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Stefano Bison, Group Head of Business Development & Partnerships at Generali, goes in-depth regarding the group’s heritage and track record when it comes to innovation.
What makes your company truly innovative?
Innovation and digital transformation form one of the three pillars of the Generali 2021 Strategy and we committed to invest more than 1bn€ in it across the plan cycle. We aim to become “LifeTime Partners” to our customers and employees, worldwide, while enabling the digital transformation of our distribution models and transforming and digitalizing our operating machine. The launch of the Pan-European Mobility platform and its recent international partnerships (e.g. with FCA Group) are other key examples of how we are moving ahead in this industry.
We recently developed a new Group Innovation Strategy that is based on four main components to enable innovation everywhere, for everybody. It is indeed ambitious considering that Generali is present in 50+ countries with around 400 companies and 70+ thousand employees.
• Equip provides Generali people with tailored innovation methodologies and tools;
• Accelerate aims at orchestrating innovation across the Group and at managing an innovation fund, open to everyone, to fuel good ideas;
• Connect component focuses on the innovation community to foster best practice sharing;
• Power component focuses on innovation partnerships to improve our ability to innovate.
What are the major goals and results obtained from your ongoing innovation strategy?
It’s difficult to be fully comprehensive, given the breadth and depth of the efforts we are running across the value chain and on all our business lines. However, I can mention some notable examples of internal and external business development / innovation initiatives. Talking about the first category, good proof points are the EuropAssistance MyClinic suite, with telemedicine and remote health support functionalities; Generali Italia’s Jeniot IoT platform, products and services, spanning across motor, home, and workers’ safety; LINGS, an instant insurance corporate startup, digital-native and ring-fenced from our operations in Switzerland; and the in-house development of a state-of-the-art proprietary tool for cyber risk assessment for our SMEs clients.
On the external innovation side, examples are even more numerous, as the famous Generali-Vitality virtual joint venture with Discovery in EU, the launch of a Generali ARTE as a brand new business line dedicated to art collectors, the collaboration with Google Nest and Tink for home insurance propositions in Germany, and the partnership with TicTrac to offer digital Wellness solutions to employees of our multinational corporate clients outside EU.
In order to accelerate all this, we have also recently launched a Group Innovation Fund that is open to applications from all colleagues at Generali and will provide up to 50% of co-funding to eligible innovative ideas, prioritizing those bold, early stage and collaborative projects. So far, in 2020 H1 only, we already received more than 100 applications from around 20 of our BUs across the globe, of which we co-financed already more than 40 with great potential!
The 28 submissions to 2020 EFMA-Accenture Innovation Awards are tangible examples of how we are dealing with these topics and the push that they are receiving from the whole Group.
How is a culture of innovation achieved across your company?
Generali has a real heritage and a historical track record on innovation: since the introduction of an instant travel insurance in Trieste’s train station in 1896, Generali has developed many different innovative approaches across the decades. Nowadays, business units have strong capabilities in developing innovative products and services to enhance customer experience, channel, and distribution as well as designing new customer value-added services.
Innovation is in fact one of our Lifetime Partner Behaviors that describe how we want to serve our customers and how we work together as colleagues. They are what makes Generali different from its competitors and they are key to trigger the aforementioned transformation. In fact, companies do not transform by themselves; it is their people who transform them. To support our people, we are promoting a deep cultural transformation with innovation at its core. We have in place many initiatives both at Group and local level to engage, train, and mobilize our 70,000 employees, at all levels, supporting managers, leaders and talents, investing in the skills of the future and aligning HR processes.
Recently we also launched the Community of Practice and Experts initiative that, as of today, sees more than 30 active communities (e.g. Business Development, Artificial Intelligence, Smart Automation, Blockchain, Motor&Mobility, etc.).
How does your company manage the overall innovation process?
Before we discuss the approaches, please let me point out that innovation is and can be found everywhere, inside our organization as well as outside its formal boundaries.
Internally, we can find it at product level (and our new Immagina Adesso product in Italy is proof of that) and we are focused on promoting innovative projects and solutions to advance the business across the different lines of business and value chain, with structured processes and methodologies for knowledge sharing and cross-fertilization. We also designed a tailored approach to equip Generali people with best practice innovation tools and methods and we are connecting innovators across the group (HITS – House of InsurTech Switzerland, the Generali InsurTech accelerator and our corp-up competence center, local innovation and/or business development teams, our Analytics Solution Center, etc.), to enable sharing of ideas and practices, as well as the scaling up of good ideas across multiple business units.
Externally, we are counterpart-agnostic and collaborate with leading business and technology partners ranging from early stage startups to large industry leaders from all the industries all over the world that can enable the development of new high-potential / value-adding services or business models. For this “open innovation” approach we of course also leverage on our effective and efficient partnerships with venture incubators (e.g. from leading universities), industry associations (EFMA in primis), and accelerators (Plug&Play InsurTech Hub, GrowItUp-CariploFactory, F10, being the most notable ones, among the others). We have put in place a thorough vetting process to validate our potential partners and the possible business proposition to be developed with them.
As stated, startups (most often FinTechs or InsurTechs) are just one possible type of counterpart we deal with in our partnerships, but in all honesty it’s often there that we find the most innovative proposition and capabilities, along the Christensen’s “Innovator Dilemma.” It can be a “give” or a “take” relationship: if in the latter we partner with them to add something to us - advanced technologies, digital savviness - in the former we can provide insurance capacity or products, or even distribution / client access, sometimes assistance capabilities, to enhance their propositions. We do that often, sometimes even in white-label.
Download the full paper "Innovation in insurance: The end of insurance as we know it" and read the other exclusive interviews.