The Italian insurer Generali is one of the main insurers in Europe and, also, in our country. Present in Spain since 1834, this firm serves more than three million clients, including individuals and companies, through its more than 1,600 agencies and its digital service channels. And it is in fact in this field where Generali seeks to become strong, betting on the digital transformation of a business as traditional and basic as insurance on the shoulders of technologies such as artificial intelligence and collaboration with the national entrepreneurial ecosystem, without losing its hallmark based on the personal relationship of its agents with the client. He has just launched a technological challenge with Innsomnia Accelerator to locate startups in the field of e-health that allow it to offer the market new solutions, products and health services. The call is open.
About these two pillars of its digital strategy, and many others, we have spoken with Xavier Serna, Chief Operating Officer of Generali:
The insurance sector has always been considered, along with banks, as one of the most reluctant to innovation. And yet, in recent years we have seen a very important takeoff in this field, adopting a lot of speed in its digital transformation. How do you understand innovation at Generali?
Innovation is a fundamental tool to continue generating value in a changing society, with new needs, new business and consumer models. For this reason, innovation and digital transformation are fundamental pillars of our Group strategy for 2021, not only in Spain, but also in our corporate vision. We are applying innovation in four areas: the technology itself, the new business models, the customer experience and the corporate culture.
Ultimately we have to combine these four elements so that innovative solutions can emerge. They can be solutions more adapted to the day to day, such as the introduction of a chatbot in the management of claims; while other innovations may be more disruptive. The development of the autonomous car, for example, will cause a complete change in our business model.
How are these four legs of the innovation strategy articulated?
In the technological section, we are working on integrating innovative proposals in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to process automation. Robotization is something that we started four years ago with the tactical automation of routine processes. We currently have more than one hundred automated processes, some of them carried out with external collaborators and others internally. We have also started to carry out developments in blockchain at both the sectoral and Group levels, with great potential to improve processes and make them more efficient and secure.
Regarding new business models, we are innovating in modular solutions so that it is the client who selects the coverage and services that meet their needs. Many of these innovations are based on ‘peer-to-peer’ solutions and participations in marketplaces or collaborative economy environments.
But we must not lose sight of the fact that the objective of all innovation is to improve the customer experience, which is at the center of our strategy. For this, we use ‘agile’ and ‘design thinking’ methodologies, as well as promoting intrapreneurship. The objective is that we not only talk about open innovation, but also that we be able to take out new initiatives from within, so that the entire company is integrated into the innovation process. There is a very clear example of this: last year, we launched our first internal hackathon in which almost 10% of the company participated, 145 employees who developed innovation initiatives in multidisciplinary groups of four or five people. In total ten projects were selected and two of them are being developed this year.
You have already commented on some of the most outstanding technologies you are working on. Could you dig a little deeper into some of the most important ones, like artificial intelligence?
Of course. The clearest example of artificial intelligence is in chatbots and virtual assistants, which allow us to get much closer to the client when it comes to giving a more agile response. Who doesn’t want immediate attention when declaring a claim?
We also work on machine learning projects. We receive a large volume of information and documentation on our underwriting and claims management platforms. We have software that allows us to read all that information and direct it, through virtual trays, to a subscriber or expert processor in charge of its management. With that we streamline the entire process for the benefit of the client. Another technological application that we frequently use is OCR (Optical Character Recognition), which allows us to interpret document images and process them without the need for manual resources. The same happens with applications for image recognition, which we apply in video appraisal processes during the hiring process, reducing the time to recognize vehicle damage.
We are also incorporating cognitive solutions. With the historical information in our possession, through analytical processes we offer our underwriters and risk analysts a recommendation of what is the valuation that we have given in twin cases. We gain in precision and safety, in addition to reducing response time for the benefit of the client.
Additionally, we have predictive solutions based on data analysis that allow us to inform our distribution networks of the service or product that a client foreseeably requires to offer the best service at all times, anticipating their needs. Finally, it also has application in the prevention of fraud: the experience serves to make projections of similar cases that may point to a possible case of fraud.