Generali’s global headquarters in Trieste, Italy is only a few hours away by car from Milan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that erupted in the country in mid-February. That means the worsening situation has hit particularly close to home for the global property/casualty insurer.
Italy reported 24,747 coronavirus/COVID-19 confirmed cases as of the evening of Sunday March 15, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, which is tracking global cases. Out of that number, 2,335 people have recovered so far, and 1,809 people have died from COVID-19 complications thus far. Italy’s growing onslaught of coronavirus cases continue to leave it with the biggest COVID-19 outbreak outside of China, which had more than 81,000 confirmed cases as of March 15, Johns Hopkins said.
Generali, a global giant with nearly 70,000 employees, is also Italy’s largest property/casualty insurer, and writes 36 percent of its gross written premiums there, according to 2018 statistics the company lists on its website. Mindful of a sizable employee base in its home country, a Generali spokesperson told Carrier Management via email that the company began to address the worsening situation several weeks ago, with a combination of new policies and enhancements of a few workplace practices already in place. (Generali declined to provide a precise employee locational breakdown).
Initially, Generali established a task force several weeks ago designed to monitor coronavirus news as it evolves and establish appropriate policies and procedures.
“Our Group has identified and put into action the most appropriate measures and has implemented a series of rules and norms effective as of Feb. 24th,” the spokesperson said via an extensive email statement.
One of the first actions Generali executives implemented was to extend its “smart working” initiative for all working days to employees who live in cities or towns that are identified “or will be progressively identified by local authorities as restricted areas” in Italy, the spokesperson said. Generali’s smart-working initiative began in March 2016 with a goal of enabling its employees to work remotely for two days a week arming them with necessary equipment to do so such as laptops and company smartphones, according to the company’s web site. That initial program was later expanded to operations in France, Spain and Hungary through 2018 and Generali said those staff members can use the expanded program as well “for the maximum number of days that is allowed by contract.”
For its home operations in particular, Generali said it has taken multiple additional steps to reduce disease transmission.
“In an ongoing effort to be prudent and cautious, events, meetings and business trips have been reorganized to guarantee the minimum risk of contagious physical contact,” the Generali spokesperson said. “Generali will use existing technology (e.g. video conferences, etc.), and will also take the appropriate measures for the sanitization of its different office locations.”
The spokesperson added that since Feb. 23, it has asked all of its employees in Italy to follow guidelines issued by the country’s Ministry of Health, and said employees in all of its “main office locations” will “be provided with on-site medical assistance.”
For employees heading to an office, Italy requires companies to pursue increased cleaning and sanitization of common areas, provide masks and gloves, stop travel and face-to-face meetings and submit to getting temperature checks before entering the building. Anyone with a fever must stay home and call their doctor and health officials, according to the policy.
The Generali spokesperson declined to elaborate, or give employee locational breakdowns, noting that “the situation in Italy is in flux” and said the company preferred to stick to its “approved statement for right now.”
Since March 11, (initially just for Northern Italy on March 9), Italy has prevented its citizens from leaving their homes except for work or health needs, and public gatherings have been avoided. Only stores that sell basic necessities are allowed open, its Ministry of Health said.
Similar to restrictions spreading across Europe and the U.S., the country has also banned sporting events, and closed schools and universities, in Italy, at least until April 3.
On March 13, Generali announced it would create a fund of up to $112 million to help countries facing the coronavirus crisis. A first phase of that fund will focus on companies in Italy. News of the action came as Generali reported $5.8 billion in operating profit for 2019, helped by growth across all of its businesses. The company also said it will meet all of its financial targets.