Niklas Elser has been working in the insurance and health care sector as well as in strategy consulting for the last 15 years. His main focus is on strategy, innovation, process management, digitalization and product development. In 2017 he joined AXA Switzerland as Head of Corporate Development and since April 2019 he is Head Corporate Development & Open Innovation. Prior to this, he was Head of Project and Process Management at CSS as well as founding member and Head of the CSS Health Lab at ETH and HSG. Niklas Elser holds a Master in Strategy and International Management from HSG and a Master in International Management (CEMS) from ESADE Business & Law School.
In his role as a Vice President for Strategy and Delivery, Jan Huntgeburth drives the digital technology transformation of ERGO Group, the primary insurance platform of MunichRe. He is responsible for agile delivery, agile PMO, product management, design and application support delivery. Jan Huntgeburth is the author of several publications on the effects of digitization on society and earned his Doctoral degree at the Business School of the University of Mannheim for his dissertation entitled “Developing and Evaluating a Cloud Service Relationship Theory”.
Samyr Mezzour has been active in the last 18 years in the InsurTech, insurance and consulting industries with a focus on innovation and digital strategies. In 2017 he moved from Roland Berger to Generali, where he took over as head of the Innovation Garage in 2018. Since December 2019, Samyr Mezzour is Chief Innovation Officer and co-founder of HITS, an InsurTech hub that provides customer centric and disruptive solutions to corporates operating in the insurance industry. He holds a CAS from MIT Sloan School of Management, a PhD from HEC Lausanne and an MSc from ETH Zurich.
Carsten Schulz is the BearingPoint Partner responsible for customer management and serves on the management team of the Salesforce Practice. With over 20 years of experience his successful track record includes leading several major projects in insurance, banking and telecommunications from conception through implementation. Carsten’s focus lies on marketing and sales transformation as well as strategic customer and service management. In addition, he built up one of the leading multi-partner loyalty programs and authored various publications on "Digital Transformation of Customer Management".
This BearingPoint Talk focused on innovations and creativity triggered by the COVID-19 crisis. Niklas Elser Dr. Jan Huntgeburth and Dr. Samyr Mezzour gave insight into their experiences with the challenges of the past months and presented provocative propositions on the outlook. The experts agreed that COVID-19 demonstrated that systemic risks require systemic responses. In certain areas of the insurance industry, a stronger focus on cooperation and productivity but less on competition is therefore called for.
True to the core topic, the event was conducted in an innovative way. The on-site panel discussion was followed online by interested parties from the insurance industry. A virtual wine tasting of the winery Cave du Rhodan brought the evening to a convivial and creative culinary conclusion. Please find below a short summary of our discussion:
Impact of the current crisis on insurance companies
In the first phase of the crisis, insurers had to maintain their operational capacity to (re)act and at the same time implement state-imposed security measures. The typical change curve with rigidity of shock and subsequent actionism could be broadly observed. Now the industry returns to a phase of consolidation. According to Niklas Elser, the necessary actionism in the crisis allowed for many things to develop overnight and the crisis created instant clarity about pending digitization plans. However now, these initial achievements must be combined with an overarching strategy, otherwise event the best approaches will be lost. Pre-crisis formulated corporate strategies continue to apply despite changed circumstances. However, certain topics such as automation, Omnichannel or Mind Health will be addressed with renewed vigor. Insurance, however, will remain an advisory oriented business. Finding the middle ground between digital and real interaction is a central challenge and holds a lot of innovation potential. To implement innovations, scalability and endurance are key. After all, innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% transpiration.
Opportunities and insights of virtual collaboration
The three panelists emphasized that the crisis had shown that virtual teams and home office works very well. Said Jan Huntgeburth: "Many excuses of those who are sceptical about virtual teams and global value chains no longer hold since Corona. We were able to prove that it works". The increase in responsibility and self-determination among employees furthermore boosted their motivation. As basis for successful cooperation the experts identified regular, short, virtual meetings and the fact that people knew each other before. For companies that invested early in the digitalization of their business model and working environment (e.g. laptops for all employees, video conferencing tools, cloud solutions), these steps have now paid off twice over.
Increased transparency and cooperation between insurance companies
The insurance industry so far has managed crisis well and has proven resilient to this exogenous shock. However, it has suffered damage to its reputation in many countries, even if more money has been paid out on insurance claims than ever before. Here greater transparency is called for. The crisis has shown that systemic risks require systemic responses. Similar to the nuclear pool, a pandemic pool or a cyberpool is therefore conceivable. In certain areas of the insurance industry, a stronger focus on cooperation and productivity and less on competition is needed. Areas that are hardly differentiating are most suitable for this purpose (e.g. Swiss ID). Such increased cooperation would also have a positive effect on customer satisfaction.
Courage and creativity disclose new paths
Looking ahead, Samyr Mezzour put forward the thesis that more courage than ever is needed to stay relevant in the 10 years to come. And this will be particularly true for insurance companies, even if it is their business to exclude risks. The world has changed not only for insurers, but also for winegrowers. New, creative solutions are also needed there. Olivier Mounir, winemaker of the Cave du Rhodan winery, conducted an instructive and entertaining virtual wine tasting in the second part of the event. Despite the digital format the social gathering of the participants was made possible in this way.
We would be happy to continue the discussion together with you! Our team of experts: