Zavarovalnica Sava, the second biggest insurance company in the region, has set a concrete goal in its innovation activities, namely to solve insurance claims twice as fast. In doing so, they are also counting on solutions developed in collaboration with startups. Besides improving the user experience, they are also focusing on insurance distribution itself, which is why at this year’s PODIM, they will not only be attentive to all the fintech and insurtech teams but also to solutions in processes automatization, loyalty programmes and other generic technologies that can be interesting for use in insurance, says Robert Sraka, Director of New Generation Services in Zavarovalnica Sava. In the interview, you’ll also find out which forms of collaboration with startups are interesting for them and what blockchain technology brings to certain insurance or reinsurance challenges.
How does Zavarovalnica Sava track the global fintech scene, the march of blockchain, and the increase in startups with ICO campaigns in banking and insurance?
We monitor all of this closely. But our focus is currently directed towards changing the user experience for our customers, including the way that insurance is distributed. In Slovenia and the region, insurance is still being sold mostly through representatives, and if there are none of those, there is also no business.
If we talk about this while thinking of the younger generation of users, who prefer to get things done on-line …
Younger generations look at this differently, of course, and they aren’t necessarily happy if an insurance representative calls them over the phone, saying that they need to arrange something, sign it … We want to consider all of this – for the client to be able to choose their own way of doing business with us. In preparing such solutions, startups have an advantage, because they can make a prototype quickly and, starting on a smaller scale, also test it. Big insurance companies do this with more difficulty.
Why? Where is the main problem?
Mostly in existing IT solutions and the technologies that these solutions are based on. This is difficult to change overnight. Years ago, information technology was the driving force of development in insurance companies, now it’s an obstacle in many places. It’s is also an obstacle to quickly introducing modern solutions, for example in collaboration with startups. If we need a couple of weeks or more for integration, that isn’t exactly encouraging.
If we nonetheless go back to blockchain technology for a bit, because it currently has the most use cases exactly in fintech …
Blockchain technology isn’t a universal hammer for every nail. I think that insurance companies need to do a significant amount of work on more traditional things. In insurance, blockchain is mostly important when the question of trust between partners needs to be addressed or when there are a lot of stakeholders in the same business. For us, in particular, such technology is interesting in the field of reinsurance, where we as a group do business with the whole world and where we are collaborating in a global initiative that’s developing blockchain solutions. This will enable significantly easier collaboration between business partners – in the group, for example, we do business with 170 countries and partners, and certain reinsurance programmes can include more than 20 or 30 partners with different values, various regulations … In reinsurance, it has not yet been possible to see a breakthrough idea based on blockchain. On the local level, this technology is most interesting in places where there is no trust in insurance companies, for example in Central Africa, because abroad, nobody will believe you that your insurance policy is worth something.
When you’re designing new, user-friendlier solutions, is innovation in internal processes equally important for you?
Zavarovalnica Sava is currently mostly interested in solutions that can be offered to its insurants as well as those with which we will modernise and upgrade our own business operations. Our goal is to solve claims twice as fast. When introducing new technologies, we need to change our own internal processes as well, before we can even come to such solutions. If we only develop and launch an app but don’t change our internal processes at the same time, this is just a nicer way of telling our clients to wait.
How do you collaborate with startup teams, considering the differences in culture and ways of working in corporations versus startups?
In both, there is a big difference in culture and way of working, which we try to bridge with mutual trust and communication. The key challenge is that we expect startups to react and pivot very quickly, but startups expect similar from us, which is something that a corporation with a decision hierarchy can’t always guarantee. Then we always tell and explain in advance why something will take longer on our side.
The mentioned example is probably a project form of cooperation. What about in the future, are you maybe also planning direct equity investments into startups?
That is one of the possibilities that we are thinking about, but we currently aren’t that far yet. We started being involved with startups last year and in many ways, we are still learning and defining our innovation strategy. At the insurtech innovation weekend, organized last year in cooperation with Venture Factory and the Start:up Maribor community, we established initial contacts with the startup community. We also discovered that we find it easier to collaborate with someone who already has a team or a company that has its own products, solutions, development, and is already generating revenue. Starting to collaborate from zero with individuals who come to a hackathon is too slow and ineffective. Another new realization is that we can look broader for startups that already have solutions, not only in Slovenia and the region.
What is the most important thing that Zavarovalnica Sava brings to the relationship and collaboration with startups?
First and foremost, it’s the domain knowledge of insurance, understanding the market and the processes taking place on it. This is why we can collaborate with startups to get to solutions that will not only be interesting for us but also for other insurance companies. Or for other insurance types, if we’re talking about insurance. Or we can work together to come to tech solutions that are useful in other fields as well, without any huge changes or need for adjustment.
What are your expectations for PODIM? Which teams, technologies and solutions will you pay attention to?
We are interested in everything connected to insurtech and fintech. We’ll pay attention to solutions connected to process automatization and user empowerment. We are also interested in everything that might not seem to belong to insurance at first, for example loyalty programmes. I’d like to inform startups coming to PODIM that they should look broadly and they shouldn’t think that we won’t talk to them if they don’t have solutions that are directly connected to solving claims. Today, there are many technologies that are very generic, for example smart chatbots, with which we can simplify certain processes, or predictive analytics. All this is interesting for us, if we can devise a pilot project relatively quickly and start getting the first results, based on which we find out whether the solution has potential or not.
Get in touch with Zavarovalnica Sava
If you wish to present your innovative solution to Zavarovalnica Sava or meet its representatives at this year’s PODIM, we invite you to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org