Learn from the wise.

This advice is very common in our culture.

And the wise usually mean the elderly.

But Jörg Arnold, CEO of Swiss Life in Germany, simply reverses this relation.

A decade ago he met Father Martin, abbot of the Einsiedeln monastery.

Philip Krohn

Editor in business, responsible for "People and Business".

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Their conversation dealt with the question of what managers can learn from the Benedictines.

In the monastery, Martin explained to him, he goes to the old people for simple decisions.

But when he has something difficult to decide, he asks the boys.

He wishes the same for long-term social challenges.

The young affect her more than the old, so her voice has a special weight.

When Arnold spoke to representatives of the federal Department of Justice last year about how pension provision could be improved, he advised offering more financial education.

But faster solutions were needed, he noticed.

"We put off issues that need to be tackled, but we don't do it," he says in an interview with the FAZ. "The younger generation has no voice in a complex debate."

The state and budgets have to balance tasks

As a provider of life insurance and financial advice, intergenerational equity is an important issue.

It is about better balancing the tasks of the state and private households.

Through private relationships, he deals a lot with old-age provision in Sweden.

Although a share pension is anchored there in the statutory pillar of old-age provision, this obligatory first pillar provides just 55 percent of the retirement income.

In Germany, on the other hand, more than 70 percent came from the first pillar.

This system can be built more stable.

As a financial service provider with an average young audience, Swiss Life regularly asks customers about their preferences.

The younger generation is prepared to treat financial issues differently than the older generation.

Here the conversation with the Benedictine Father Martin seems to have proved its worth.

“After health and travel, the most common dream in the last survey was self-determination at 35 percent.

That includes financial self-determination,” says Arnold.

The stock culture of younger people, which has recently become much stronger, fits in with this change in values.

The three pillars are sustainable, but can be expanded

From the point of view of the Swiss Life manager, there are good elements in each of the three pillars (statutory, company, private) of old-age provision.

Discussions with trade unions have shown that they understand and approve of the logic of company pensions without an interest guarantee based on the social partner model.

“I experience the trade unions as ready.

I don't experience many politicians like that," he criticizes.

They delayed necessary reforms and thus shifted financial burdens to the future and thus to the younger generation.

"Topics that require staying power are given far too little priority for us," he says.

When it comes to national debt, public infrastructure, climate change and digitization, action is not being taken early enough due to political problems that are currently appearing to be urgent.

"We have to tackle the long-term pension issue and need a good division of labor between the state and the private sector," he says.

Saving with state subsidies is the right thing to do

Together with the other life insurers, he is ready to offer good solutions in the private pillar.

But the guarantee obligation in the subsidized Riester pension prevents investments with attractive returns because too much money is needed to secure the guarantees.

But the basic idea of ​​saving with state subsidies is correct.

"If people keep reading in the newspaper that the system is inadequate and doesn't work, that's the wrong message," he says.

Society must understand that the poor performance of Riester providers is mainly due to the fact that government regulations mean that too little can be invested in shares.

"We have to move away from the gross premium guarantee towards material value orientation," he demands.

Insurers also contributed to the negative reputation with high costs.

"Young people need an institutionalized voice to implement what Father Martin is doing in the monastery," says Arnold.

Better financial education is important and does not fall from the sky.

Too little is said about the consequences of delayed reforms and lessons are learned from mistakes.

And investors would have to take on the role of contributing to the renewal of the infrastructure again.

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