has at least had the benefit of reducing the ratio of management fees charged to premiums charged from 60 to 40%. An amount that remains high for the profession, where it averages around 20%. To relaunch, the mutual already markets borrower insurance. And gives you the opportunity to pay your contributions in cash at thousands of tobacconists. Modern, we tell you!

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