“Business models that exist in isolation are becoming a thing of the past in today’s connected society and economy. Incorporating your own offering into a wider network of services is essential if you want to better meet customer needs and continue to prosper in the future. At Baloise, our approach to innovation involves incorporating up-and-coming businesses and partners into a strong network via our Home and Mobility ecosystems and adding value and having an impact by bringing together ideas, people, assets, technologies and organisations. In the process, we combine the operational excellence of our core business with the business models of the future. The website ‘Baloise Innovation – Connecting the dots’, which is now online, shows how we are doing this,” says Baloise Group CEO, Gert De Winter.
The launch of the Simply Safe strategy back in 2017 was when Baloise first began to systematically expand its innovation capabilities and establish innovations management as a means of gaining a competitive advantage. The strategy rests on the principle that satisfied and engaged employees result in satisfied and loyal customers, which in turn leads to commercial success. Consequently, Baloise has in recent years gone to great lengths to make its employees happier, has modernised its working methods, given people more scope to shape things, and broken down hierarchies. Since 2017, levels of staff satisfaction have risen continually as a result and Baloise is now ranked among the top 10 per cent of employers in the European financial sector. The outcome is employees who have an increasingly entrepreneurial mindset, who are willing to go in new directions and who are not afraid to make mistakes. The space and resources to be entrepreneurial, coupled with a thriving culture of innovation, thus form the essence of the innovation system.
Baloise firmly believes that the right corporate culture provides the basis for innovation. Nevertheless, a structured and disciplined approach is still needed to turn the mere desire to innovate into specific initiatives that add real value. This is where Baloise pursues a portfolio approach in the shape of its Open Innovation Funnel, which is split into the five phases of ideation, exploration, validation, implementation and finally scaling. As the initiatives progress through these phases, they are continually evaluated and, if appropriate, rejected until all that remain are those that complement our core business and our ecosystems and thus put the Company on track for sustained success.
The way that ideas and start-ups are systematically fed into the Baloise Open Innovation Funnel means that a total of around 7,500 have now been screened since 2017. Of these initiatives, 1,556 have been subject to closer scrutiny in the exploration phase and 1,460 have been rejected. The funnel currently contains around 100 projects, of which roughly 30 are in the scaling phase. One of these is FRIDAY, which has grown to become the most popular digital insurer in Germany, seen its premium income double every year and entered the French market in 2021. Then there are the various initiatives within the Home and Mobility ecosystems, plus a dozen or so innovations in the core business. The ability to enter into strategic partnerships in order to drive the expansion and success of these ecosystems is a particular strength of Baloise.
Investment in the innovation initiatives for Season 1 of the Simply Safe strategy (the phase covering the years 2017 to 2021) amounts to around CHF 250 million, which includes the costs of setting up and scaling FRIDAY. This equates to an average annual investment of CHF 50 million a year.
Baloise’s innovation efforts have attracted widespread acclaim since the Simply Safe strategy was launched. During this time, the Company has been presented with around a dozen innovation prizes by external judges, including those that sit on the panel for the Efma–Accenture Innovation in Insurance Award. Ultimately, the goal of Baloise’s innovation approach is to secure its long-term future competitiveness, which is why it has also sought to generate additional customer touchpoints and thus additional ways of adding value. Baloise is expecting its new initiatives to have contributed more than CHF 70 million in revenue in 2021, and all from a starting point of zero in 2016.
For the period up to 2025, Baloise is aiming to have generated CHF 2 billion in cash, of which 10 to 30 per cent is available to be reinvested in innovations in the core business and in the ecosystems.
* Including minority stakes ** 5 in Switzerlandund and 3 in Belgium
In Season 2 of the Simple Safe strategy, which begins in 2022, Baloise will be reporting regularly on its progress in the field of innovation.
“Market conditions and what customers need and expect are changing all the time,” says Gert De Winter in summary. “This is why we are already working on diversifying the ways in which we can add new customers and generate additional cash, and on further improving our strong core business. I am very satisfied with what has been achieved so far. The Home and Mobility ecosystems are becoming more and more established and our exceptional culture of innovation is giving us a growing competitive edge. In four years, we have signed up more than 730,000 new customers. Our ambition for 2025 is for the new innovation initiatives to be valued at CHF 1 billion and to be contributing CHF 350 million a year to the total business volume.”