Insurance innovation: fostering a revolution with Baloise Insurance 12 January 2022 129

Mr. Joris Smeulders, Chief Transformation Officer at Baloise Insurance, discusses the comprehensive innovation efforts at the insurer, and some of their incredible results.  

What makes your company truly innovative?

Innovation is an integral element of our Simply Safe strategy, through which we aim to make our customers’ lives simpler and safer. Drawing on our wealth of innovation, which is based on our inhouse originality and invaluable alliances with partners, we are further developing our business model with a firm focus on our customers.

What are Baloise's recent successes in terms of innovation?

Baloise won two awards at this year's Efma-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards. On the one hand, "Drive Electric", an insurance solution designed specifically for rechargeable hybrid and electric cars, which was launched in the Luxembourg market this year, secured gold. On the other hand, the modular insurance product for sharing platforms "Inshareance" from Switzerland won silver. The awards confirm us on our "Simply Safe" journey.

Within the scope of this innovation strategy, Baloise Insurance focuses on different types of innovation going from process innovation (e.g. the use of robotics) over product and service innovation (e.g. cyber risk, drones insurance, Safer Business) towards business model innovation, beyond insurance (e.g. via the corporate startup Mobly, Baloise Insurance continuously develops and offers a growing range of services within the area of mobility).

Moreover, Baloise Insurance is continuously searching for investments into start-ups working in the area of mobility (e.g. the recent acquisition of Vroom, a secondhand car platform) and home (e.g. recent investments in Keypoint, Immopass, and Rentio). Through these investments Baloise aims at setting up ecosystems with these start-ups in order to develop global service offerings. All these initiatives aim at not only growing the core business - insurance premiums – but also at developing new sources of revenue based on fee incomes out of those services.

What are the major goals and results obtained from your ongoing innovation strategy? 

Over recent years, Baloise has developed a broad range of innovative products and services within its core business. The mission of Baloise Insurance – we take care of the comfort and safety of our customers – demands an intense focus and anticipation on new types of risks popping up. The Efma award-winning Cyber Safe and Helicus drone insurance are two concrete examples. 

Additionally, Baloise Insurance also developed other new concepts like Safer Business (adding new services such as monitoring systems and trainings for corporate clients with large fleets) and private lease solutions (in collaboration with third parties). 

In addition to those core product and service innovations, Baloise launched a number of corporate start-ups over the past years. Next to Mobly (within the domain of mobility), Baloise Insurance also launched B-Tonic in the area of health and wellbeing, integrating a broad range of third parties offering their expertise on this platform. These services are primarily offered to Baloise Insurance clients, in retail but also in the corporate market. 

Last, but not least, Baloise Insurance made several investments in start-ups focusing on digital solutions for syndics, landlords, and renters of apartments. The aim of all these initiatives is to remain relevant, to attract new customer segments, to increase loyalty of existing customers by offering them a broader range of services and/or to develop new sources of revenue.

How is a culture of innovation achieved across your company?

Over the past five years, Baloise developed a broad range of initiatives fostering a culture of innovation within the company. Senior management participated in inspiration tours to Berlin. Through a number of company visits (both start-ups and incumbents) our managers developed a better understanding of start-ups, incubators, and accelerators, but also co-working spaces and how to support innovation in larger companies.

As a follow-up step, ‘grassroots’ innovation programs were set up. All employees of Baloise were invited to participate in internal innovation programs, going from ideation workshops over training bootcamps to an internal incubator program, supported by an external innovation consultancy firm. On top of these internal programs, Baloise sent a team to participate in the F10 Incubator in Zurich to work on their innovation ideas. 

Currently Baloise Insurance uses Adobe’s Kickbox toolkits to support colleagues on their own innovation journey. Finally, Baloise is participating in a number of market initiatives. One example is the 5-year partnership with Living Tomorrow, a center for technological innovation, where people from Baloise participate in cross-industry working groups around e.g. Smart Mobility, Smart Home, and Smart Health.

How does your company manage the overall innovation process?

The overall innovation process used at Baloise Insurance is based on a framework of six steps, starting from 1. ideation (funnel) to 2. business opportunity plan, moving towards 3. validation and then 4. setting up first experiments (using MVP concepts) towards 5. introduction into the market and finally 6. scaling. 

To fill the innovation funnel, Baloise Insurance organizes campaigns to stimulate the ideation process. To support these activities an annual budget for innovation is available. The governance of this process is managed through an Innovation Steering Committee,  composed of directors from the different product departments (Life and Non-Life), marketing and digital/ICT as well as the Director of the Strategic Office. This steering committee has bi-monthly meetings to follow up on the stages of the innovation process and to discuss the progress of the running innovation projects. Next to this overall governance, all major innovation initiatives are governed by an additional steering committee.

To know more about innovation in insurance and read more of these interviews, download your free copy of our Voice of the Insurers paper.

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