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Innovation at Zurich Insurance Company Ltd is deeply ingrained in the company’s strategy and culture. Stuart Domingos, CFA, Head of Group Innovation, spoke with us about what innovation means to the company and how it fits with their customer-first approach.
What makes your company truly innovative?
Innovation is at the heart of Zurich’s strategy and it allows us to better serve our customers, seize business opportunities, increase our scale, and expand in attractive global markets. We develop solutions in-house and bring in expertise from outside the organization. Internally, we leverage global expertise, working in international teams. Our global “Make the Difference” approach empowers employees to work on new initiatives.
We work with external startups that specialize in digital technology. Our Zurich Innovation Championship is an annual call to entrepreneurs to bring their best ideas that can be considered as solutions for our customers. Also, we exchange ideas with academia and work with universities to develop state-of-the-art solutions.
What are the major goals of your innovation strategy and what results have you seen?
We are one of the largest insurers in the world and this would not be possible without continuous innovation. We consider any number of areas that are ripe for innovation always with the customer in mind. We’ve developed a number of solutions such as coverage aimed at younger customers who want to turn it on and off as they need it, loss prevention for small to medium-sized enterprises, and rewards for healthy lifestyles. Isolating the results of innovation are usually worthless, what matters is whether we deliver end results. In the last strategic cycle, we over-achieved our stated targets.
How is a culture of innovation embedded at Zurich?
Innovation culture is spreading quickly across the organization. Internally, we offer the global “Make the Difference” program with the goal of making Zurich a better place for colleagues and customers. It significantly changed the culture of innovation within the company, empowering employees to propose, design, and execute on innovative ideas. Participants in the program are trained at our headquarters and their ideas come to life when they return to their home countries. It has quickened the pace of innovation; there were numerous projects implemented in different parts of the world within a year. Regarding open innovation, the Zurich Innovation Championship is our high-profile external activity that fuels innovation and puts it to good use. It is most likely the largest call to action for startups in our industry.
How does Zurich manage the overall innovation process?
Zurich has built a strong network of more than 200 innovation leaders at group and country levels. Scouting teams explore new technologies and business models at the group level while business development teams scale up new projects for our global customer base. At the country level, innovation leads work closely with customers in their markets. In addition, we sponsor hackathons to draw inspiration from creative minds in the hacker community.
We have access to some of the world’s brightest up-and-coming startups through collaboration with early-stage incubators such as Plug and Play in Silicon Valley, SOSA in Israel, and others. In Barcelona, we develop new products and solutions at our in-house digital development center.
Our innovation process is customer-focused and designed for scaling. Early in the process we validate our ideas by listening to our customers and collaborating closely with our business units driving customer satisfaction and business results.
Download the full paper "Innovation in insurance: The end of insurance as we know it" and read the other exclusive interviews.