Alexander Bockelmann, what does innovation mean at Baloise?
Innovation is one of the key elements of our Simply Safe strategy and our Baloise culture. At the heart of this is the IT-driven innovation that is becoming increasingly common within our core business. Innovations range from new cloud services in infrastructure and state-of-the-art communication and collaboration solutions in the digital workplace, to the latest applications and digital solutions for our customer services and claims processing.
For me, innovation is all about being creative and coming up with new solutions. That is why we want to offer our employees opportunities to develop and try out their own novel ideas. One way of doing this is via more agile ways of working that create transparency in respect of information and the activities that are taking place, and enable decisions to be made by specialists who are close to the matter in hand. This reduces implementation times and encourages interdepartmental cooperation rather than a compartmentalised approach. By decentralising responsibilities, agile approaches promote entrepreneurial thinking and ways of working at all levels.
To support internal innovation and as a method of developing new business ideas, we use the Kickbox programme, which is structured in three phases. In the initial idea phase, employees develop and validate their idea. Promising concepts are then taken forward to the prototyping phase, where they are tested by real customers in the market and refined on the basis of customer feedback. In the final phase, the finished product or service is introduced to the market, either within the existing structures or as a new Baloise start-up.
And how does Baloise promote innovation ‘from the outside’?
We use several strategies for this. Firstly, we operate as a corporate venture capital provider with our partner Anthemis. We monitor and invest in relevant trends and start-up innovations and participate in the rapid growth within the fintech and insurtech environment. Secondly, we work with incubators and accelerators. These are companies that give start-ups a helping hand when they are developing new business ideas. For example, we have been a member of the Swiss fintech incubator and accelerator F10 since 2017, and a partner to the global accelerator Plug and Play since 2019. Plug and Play runs a global innovation platform that enables us to connect with a large number of start-ups and find out about new technologies. We regularly use F10 to help launch new business ideas that have been developed internally under our Kickbox programme by employees.
We also believe in the benefits of an open innovation approach where companies team up with a number of external partners. These might include universities, business partners, competitors and the IT open source sector.
In our core business, modern, customer-friendly processes and digital integrations with customers and partners need to be based on state-of-the-art core insurance systems.Alexander Bockelmann
Can you give any specific examples of Baloise’s innovation initiatives?
In our core business, modern, customer-friendly processes and digital integrations with customers and partners need to be based on state-of-the-art core insurance systems. At Baloise, we have made great progress in bringing this aspect of our business up to date. Following the implementation of a new core insurance system in Switzerland a few years ago, in autumn 2020 we were able to bring new core systems on stream in Germany, too. And In Belgium we are currently modernising our core systems in the life insurance business, based on a new cloud-based solution.
It is important to us that our customers and partners are able to experience and appreciate the innovations. One example of this is our ‘Cyber Safe Family’ product in Belgium, which won a ‘Most Innovative Insurance Product’ award and an Efma-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Award. And in Switzerland our Baloise eSI app, an electronic loss adjustment tool, secured a podium place at the Swiss Insurance Innovation Awards.
Besides enhancing the customer experience, we want to advance and diversify our range of products and services through innovation. This was the motivation behind the systematic expansion of the Home and Mobility ecosystems that we hope to achieve as part of the upcoming ‘Simply Safe: Season 2’ strategic phase.
Why is it important for Baloise to build and expand ecosystems like these?
In order to remain competitive in the long term as an insurance company, we aim to proactively anticipate customer expectations and requirements. We want to be able to offer our customers a comprehensive range of products and services that cover the various aspects and circumstances of their lives.
In the Home ecosystem, the focus is primarily on being relevant and creating value in the day-to-day lives of our customers through new services and via digital platforms. This increases the added value for the customer and improves customer satisfaction. In addition to the existing investments in service start-ups, in 2020 we invested in new customer segments and were involved in Houzy, the first open platform for homeowners, and in the Walloon start-up ImmoPass, a service provider in the area of technical property inspection.
Social trends create new needs and business opportunities, for example in the personal transport sector. The ‘zero emissions’ trend is accelerating the transition to emission-free drive systems. The ‘zero accidents’ trend flows from accident rates falling in future due to a greater number of self-driving cars, and ‘zero ownership’ envisages growing use of subscription and pay-per-use mobility solutions. Within this rapidly evolving environment, we want to leverage our innovative strength and position Baloise as an innovative, European provider of mobility services. Activities in the Mobility ecosystem in 2020 included the launch of our Belgian start-up, Mobly, and investments in gowago.ch, a car and leasing platform in Switzerland and Ben Fleet Services, a technology-driven provider of vehicle fleet services in Germany. Together with our partner Bridgemaker, we also founded aboDeinauto in Germany – the first provider of long-term vehicle rentals to focus on second-hand vehicles and work in close partnership with dealerships and used-car retailers. For Baloise, these innovations should open up new customer segments and service-based income streams.