Three success factors of teaming up with insurtechs

Setting the Digital Insurance Agenda is one thing. Delivering it is something different, and much more challenging. That’s why we asked Amelie Oudea Castera, the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Digital Officer of AXA Group, to share her views.

Being a former world champion tennis, grown up with an average rally time of around 10 seconds on clay-courts and less than 5 seconds on grass-courts, what do you find interesting in the insurance business?
Amelie: “Similarly to tennis, on top of technical skills, insurance requires an attention to every detail, a mix of action and anticipation, a capacity to work over the long-term and a lot of technical expertise! Insurance is a fascinating industry to me. Firstly, it is a sophisticated & technical area. It requires a strong understanding of complex financial mechanisms and industry specific challenges (e.g. mobility, wellbeing, wealth management, etc.), with geographic diversity. Secondly, insurance is at the heart of society issues, addressing retirement, savings, climate change or health challenges.  Thirdly, I believe the insurance industry is ripe for disruption. There are today strong misalignments between insurers and their customers that must be solved moving forward. We are seeing new players approaching the market in an innovative way, challenging traditional incumbents. And it is just the beginning since new technologies and deeper data management will allow transformative customer experiences.”

Can you describe what you do as Chief Marketing & Digital Officer of the AXA Group? 
Amelie: “As Chief Marketing & Digital Officer, I manage five very complementary teams: Customer, Digital, Brand, Media & Digital Partnerships.  We work on developing & driving the Customer Experience strategy across countries and building core foundational capabilities, standards and expertise, hand in hand with the IT, Operations, Distribution and the business, with a main focus on digital & data capabilities. I make sure the Brand strategy & Media investments are fully aligned with the  Customer Experience we design and more broadly the Group strategy. In parallel, our Digital Partnerships team spots new market trends and builds partnerships with global digital players in the sharing economy (e.g. BlaBlaCar), the e-commerce (e.g. Jumia), the Fintech/MedTech as well as social sphere (e.g. Facebook, Linkedin). Finally, I contribute to delivering customer-centricity across the organization (e.g. culture, performance metrics, best practice sharing etcetera).”

If you believe what is written in the press, the whole insurance industry will be disrupted because of new attractive business models offered by new entrants.
Amelie: “Disruption in insurance is no longer a question of “if” but a question of “when”
The one thing that can scare incumbents is the timing of that disruption: we all know we still have a lot to do to change, self-revolutionize our offers, customer interactions and business models.
At the same time we are certainly aware that competitive pressure, especially from digital native players aiming at changing the world, is one of the most effective levers to disseminate the right sense of urgency. I am personally excited about the challenge!”

If you have to bet on one driver that could revolutionize insurance, what would it be?
Amelie: “The revolution today is about customers, about putting them first, renouncing to current drivers of profitability to build a model relying on one single obsession: better serve our customers! My humble advice to insurtechs would be the following: take the deepest insurance business models weaknesses such as the lack of product/coverage understandability or loyalty rewards and to turn it into an advantage for a completely rethought customer experience.”

What are, the challenges and success factors of teaming up with insurtechs for a large player such as AXA?
Amelie: “With regards to teaming up with fintech, I would say the most challenging part is the cultural gap between the startups and large corporate worlds, including for example the difference in speed of decision-making or the discrepancies in terms of focus (growth vs. profitability).
I believe it is important for corporates to define a single point of entry for startups i.e. a team with an entrepreneurial spirit, a good knowledge the organization challenges, a strong internal network, and a deep understanding of the operating mode of startups. At AXA, we created a few years ago a Digital Partnerships team to handle the large partnerships with startups. We also have local teams dealing with smaller partnerships Secondly, it is necessary to build trust with the startups you work with, starting small with a clear value proposition for customers, and building a common roadmap for strategic sustainable value creation  Thirdly, to make this collaboration a success, both structures must work in agile mode, focusing on customization and speed to market in delivery It is also important to set up metrics to measure the success, and evolve continuously. Last but not least, for AXA, it is key in those partnerships to leverage our assets and network for better results achievement.”

Amelie Oudea- Castera (AXA Group) at DIA Amsterdam 2017

More and more insurance executives realize that digital transformation is not a technology challenge but a people challenge. It is about cultural change. For instance, it is not just about decreasing the time to market, it is more about decreasing the time to make decisions. 
Amelie: “I am totally aligned with this statement. The most difficult part of a transformation is the change in mindset and behaviors. Within AXA, to address this challenge, we launched many global initiatives. We created a global competition, Start-in, aiming at accelerating internal innovation and fostering intrapreneurship; we initiated a reverse mentoring program to bring generations together and guide the Group’s digital transformation. We also recruited key digital talents thanks to impactful initiatives. For instance, the AXA Data Innovation Lab launched a first data science competition on Kaggle and attracted 1,528 teams of data scientists, becoming the eighth most active competition ever out of the 165 on the platform.”

Back to tennis, are there specific talents that come to play in making this change happen?
Amelie: “My secret recipe to make things happen is threefold. First, identifying your North Star as a company and do everything you can to reach your goal, getting closer step by step to your objective. To do so, you need patience, tenacity, strong convictions and unfailing supports within your company. Second, believe in yourself, in your assets, in your difference! You are where you are for a valuable reason. Third, never forget that hard work always pays off and leads to success. As you must know very well, hard work beats talents when talents doesn’t work hard.”

Written by Roger Peverelli and Reggy de Feniks

The article was initially published at DIA

Check the full video of Amelie’s keynote at DIA TV

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