MAE: why the school insurance pioneer is struggling

You have to live with the times… This is how the MAE, this nearly century-old mutual, now includes in its famous insurance, initially designed to protect our darlings against the breakage of their glasses and injuries from playgrounds, a guarantee against school bullying, including on social networks. And promises, therefore, access to five sessions of psychologists or psychiatrists, as well as a legal hotline on the e-reputation of our children.

But that’s the only thing modern about this specialist who, until a few months ago, relied on a network set up during the 1950s of around a hundred permanent agencies. Or in which teachers, however volunteers, exercised commercial management functions, and received remuneration on the contracts sold. And who only appointed, including to technical positions such as that of internal audit manager, administrators also from the teaching environment! Rather anachronistic, the structure, which had remained unchanged for years, proved to be particularly unsuitable as his business grew.

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From nearly 7 million schoolchildren insured at the height of its glory, the MAE has indeed fallen to 2.2 million in 2021, a number down 2.5% over one year. And, if the mutual had managed in recent years to maintain its turnover around a hundred million euros, it could not prevent its losses from widening. The hole thus reached 14 million euros in 2021, for a cumulative fifty million over the last five years.

And yet, the story was off to a good start. A group of teachers thus had the idea, in 1932, of collecting small financial contributions from the parents of pupils, in order to constitute a kitty to be paid in the event of an accident of 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 the MAE (for Mutual education insurance) became a real mutual in 1956: school insurance was born.

And she initially seduced a lot. It must be said that the initial mode of distribution of its policies gave it a virtual monopoly: the membership forms were indeed communicated at the beginning of the year by the teachers and the heads of establishments, at the same time as the documents. registration administration. Enough to give parents confidence, for contracts still costing only 20 to 30 euros per year today…

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However, the situation began to deteriorate in the mid-1980s, when René Monory, the Minister of Education at the time, decided that teachers had better things to do than distribute contracts, and invited representatives of parents to students to take care of it. The MAE then joined forces with the main federation, the FCPE. But the parents of pupils who constitute it 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 a federation of parents of competing students, the Peep, to place its contracts. Or traditional insurers, who are quick to point out that their multi-risk home contracts (MRH) automatically protect children. Even today, the Maaf indicates each year to 640,000 families that its HRM includes coverage for school and extracurricular activities.

Admittedly, 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, since it has 200,000 policyholders. But this risk is far from being the most profitable, due to the cost of damage caused by hailstorms, storms or floods, and while the price of building materials continues to increase.

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The mutual organization did not help either. It starts from a simple idea, but rather costly: a mutualist delegation, and therefore one agency per department, whether it is Hauts-de-Seine, but also Lozère or Creuse. “In some outlets, you could almost say that there were more employees than insured,” laughs a former employee. And it is hardly better on the governance side, essentially made up, as we have seen, of volunteer teachers. Either at departmental level, through the election of delegates. or at board level. With the difference that the travel and accommodation expenses of these administrators are then covered.

As for the presidents and vice-presidents who are members of the national office, detached from their teaching duties, they benefit from reimbursement of their salary by the MAE. And receive compensation, up to 80% of the social security ceiling. That is a monthly amount of 2,742 euros gross in 2022.

This could have lasted a long time, if a complete change of governance 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 equity was starting 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, however indicates Stéphane Coste, the deputy general manager, arrived from Macif in 2019 to straighten out the case. Thus, our commitments were covered up to 235% in 2021.” That is a level in line with other mutuals. Baptized Mætamorphosis, the recovery plan adopted intends in any case to bring the mutual to balance for the financial year ended at the end of August 2022.

It provides some horse remedies, starting with a job protection plan, which saw 160 employees leave, or nearly a third of the workforce. This is a hundred more than expected at the start, so that the 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, when the initial objective was to keep 24. The plan has at least had the merit of reducing from 60 to 40% the ratio between the management fees charged and the amount of premiums collected. An amount that remains high for the profession, where it is around 20% on average. To relaunch, the mutual already markets borrower insurance. And allows you to pay your contributions in cash, at a thousand tobacconists. Modern, we tell you!

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