Spain and Portugal are on the mend but the “region is not out of the woods yet” says ACE’s new country president for Iberia Véronique Brionne

Véronique Brionne has joined ACE as country president for Iberia in optimistic times – Spain and Portugal have inched out of recession as export activities last year pulled both countries out of a five-year, double-dip decline.

“New optimism is emerging in the region. Businesses seem keen to export more and expand their operations abroad,” says Brionne, referring to the positive GDP displayed by both countries last year when Spain’s economy expanded by 0.3% on a quarterly basis and Portugal recorded a 1.6% annual growth rate.

But Brionne was quick to add that “the economies of the region are not out of the woods” yet. Challenges remain, she warns.

Economic forecasts for 2014 suggest that both Spanish and Portuguese businesses should opt more for caution than optimism.  While Spain could experience a growth rate of 1% in 2014 according to economy minister Luis de Guindo, analysts have questioned whether this would be sufficient to create jobs for the millions of unemployed, and they also remind the government that it is still battling with a high fiscal deficit.

Similarly, economists have been quick to flag up their worries about Portugal despite its GDP upward trend. It is expected to expand by 0.8% in 2014 and 1.5 in 2015 and the country is due to exit the EU-International Monetary Fund (IMF) bail-out in May. This may on the surface appear positive, but the news of the bail-out came with a stern warning from the IMF: “While the short-term outlook has improved, unemployment, while declining, remains high and risks remain.”

Brionne’s advice to businesses in Iberia is to invest in the necessary safeguards, one of which is an insurance programme that covers all their potential threats.

She says:As [Spanish and Portuguese] multinationals expand their operations, they become more aware of the risks involved. But the question is, are businesses that are increasingly looking abroad for growth going to invest in getting the appropriate insurance cover for their operations?”

“Multinationals should opt for a programme that provides adequate cover for all their operations, both local and international.”

She adds: “Spain and Portugal are part of an increasingly globalised economy. Businesses in these countries have very similar risk profiles to companies from the rest of Europe. So the simple answer would be that companies in these countries should adopt the same strategy as businesses in the other European economies.

“They must carefully analyse the risks they are facing – and get the insurance cover that truly suits their bespoke needs.”

Brionne took up her new role as recently as three weeks ago, and has already set out her vision for the region – to build on ACE’s capabilities, supporting its clients to better respond to economic and other emerging risks.  

“We will continue to invest in building our insurance capabilities and our team in Iberia. This, combined with the access to an extended global network, allows us to help our clients deal with both already known and emerging risks and give them the insurance cover they truly need for their local and international operations.”

Brionne joined ACE from AXA, where she spent 15 years in three European countries, including more than two years in Spain. As country president for Iberia, she will also be responsible for managing the performance, strategy and development of all of the insurer’s property and casualty, accident and health and consumer lines operations in Spain and Portugal.

She succeeds Angel Diaz, who was recently appointed to the role of country president for ACE in Brazil.