Digital transformation: The future begins now

A new vision, a central hub for digital know-how, cooperations with start-ups: 2017 brought major changes for the digital transformation at VIG.

Amazon, Netflix and similar companies: These companies now set the standard for people’s expectations regarding customer experience and service quality – in all sectors. VIG is also in the process of offering its customers service “anywhere, anytime, any way”. The Group took important steps to achieve this goal in 2017. They are all aimed at using the wide range of innovative digitalisation projects within the local Group companies (see VIG’s digital vision for examples) to create an overall Group-wide concept. Two fundamental innovations at Group level now point the way to VIG’s digital future:

  • A digital vision (see VIG’s digital vision for examples) that creates a uniform and, above all, comprehensive understanding of what digitalisation actually means – since, as Klaus Mühleder, Head of the Group Development and Strategy department at VIG stresses, “Digitalisation is more than just an app”.
  • A digital information hub was created at VIG Holding level to drive the digital transformation forward and manage the exchange of knowledge between the individual companies.

Guided collaboration

The digital vision also allows a precise inventory to be made of where the Group stands in terms of digitalisation. “We are in the process of determining how advanced the individual companies are with respect to the six topic areas”, explains Mühleder. “We will then work with them, based on this information, to determine the areas they want to develop further.” This will lead to a digital transformation plan with specific targets for the entire Group. The digital hub will coordinate work between the local companies and keep the “big picture” in view. It will ensure that VIG can take full advantage of the benefits provided by its decentralised organisational structure. Mühleder illustrates this with an example: “If a certain solution is needed in several companies or countries, it will be developed where the necessary expertise is already available. After successful implementation, the solution can then be transferred to the other companies with little additional effort.”

Cooperation with start-ups

Another major responsibility of the hub is to collect knowledge and make it available to everyone in the Group – lessons learned from implemented projects, a start-up database and other central information resources. Cooperations like those with Insurance Innovation Lab in Leipzig and the Connected Insurance Observatory are also facilitated through the hub. VIG uses these partnerships to network with insurtechs (i.e. start-ups in the insurance industry) and work together with them to gain practical knowledge about technical innovations and how they can be applied in our day-to-day work. In the reporting year just ended, for example, work on basic topics like peer-to-peer insurance, blockchain, artificial intelligence and the Internet of things has been conducted.

A turbocharger for innovation

At the end of 2017, VIG started a half-year programme for insurtechs from all over the world in collaboration with the two digitalisation centres in Leipzig, Insurance Innovation Lab and SpinLab. Selected start-ups in the insurance area, among others, receive a modern co-work office, intensive coaching and benefit from contact with investors and established companies. VIG in turn uses the cooperation as a direct line to technical innovations.

Added value through digitalisation

All of VIG’s digitalisation projects are aimed at achieving at least one of the three top objectives:

  • Expanding customer relationships: In addition to communicating with customers when a loss occurs, digital communication channels also allow insurance companies to offer other attractive services to customers.
  • More efficient processes: Digital tools allow companies to use existing resources more productively. For example, if information is automatically provided on the status of a claim, significantly more customer enquiries can be handled without additional resources (and waiting time).
  • New spirit: The corporate culture shall continue to develop even further into a culture of openness that uses the intelligence and creativity of as many of the parties involved as possible, and in which many things are tried and an occasional error is accepted. Only a culture like this can make digital transformation possible.

Questions for Klaus Mühleder

Klaus Mühleder, Head of the VIG Group Development & Strategy department (portrait, © Sebastian Philipp)

Klaus Mühleder is Head of the VIG Group Development and Strategy department.

Are insurance companies facing disruptive changes?

I think the term disruption is a bit overused when talking about the insurance industry. Not even Uber’s business model is disruptive. It is not fundamentally different from a standard taxi company. It just uses technology to offer more intelligent service than others.

Does that mean the big revolution is not coming?

We have to make a distinction between the two waves of digitalisation. The first wave is intelligent use of technology to improve existing business models – like Uber. The really exciting changes will happen in the second wave, when we use digital technology to develop new business models – new products and new ways to offer products. In this wave, as an insurance company we will no longer mainly receive premiums in exchange for payments when a loss occurs. Instead, customers might pay us, for example, to protect them before the occurrence of a loss.

Can you give a concrete example of this?

One example would be the use of sensor technology in water pipes to prevent water damage. Customers would greatly prefer this over receiving a certain amount of money after a loss has occurred.