How Generali is shaking up the insurance sector with a customer-centric digital transformation

How Generali is shaking up the insurance sector with a customer-centric digital transformation

Worldwide, it seems the insurance sector is on the cusp of momentous change and nowhere can this be seen better than at Assicurazioni Generali. Offering everything from corporate insurance to life and health insurance, Generali has quickly become a household name, often cited as being Europe’s third-largest insurer, the leading insurer in Italy and the second largest in Germany. Now, it’s earning its stripes for another key facet of the business: the further innovation and digital transformation process, as stated in the new Group Strategy.

At its Global Corporate & Commercial division, a specialised unit within the company, Generali provides services such as property and casualty insurance to complex multinationals and large domestic commercial entities alike. Hayden Seach, Head of Global Corporate & Commercial Asia, is convinced that this digital transformation is not only helping the company better manage its portfolio and relationships, but it’s also helping it deliver more informed risk management to its clients.

Historically, insurance has been associated with a product or contract between a customer and their insurance company covering risk. In stark contrast, Generali believes it offers services beyond this, going the extra mile to deliver a service-orientated experience for its customers. “We focus on providing service-led propositions,” Seach explains, “therefore we position ourselves as a company that responds to customers’ needs as a partner, rather than selling them an insurance policy or product.” Technology has undoubtedly been a key part of this strategy, and so Generali has devised a careful digital transformation plan to ensure its customers get the top-class service they deserve every time. “At Generali, our focus is on being agile, flexible and adaptable so we can meet the needs of our clients in a timely manner,” adds Seach.

At GC&C, digital tools involve data consolidation, business enablement, customer service and business management. When it came to data, Seach says that the company “recognised it had an enormous amount of data available to it” as a multinational insurer but that it wasn’t effectively “leveraging this to its full potential”.  To promote data consolidation and portfolio analytics, the business rolled out a Corporate Data Warehouse at a global level. Generali is also using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool from Microsoft Dynamics which allows it to manage and maintain customer relationships, track engagements and sales, and deliver actionable data. Because Generali also provides loss prevention and risk engineering services to its customers, it has also utilised Maximo by IBM to make the related reports, actions and results electronically available.

But data consolidation is only the start. With its digitally-savvy mindset, Generali also plans to enable the business further with a home-grown system called Gen-e-risk, short for Generali eRisk system. “Providing multinational insurance solutions is a very complex process,” observes Seach. “This system enables us to provide multinational insurance solutions to large and complex customers, across multiple territories, compliantly.” As part of its digital transformation journey, Generali has developed a new system called Underwriting Workbench which supports the full underwriting process, from request for quotation to the binding stage. In turn, Seach says this will allow the firm to “deliver technical pricing, risk assessment and portfolio management as well as offer geolocation and tracking information”

Today, insurance businesses face a new hurdle: how to become more customer-centric. However, this seems to be a challenge which Generali is tackling with ease. “We take the data-driven insights that we have from the Corporate Data Warehouse and we present it back to the customer, allowing them to view the performance of their business,” notes Seach. “This enables them to create better risk management of their own business.”

“We are also just about to launch a Client & Broker web portal,” he adds, highlighting how the service will offer a documentary repository and will also provide details on service delivery and premiums status. Additionally, the business is launching an Electronic Policy Insurance service. Aligned with its green strategy, this roll-out also aims to “promote better policy documentation management for the customer”, according to Seach.

The fourth component of Generali’s digital transformation journey lies in business management. By consolidating its data, Seach says it helped to bring “full transparency” to the business, allowing it to better manage and track the performance of areas of the business like production, underwriting and finance. “Internally it provided us with a much better portfolio management capability,” he says. “The transparency of our portfolio has really enabled us to focus on profitability and portfolio performance. We've got a whole customer view, which has enabled us to deliver better results for our shareholders.”

“I think another thing that I'm really proud that we've managed to deliver is a more informed risk management to our customers,” he adds. “Our customers are able to get the claims data analytics that we provide.” This has had real-life, tangible impacts for customers, he asserts, citing a major multinational hotel chain as one key beneficiary. “We were able to analyse and present to them incidents which were happening within their hotels around the world. So, for example, one hotel had a slip-and-fall problem at one of their buffet lines. Using data analytics, we were able to isolate the cause of the problem and help them design a risk management control.” In this instance, it meant implementing a service attendant rather than having a self-service model to prevent spillages.

Indeed, Generali Global Corporate & Commercial has taken a forward-thinking approach to innovation, tapping into some of the latest technology trends shaking up the market. However, when the pace of innovation progresses at a rate of knots, how does the company keep up? “At GC&C Asia we’ve leveraged partners like KPMG who have been a fantastic supporter to us throughout our journey,” Seach observes. “I think leveraging partnerships have really helped us drive our agenda as fast and effectively as the market requires.”

But this isn’t the only challenge facing the company. Seach points out how his division also had to contend with legacy systems, the scale of change and the challenge of implementing this strategy worldwide. “It really requires a strong leadership focus to cascade this approach to the relevant teams within each of our businesses,” he says. It’s this strong guidance which will help the company it navigates a realm of new emerging technologies and strategies. “Leveraging robotics and other emerging technology is the next phase,” notes Seach. “Our value proposition requires a lot of analytics and feedback to our customers and we can’t underestimate the amount of work that goes into that. This technology will reduce the turnaround and customers will be able to receive more live-time data feedback on incidents so they can manage their own risks and exposures more effectively.” In the world of insurance, compliance is paramount and whilst Generali is already using tools like its CRM system and constant reviews to safeguard this, Seach highlights how the company is also exploring the use of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) for the future.

Change is underfoot at Generali: the company is investigating the use of trailblazing new technologies and is working hard to nurture the right culture necessary for change but ultimately, for Seach and his team, the most important thing is to remain laser-focused on its service-led customer experience. “Our service beyond policy approach is something that we’re really proud of within Global Corporate & Commercial,” Seach reflects. “Looking forward, if we can continue to be the best deliverer of corporate insurance to our customer that would be something that I would be delighted with.” In order to do this, technology is set to be a vital part of Generali’s future strategy, but when the end-goal is customer-centricity, it’s by no means a silver bullet. Seach affirms that whilst technology is a “clear enabler” which can help make the company more customer-centric, it won’t ever “replace the face-to-face environments that we've prided ourselves on here at Generali”.

Hayden Seach