In the past year, our promise to be a supporter of the lives of our stakeholders was put to the test. The devastating impact of the pandemic on a personal, social, and economic level was felt across the globe. We reached out to those most touched by the pandemic in society to offer a helping hand, we tried to reduce the financial burden of the pandemic, and at times we were just a friendly voice on the end of a phone. We provided some practical support where we could to ensure people did not feel they were alone in this struggle.
In each local market we firstly looked at whether we could adapt and extend existing covers. As an example, we extended health insurance to cover COVID-19. But we also focused on those people who day in and day out were on the front line risking their own lives to secure ours. We offered free cover for medical staff and COVID-19 volunteers, providing them with peace of mind.
"Award-winning video about the COVID-19 Health Professionals coverage extension”
But our outreach went well beyond product extensions. There are far too many examples to do justice to them all, so here are a few very small examples of Ageas in action around the world.
AG in Belgium felt the pain and the impact COVID-19 was having on its customers, both private individuals and entrepreneurs. For small businesses, hospitality operators and SMEs 2020 was a particularly tough year. To stimulate the local economy AG gave 200,000 customers 20-euro vouchers to spend with those of our local business clients most impacted by the crisis, to give them some extra support.
2020 was a particularly tough year for Interparking, with COVID-19 having quite some impact on the take-up of parking spaces due to lockdown restrictions keeping people at home. Despite this, Interparking generously offered several hundred free parking cards for its car parks to the medical staff of hospitals in Brussels and Antwerp, as well as the fire brigade and police, who struggled to find parking spaces in streets occupied by stay-at-home residents. And in Bergamo, Italy, for so long at the epicentre of the pandemic, Interparking donated the turnover from the hospital parking lots entirely to the hospital. It also offered financial support to other hospitals where the company is active. Interparking operates car parks across Europe and is 51% owned by AG Real Estate.
Ageas UK contributed to an industry-wide call to action, contributing to the ‘COVID-19 Support Fund’. This initiative specifically provides relief to charities and the most vulnerable in society affected by the pandemic.
Some £7 million of the COVID-19 Support Fund was donated to charities supporting dementia. This included a long-term partner of Ageas in the UK, ‘Age UK’, who were able to scale up a pilot programme, setting up 180 COVID-proof support groups across the country.
In Portugal, the Ageas Foundation donated 66 internet enabled PC’s and laptops to 50 children and to five institutions working with children and young people to facilitate home study. The objective was to minimise the impact of distance and remote learning on the most vulnerable children who may not have access to a computer or the internet.
As the owner-manager of among others seven shopping centres in Belgium, AG Real Estate recognised that the impact of lockdown on retailers used to welcoming some 150,000 visitors a day was particularly hard-hitting. To compensate for the loss, AG Real Estate offered a 50% discount on commercial rent for the period covering the lockdown (from March to May 2020) with staggered payments thereafter, and for those in the food and beverage industry no rent was collected during this period.