Insurance company VÍS is reducing the number of service offices around the country into six, at Selfoss, Egilsstaðir, Akureyri, Sauðárkrókur, Ísafjörður and Reykjavík, RÚV reports. Seven offices will close October 1. According to the company’s website, the change is in accordance with the company’s new vision of becoming a digital service company.
In an announcement on the company’s website, it’s stated that customers increasingly want to conduct their business through telephone and email. The changes in the company structure are intended to better answer that call. According to Helgi Bjarnason, VÍS’s director, they “recently formed a clear vision of VÍS as a digital service company. The changes we’re making are in accordance with that vision and adapt it even more to our customers’ demand for simple, uncomplicated and effective insurance service.”
Andri Ólafsson, communications director at VÍS, told RÚV that four employees will be laid off, either due to their offices closing or organizational changes. Other employees have been offered positions at the new offices but in many cases that will require a significantly increased commute. Negotiations with the staff are ongoing.
The changes to the company’s vision have not been well received, especially outside the capital area, as the changes are believed to disproportionately affect rural areas. According to Austurfrétt, the Fjarðabyggð municipality will take its business elsewhere when their contracts are up in the new year, in direct opposition to VÍS’s decision to close the last office in the municipality. An official memo pointed out that during the past few years, VÍS had been decreasing its services in the area, now closing the last office in the area, despite the fact that Fjarðabyggð is the most populous municipality in the east of Iceland and that the municipality has all its insurances with VÍS. They won’t be extending their contract, instead choosing to work with insurance companies that still operate in the municipality.
At the autumnal meeting of the Federation of Municipalities in West Iceland, a similar decision was reached, Skessuhorn reports. In an announcement, the federation exclaims its displeasure with VÍS’s decision to close all their operations in West Iceland and challenges all municipalities, companies and individuals in the area to rethink their business with the company. The Commercial Federation of Iceland has also issued a statement lamenting the fact that the closures will disproportionately affect the countryside and demanding that VÍS revise their decision.
In an announcement Helgi sent to VÍS agencies, he states that “we see clear signals that our customers increasingly want to use digital ways to communicate with us. Our belief is that this demand will grow and the core of our operations for the next months and years will be to strengthen our service in that area, with our customers’ interest leading the way.” Helgi says the changes are extensive but he’s “convinced that these are necessary steps to achieve the success that we strive for. … I fully understand that in the short term people will have different opinions on the changes but I believe that in the long run, they will serve our customers well.“