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Baloise: How the Belgian insurer is kick-starting its digitization journey

Sameer Datye interviews Baloise about its implementation of an agile insurance platform.

Sameer Datye / February 07, 2020

When one thinks of Belgium, the first thought is typically oriented to Belgium’s famous chocolate and beers. Cultural aficionados might be aware of the Flemish art, the Belgian surrealism, and incredible places like Bruges, Ghent, and Dinant! However, Belgium is not just a place for fun and frolic, it is a very modern, forward looking industrial engineering and digital European powerhouse.

In fact, the Belgian economy, or rather the Belgian society as a whole is in the midst of a massive digitalization program that would have far reaching consequences. Unostentatiously named “Digital Belgium” the program is laying the bulwark for a long-term digital vision with 5 clear priorities:

digital belgium.jpg

Figure 1: Digital Belgium – The five priorities

It would be naïve therefore to think that Baloise Insurance which is at the fulcrum of the Belgian Insurance sector would be unaffected by the Digitization winds blowing all around. 

I had a tête-à-tête with Noël Pauwels (Managing Director Non-Life Retail), Jan Strauven (Director Digital Transformation), Veerle Desmet (Director Digital Business & Partnerships) & Joris Smeulders (CIO) to learn more about how Baloise is responding to the shifts in the insurance sector brought about by the Digitization wave. The following is an extract from the interview.

With the digital revolution, what are the main trends that you see in the Belgian Insurance sector?

Noël: The impact of digitization is everywhere. Buying habits are moving online. Mobile phones are now the preferred choice of digital engagement. Personal mobility choices are increasing. Health and wellness investment are not an exception, but a new normal. Traditional channels are not disappearing but are supplemented with new channels. The digital society has new products, services and businesses.

Jan: Let me add on to this. I would say we can identify 5 major trends in Belgium:

  1. The customers are increasingly interested in the new type of eco system services. Almost 70% customers are willing to embrace the digital revolution.
  2. Almost 50% customers have clearly indicated a preference for unstructured or email communication highlighting a clear opportunity for insurers to further optimize their digital channels and improve efficiency.
  3. The Belgian Insurance market is still fragmented though life insurance is undergoing consolidation.
  4. Digitalization of insurance channels is happening though intermediaries are still popular.
  5. The “challengers” or the “digital start-ups” with no baggage from the past, no tradition or cultural shackles are using technology to disrupt the market and the ‘Incumbent’ players have to basically change or perish.

And Baloise, as  an obvious ‘Incumbent’ has to respond to this aggressively?

Joris: Yes and as one we have already taken big steps to confront this tiger.  A three-pronged ‘Prepare for the future’ strategy which encompasses three broad components is already operational on the ground:

baloise strat.jpg

Noël: Let me elaborate this more. If you see these three components - it starts with Innovation and learning as its central theme. Building on this we have two complementary but separate tracks: Growing the core insurance to handle the new paradigm and preparing for the future with whacky techie innovations.

What you mean is - Making your core insurance ‘future ready’ as a base, and then adding the new technology accelerators - Something on those lines?

Joris: Yes as an incumbent that is the most sensible policy. Like for e.g. in our core insurance, we have invested in Insurance-in-a-Box, our agile insurance platform to ensure that we have a very high level of flexibility and maneuverability to address the new business models and ideas. This in turn will help our broker community in their own respective digital ambitions. A win-win for all.  That is somewhat like having a crunchy base of the pizza and then we add the toppings 😊

Veerle: And in the ‘toppings’ we are investing with examples like Mobly for mobility & B-Tonic for health and wellness, Qover for digital experiences etc. These are services that are designed to help our customers on the private as well as commercial side to cope with the changing forms of life.

Will that not disrupt your existing channels though?

Jan: Not really. We don’t see as a X or Y kind of a situation. Rather it's X + Y.  Belgian customers still prefer the bouquet approach of Insurance where the Broker does a mix and match of insurances to give a customized solution to the customer. Our agile insurance would enable the brokers to do this digitally and do this very fast. They will not only be able to meet the customers face-to-face, but also support them digitally.

Veerle: We mention this many a time and its worth repeating. Our moto is Digital when possible, Always human.

So, nimbleness is a key component of your core solution?

Joris: Absolutely. The time when the time to market for new products was in ‘years’ is over. Now we measure it in months. The core insurance has not just to be sturdy and dependable it has to be extremely nimble and future ready to churn out a steady stream of new age product offerings and do that very fast.

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The most notable take-away from our discussion was that Baloise is adapting to this challenge not by an impulsive ‘change policy’. The structured approach of making their core insurance what they call ‘Future Ready’ and then adding on the cherries on the cake is somewhat like having your cake and eating it too...

Baloise’s Agile Insurance Initiative is powered by the Insurance-in-a-Box [iiB] platform, an open ecosystem initiative by TietoEVRY. Currently the partners supporting the initiative are Insicon, Nets, Eyeonid and Onegini.

For more information on Baloise:

Ivo De Bondt, Director- Technical, Non-life Retail, Baloise Insurance, Belgium, ivo.debondt@baloise.be

For more information on TietoEVRY & Insurance-in-a-Box:

Sameer Datye, Head of Business Development, Insurance and Wealth Management, TietoEVRY, sameer.datye@tieto.com, +358407166492

 

Read the first post in this blog series: Baloise: Enabling insurance broker digitization

 

Sameer Datye
Head of Business Development, Insurance and Wealth Management

Sameer is responsible for ecosystem-driven business development in the Insurance sector. He is also responsible for the Insurance R&D team in Tieto. In the IT sector, he has a long experience of working for the Healthcare and Insurance sectors. Prior to which he worked as a product manager and a brand manager in the food, processing and packaging industry. He is passionate about translating technology innovations to business reality leading to better quality of human life.

Author

Sameer Datye

Head of Business Development, Insurance and Wealth Management

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