Michael Müller, how well do you think Baloise is doing in terms of innovation?
I have seen a real entrepreneurial energy that is reflected in a range of projects and initiatives. This is important, as the resulting innovations highlight to us as a company the potential that lies in the digital transformation of society and where the future might take us. But our core business still provides the foundation that allows us to take risks and explore new ideas and opportunities in the first place.
Do you think the Company has achieved the right balance of tradition and innovation?
Finding the right balance is an important but challenging task. So I’m all the more delighted that from a technical perspective we are still running a very tight ship in both the life and the non-life business. We even generated a modest increase in non-life premium income, to CHF 1,054.7 million, while maintaining the same high level of profitability in the demanding Swiss market. In the life business, the volume of IFRS premiums fell to CHF 1,891.3 million. This is a reflection of the strict underwriting policy we have adopted in what continues to be a difficult market segment. By contrast, we significantly grew our volume of asset management mandates. Our business model combining banking and insurance offers our customers additional options, which is reflected in the healthy growth in this area of our business.
Bolstered by our strong core business, we have launched various products, initiatives and collaborations in Switzerland. Our cyber-insurance for SMEs, for example, is our response to growing customer demand in an area that is difficult for companies. The new claims reporting process is also a prime example of how we are responding to what our customers tell us while at the same time making our own processes more efficient. Customers are now offered an interactive online chat with photo and voice recognition. Claims can be reported quickly and easily, with the relevant information flowing seamlessly into our systems. We were able to draw on more than ten years’ experience in black-box processing to develop the concept, and now we process 98 per cent of our daily postal correspondence digitally.
Extending our business model beyond traditional insurance cover is at the heart of the new strategy.
You are launching many highly innovative new products. But what is your ultimate objective?
Extending our business model beyond traditional insurance cover is at the heart of the new strategy. In Switzerland, we focused on the two ecosystems of ‘home’ and ‘mobility’ in the first half of the year. In both these areas, we are building up a network encompassing partners, collaborations and our own services that makes specific aspects of our customers’ lives easier. Various measures are helping to embed and expand these ecosystems.
Can you describe these measures?
Our insurance for personal items, which currently provides protection for around 60 different items, is allowing us to expand our network of partners. Whether they’re looking to protect an electric bike, a set of golf clubs, a hearing aid or a laptop, customers can take out our insurance cover for personal items quickly and easily. Our collaborations with retail outlets allow us to engage with the customer right there and then when a product is being purchased. The ‘home’ ecosystem has been boosted by our acquisition of the digital home-moving services platform Movu. It means that as well as covering all the practical aspects of moving home, including providing the relevant insurance cover, we are also able to offer mortgage finance via the experts at Baloise Bank SoBa.
In the second strategic ecosystem, ‘mobility’ we offer solutions for customers with some cooperation partners, some of these cooperations exist for many years like for example with our partner TCS. Our investment in Carhelper, a comparison site for car workshop services, is a further example of our collaborative work in the field of mobility. The strategic link-up with Carhelper is also increasing the ways in which we can approach new customers.
What can you tell us about Baloise’s plans for the immediate future?
For us, a big future opportunity lies in services, some of which will be embedded within a wider ecosystem via a customer-friendly digital platform. Digitalisation is a catalyst for these kinds of developments. But I have no doubt that the provision of individual advice will still be hugely important in the future and will become even more important for more complex matters. Faced with a flood of information it will be crucial to have someone by your side in an advisory capacity. As Basler Switzerland we believe we are well placed to fulfil that role.