The interests of our members and customers are central to everything we do. All the services we provide are aimed at helping the bereaved and supporting the connection between people and generations. Partly thanks to our focus on excellent service, customer satisfaction has increased across all activities of the cooperative. Through our cooperative panel, we involve customers in improving our products and services.
DELA is committed to increasing the number of policyholders so that we can achieve economies of scale in purchasing and keep premiums as low as possible. Despite a shrinking market in the Netherlands, we had a robust net growth in the number of policyholders in 2018. The increase in Belgium was relatively stronger than in the Netherlands: this is where DELA has the most potential for further growth. DELA has also been active in the German market since the spring of 2018, and has got off to a promising start. In total, we had some 123,000 policyholders more at the end of 2018 than a year before.
DELA has core markets and new markets.
Our core markets are the Netherlands and Belgium
According to our long-term scenarios, it seems inevitable that the funeral insurance portfolio – the heart of our activities – will shrink in the Netherlands. At the same time, the funeral market as a whole will grow strongly due to the expected demographic developments. This will require a reconsideration of our core products and markets, which must result in new ways to connect people to the cooperative before, during and after a funeral. This can be achieved by making improvements to the current insurances we offer, by finding new ways to fund funerals or by introducing new forms of membership. This will enable us to serve more customers in the growing uninsured funeral market.
Belgium is our second core market, with very different growth prospects – in the long term, this market may still triple in size. Sustaining growth, as well as realising synergies between insurance and service, is the challenge in this context. Our insurance company takes care of the financial security of funerals, while our funeral services assist surviving relatives with funerals, crematoriums, repatriation and bereavement services.
Perspective for new markets: start in Germany
An exploration of possibilities in other countries in Europe has found opportunities for growth in several places, especially for entering markets via insurance. The basic principle here is that all growth abroad is at the service of the total cooperative. The German market is very large and our first point of order is to establish more of a presence there. This is why DELA opened an office in Düsseldorf in 2018.
The size of our total portfolio, measured by the number of policyholders, is a major priority for DELA. Despite the shrinking market for individual life insurance policies, we again achieved significant growth in 2018 across all three product groups: funeral insurance, life insurance and savings insurance. The broadening of our services means we do not just provide more for our existing members and customers, but also attract new policyholders. The consolidated organic net growth was some 81,200 new policyholders (this figure was approximately 80,500 in 2017). Including non-organic growth, the total net increase was around 123,000 policyholders.
Number of policyholders per product at the end of the year and increase during the year under review
|Nederland Uitvaartplan (funerals)||2,897,923||+10,758||2,887,165|
|Nederland Leefdoorplan (life insurance)||282,153||+25,994||256,159|
|Nederland Spaarplan (savings)||38,279||+5,221||33,058|
|Total for the Netherlands||3,218,355||+41,973||3,176,382|
The year 2018 was very good for funeral insurance. In the Netherlands, both new revenue –largely realised online – and the existing portfolio produced good results. DELA's share in the Dutch funeral insurance market increased in 2018 and is now 39.1% (37.2% in 2017). As the funeral insurance market is still developing in Belgium the growth opportunities are even greater than in the Netherlands. The organic net growth in the number of policyholders was more than 35,100 in Belgium in 2018 (around 33,600 in 2017). In addition, the acquisition of the Belgian insurance portfolio of Hooghenraed, completed on 1 October, led to a migration of approximately 41,800 policies to DELA. At the end of 2018, DELA Belgium had a total of 835,392 policyholders, no less than 10.1% more than one year previously. At the end of October, DECAVI proclaimed the DELA funeral care plan the best funeral insurance policy for the second year in a row. A funeral insurance policy was also developed for the German market in 2018 and will be introduced in 2019.
Surrender of funeral insurance
As of 1 May 2018, deposits that include the previously surrendered amount of the funeral insurance can be surrendered. Since 2015, The Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) indicated that surrender should be made possible for new funeral insurance policies. DELA is a cooperative in which the members have the final vote. The surrender policy was adopted unanimously in the general meeting and implemented on 1 January 2017. A major difference with the previous scheme is that the calculated surrender value is paid out directly and no longer mandatorily placed in the deposit fund. This is under the condition that the surrender value before reduction is higher than a fixed minimum amount. In the old scheme, we did not pay out cash as the legislation and regulations did not allow insurance companies to do so. The surrender value would go into the DELA Deposit Fund instead. The amounts in this fund are supplemented annually by a good healthy interest rate. The built-up amount is released after death, allowing descendants to use it for the funeral.
Net growth in life insurance policies was around 26,000 in the Netherlands (approximately 32,500 in 2017). This score was hit in the year under review by the challenging housing market, which makes it difficult for first-time home owners to get mortgages and means fewer life insurance policies are sold. Life insurance policies are mainly sold through intermediary channels. DELA is seeing increasing competition in the Netherlands. In Germany, where DELA started offering life insurance in 2018, the circumstances are different. Life insurance is already a well-known product on the German market. In its first year of operation, DELA Germany sold no fewer than 4,100 policies and received an excellent (A) rating for solvency and stability from rating agency Assekurata, as well as a five-star rating for its products from Morgen & Morgen. We are very proud of these performances. DELA is not yet widely known in Germany, but the Dutch have a good reputation there for being reliable and friendly. The idea of a cooperative is also attractive to Germans.
DELA also offers savings insurance on the Dutch market. This is a good way for consumers to put money aside for the long term at a fixed interest rate of 2.00%. This product offers a worthwhile alternative to banks now that they offer such low interest rates. Savings insurance policyholders deposit a periodical or one-off amount and receive a guaranteed amount at the end of the term. DELA renewed its savings insurance product on 1 January 2018, partly in relation to new European regulations (PRIIPs). The net increase in our number of savings insurance policyholders in the Netherlands was approximately 5,200 (8,800 in 2017). The decrease compared to the previous year is due to our interest rate adjustment at the start of the year. Towards the end of 2018 we again started seeing an increase in the volume of savings insurance policies.
The increase in the number of policyholders across the full range of our products and markets was, of course, not automatic. DELA has an active marketing approach which seeks an ideal balance between commercial goals (appropriate to our objective of becoming as large as possible) and restraint (suiting our brand and products). We choose to engage in an active dialogue about socially relevant events. We use posts on social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook to communicate about DELA and passing away.
We have implemented a range of campaigns in the Netherlands in which marketing automation and one-to-one marketing became even more prominent. As well as increasing the effectiveness of campaigns in the modern digital media landscape, this ensures a better customer focus. In 2018, DELA Netherlands developed new propositions for the private funeral market that went live in September. There has also been work on the translation of the very successful ‘Waarom Wachten’ (‘Why Wait’) brand campaign from 2012 into an updated version. This campaign will be rolled out in 2019 and run for several years.
My memory of you (Je ne t’oublierai jamais)
Funeral specialist DELA aims to help people before, during and after the funeral. In light of this mission, DELA developed an online tool called ‘My memory of you’ together with bereavement specialists and bereavement therapist Lies Scaut to help children grieve. The fact that children mourn lost ones too is sometimes overlooked.
The app focuses on children in elementary school and aims to provide support with the bereavement process by keeping the memory of the deceased alive. The app’s main characters, Leon and Marie, take the child on a journey through the labyrinth of bereavement, and help them create a world of memories.
As children often have a wrong impression of everything related to funerals, the deceased or viewings, we developed an educational segment with informative videos on saying goodbye to loved ones. This way they can start the bereavement process well-prepared and with the right expectations.
DELA Belgium conducted the media campaign ‘U bent onvergetelijk maar niet onsterfelijk’ ('You are unforgettable but not immortal') using the song Unforgettable (1952) by Nat King Cole. This included a successful radio campaign. In addition, there were several online campaigns throughout the year, regular posts on Facebook and publicity provided by PR. An important way to improve customer awareness and the idea of DELA as ‘Belgium’s foremost funeral specialist’ is also an active, visible presence in the field of public information.
DELA owes its success to a combination of insurance and care. Our employees offer concrete help and support our members and their relatives with advice and assistance. Originally this meant mainly taking care of the funeral, but the assistance that DELA offers has been expanded in recent years. At the end of 2018, DELA had a total of 145 funeral venues, including 25 crematoriums and 82 funeral homes.
In the Netherlands, over 153,000 people passed away in 2018 – more than had been projected by the mortality tables. This led to a busy period, especially in the first quarter. This was compounded by the fact that DELA had also strengthened its market share in private funerals. The number of funerals in Belgium fell slightly, however. Here, the focus was on strengthening the internal organisation, and we were aiming to achieve growth through acquisitions. The number of cremations in Belgium decreased, partly due to the fact that cremations in the city of Hasselt are no longer provided by DELA.
The total number of funerals in 2018 was approximately 44,900, a rise compared to 2017 of almost 1,300 funerals. This increase was recorded entirely in the Netherlands: the number of funerals in Belgium fell slightly compared to 2017, by around 300. The share of private funerals in the Netherlands rose every quarter in 2018, albeit gradually, ultimately going from 17% to 18%. In the four quarters of 2017, the proportion of private funerals fluctuated between 15% and 16%. This is a good development. The funeral company in Belgium, on the other hand, focuses primarily on the private market. Growth there must primarily take place through acquisitions. Margins are under pressure at funeral homes, particularly in the Netherlands due to increased competition.
DELA is committed to making funerals as sustainable and personal as possible, and our product development is focused especially on this.
In 2018, DELA and our supplier Kaspersma Uitvaartkistenfabriek developed a new type of coffin, which marks a significant leap forward in the field of corporate social responsibility. The sustainable coffin is expected to receive FSC certification and be introduced to the market in 2019.
The test phase of a new printing system, in which funeral directors arrange the printing themselves online, was successfully completed in 2018. A large-scale national rollout started in March 2019, after the usual busy period at the start of the year.
On 1 August, DELA took over Uitvaartzorg Lantmeeters - Geyskens in Genk (B). Preparations for two other acquisitions in Belgium were started in 2018 and the takeovers should be completed in 2019.
Sjeng Schellinx, a carpenter from Maastricht, joined forces with DELA in 2018 to develop the zit-lig coffin. It is common to tend to the deceased and then present them on their beds or in their coffin for a viewing. Initiator Schellinx developed a prototype based on his own personal wish to allow the deceased to be presented sitting up. The zit-lig coffin is suitable for burials or cremations.
New construction and renovations
DELA has carried out work on the Zeeuwse Land crematorium in Goes (NL), which opened in April/May. The new Hoge Boght crematorium in Veldhoven (NL) was operational for its first full calendar year in 2018. We also renovated facilities in Leiden and Oldenzaal (NL). In April, DELA started building a new funeral centre on the grounds of the Zegestede crematorium in Roosendaal (NL). The Ommering Crematorium in Spijkenisse (NL) was renovated from May 2018 onwards and reopened in March 2019.
The locations of Uitvaartzorg Forrier and Vangrunderbeek in Vilvoorde and Zaventem (B) have been refurbished. The beautiful new Bleyaert funeral home in Knokke (B) opened its doors. The auditorium of Uitvaartzorg Marote in Ostend (B) received a makeover. Uitvaartzorg Remans in Genk (B) and Uitvaartzorg Lambrecht in Blankenberge (B) were given new workplaces. New facilities at Uitvaartzorg Bemelmans in Trooz (B) and Laloux-Chaudoir in Salzinnes (B) are still under construction and will be ready in the first half of 2019. Taken as a whole substantial investments have been made and the facilities have been further modernised.
Mortuary Brussels Airport
DELA has its own repatriation centre by the airport in Zaventem, called Mortuary Brussels Airport. Our employees are available to help descendants repatriate their loved ones to and from foreign countries. Thanks to the extensive DELA network, we can provide smooth repatriation with respect for any religion, customs and rituals of the deceased and their descendants, always guaranteeing a personal and humane approach. The location has its own viewing facilities and auditorium for farewell/funeral ceremonies.
Learning and improving
By focusing on excellent services and continuously learning and improving together, we have enhanced customer satisfaction and with it our NPS figures, both in the Netherlands and in Belgium.
It is good to regularly test what we stand for and the service we offer on a daily basis with our members and customers. It is important to ask ourselves whether our services still fit their needs, wishes and expectations. The DELA assets (called the DELA pillars in Belgium) represent the issues policyholders consider important in our services. Things that sometimes feel ordinary in our work can be what make the most difference in the eyes of others. Working together on an excellent service level requires everyone to understand the essence of the assets and know how to translate them into their daily work.
Net promoter score
The net promoter score is the system we use to measure the satisfaction of our customers, our members and surviving relatives. NPS measures whether customers are likely to recommend us to others. Our overall score in the Netherlands rose to 53, and there was a very clear increase in our score in Belgium to 52 during the year under review.
Net promoter score
12-month average. Total DELA Group, weighted by respondents
|Total (weighted by respondents)||53||52||52||45|
|Total (weighted by respondents)||52||43|
The funeral business in the Netherlands initiated the ‘Most Hospitable’ (Gastvrij de Beste) programme, focused on improving the competences of managers, detailing the value of engagement and developing a uniform impression, desired employee behaviour, an optimal working environment and simplified & clear protocols. The programme aims to ensure everyone receives a warm welcome.
Product development: ThuisBest
The elderly are now living at home independently until a much older age. In 2018, DELA started to develop a product that would enable insurance to be paid out for certain care needs related to old age, illness or accident. Research was carried out for this purpose in 2018, and product development under the name ThuisBest was initiated. It was eventually decided not to market the product, as the research showed that the target group of the product did not have a sufficient interest in the insurance.
Promoting members’ interests
By and for members
In the Netherlands, policyholders and co-insured individuals are members of the cooperative and therefore represent the collective 'owners' of DELA. Work on the legal structure for our policyholders in Belgium is still underway and will be completed before 2020: the intention is for them to join the cooperative as well. Once the number of policyholders in Germany reaches a certain number – for now we are considering a cut-off point of 100,000 – we would like them to become members of the cooperative too.
Taking part in consultations and decision-making
The general meeting represents our members and is the highest organ of our cooperative. It has the final say in appointments and policy, and appoints the Members of the Supervisory and Executive Boards. The way in which our cooperative is managed and our members’ interests safeguarded is described in the Corporate Governance section.
General meeting in 2018
There were two sessions of the general meeting in 2018, in January and May. The focus in the autumn was on continuing education.
The following matters were discussed on 13 January:
- Seventeen new delegates or deputy delegates joined the general meeting;
- The results of the FIT programme, which aims to make the cooperative more financially sound, innovative and future-oriented). This was started in mid-2015 after costs were found to be rising faster than turnover. FIT aimed to break this trend and structurally save €17 million by 1 January 2018 compared to the 2015 budget;
- The deflation policy. Within DELA, we deal with the annual increase in average funeral costs by raising the funeral insurance premium. This increase is submitted to the general meeting for approval every year. A deflation policy has now also been established;
- The reappointment of Ms Caderius van Veen to the Supervisory Board;
- The budget, which was shared with the general meeting;
- The capital policy, which was approved;
- The profit-distribution scheme, which was approved;
- The adjustment to the savings insurance policy that DELA introduced in 2018.
On 26 May, the general meeting discussed:
- The surrender of deposits which include an already-surrendered amount on a funeral insurance policy;
- The election of the Confidential Committee. In accordance with Article 10 of the Rules of Procedure, four members were appointed. The members are appointed for a maximum period of four years and one resigns in accordance with the pre-set rotation schedule each year. A vote designated Mr Slenter to fill the vacancy which arose in 2018;
- The annual report. After detailed clarification by the Executive Board, the general meeting approved the financial statements for 2017 and the result appropriation, officially adopting the DELA annual report;
- Discharge. The general meeting unanimously granted discharge to the individual members of the Executive Board for the policy pursued and to the Supervisory Board for supervising the policy pursued by the Executive Board;
- The remuneration report. On the basis of the remuneration report, the general meeting established that remuneration for 2017 had been allocated with due care;
- The average funeral costs;
- The premium adjustment. The general meeting approved an increase in the premium to reflect the rise in the average funeral costs of 1.90%;
- The determination of the distribution of profit for the DELA Spaarplan (savings plan);
- The extra expenditure on digitisation over the previously discussed budget.
Consultation of members
DELA cooperative panel
To properly represent our members' interests, we conduct research and make choices with our members on matters such as products and operations. Consulting the members is an important aspect of this work. We have had a cooperative panel organised and run by and for our members since 2010. This panel was converted into an online platform in 2015, allowing a larger group of members to contribute ideas. At the end of 2018, 1,913 members (1,800 in 2017) were connected. In the year under review they contributed to the following topics:
- The ‘dignity in old age’ programme, including the inventory of a new insurance policy;
- Surrender costs;
- Communication about the new 2019 policy;
- The process of taking deceased individuals’ fingerprints.
All results are available in Dutch at https://www.dela.nl/over-dela/over-cooperatie-dela/lid-van-cooperatie- dela/cooperatiepanel/terugkoppeling-van-onderzoeksresultaten.