2021 has been, again, a very difficult year but the direction remained the same for Allianz, and for the rest of the Hungarian insurance industry, everything is just got a bit accelerated. Allianz is now entering into the subsequent phase of digitization. Documents will be reviewed, simplified, or even modified to make business processes smarter and even more convenient. Having a product is not sufficient anymore, services and user experience attached to them are also important for the customers. Therefore, Allianz must compare itself to other companies outside of the insurance industry. Nowadays there is a growing focus on sustainability, and as a founding member of United Nation’s Net-Zero Insurance Alliance, Allianz is the frontrunner of these efforts. The board members and CEOs of Allianz are highly engaged to this topic, and Allianz Group – as one of the largest investors of the world – has a huge influence on where and how the company invests its own and its customers funds.
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Talking about the development of insurance products Allianz is committed to simplification and improving efficiency. How well the company succeed this year and what can you share with us from product development?
The direction, that we set some years ago, remained the same, however this year in addition to pure product development we focused on services and customer experience as well.
A sole product is not sufficient anymore, services and positive customer experience attached to them are also important for everyone.
For example, this year we introduced a simplified and more user-friendly quote and buy system for our clients. There were improvements on the claim tracking processes as well, and as a result now our customers can receive digital notifications and are able to track the status of their claims in a modern environment: in the Online Claim Tracker.
Allianz is a frontrunner in both digitalization and artificial intelligence-based developments among the Hungarian insurance sector. What’s next in digitalization and what are your plans for the coming years?
Obviously, we have to continue this path. Now we have to leverage the results of past years work as fully as we can. We made our offices paperless a couple of years ago, and as a next step we will make digitalization smarter and more convenient. We automated our processes in the past, and now it is time to leverage AI and advanced analytics to benefit from the data and the information that we gathered, to improve efficiency and customer service further.
We realized that artificial intelligence brings benefits on both sides, for the company and for the customers as well.
For the company the things will become faster and smoother. For our customers, we can do deeper analytics as well. Take Voice of the Customer as an example: this year we covered all customer journeys. So now we have a platform where we receive detailed feedback from our customers. Now we analyze these feedbacks to further improve our services using more intelligent tools and processes. In the next years, we will modernize our core insurance system as well. We started with the products, then came to front end used by our customers, and now we finally arrive to core system modernization, which is a much bigger task, and will certainly take more than one year.
Let’s talk a few words about people management in the changing work environment. We are dealing with COVID for nearly two years now. The way we do things has completely transformed, home office has become standard and the hybrid work was born. How does this affect your colleagues and the efficiency of Allianz Hungária? What challenges do you face in this regard?
The change is huge with all of its the benefits and difficulties. On one hand we saw people became happier and satisfied after we moved to home office, during the first wave of the pandemic. They could work safely, with less travel from home to work they gained some time, and some flexibility. Then we moved into a phase when people realized that quarantine has disadvantages too, like spending your whole day jumping in and out videoconferences. Besides that, a lot of things appeared on the change management side.
Because the way how we interact and do our work has changed, we organized a lot of online training for our employees and gave them opportunities to grow on various levels, supported them coping with this new situation.
Today there is a totally different way of managing people remotely. We are also running webinars on communication and psychological challenges, for example how to deal with pressure and stress. This initiative was so successful and popular among our colleagues, that this year onwards we offered such seminars to our clients as well. We invited well-known experts, psychologists and psychiatrists to help not only to our colleagues but our customers too. Now just saw the 4th wave of Corona, and the world became hybrid once more. At least, this time we had an advantage: we already knew how to react smooth. We adapted to the situation on demand, and we call this the new working model – e.g. when and how long people can work from home – of course, depends on the actual setup and daily operation of the department. This is a complex question, and solutions are rarely black and white.
Allianz not only secures people’s financing but as it is written in its purpose, “We secure your future” also means working for a sustainable future. What does this mean from the business and operational perspective, and how does it connects with sustainable financing? Can you please share some thoughts about the latest sustainability developments at Allianz?
I am glad that you ask this since it is indeed an increasingly important topic, that needs a lot of awareness, and we must promote it very actively as well. As insurers we can talk about the impact of natural catastrophies, storms, floods, hails and all the growing aspects of these aforementioned situations on our customers and on their business. However, this is not only about climate protection and protecting the environment, but about ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). This is a wider topic. Some people think it is about only climate change – which is very important by the way – but it is only a part of it. Sustainability also means how we interact with the community. For example, how we support the community around us in different ways, not only by giving them donations; how we provide equal opportunities for people within the company to maintain the men-women balance and equal access to development opportunities. Here are our goals which going well beyond climate change.
What is the role of Allianz, on Group level regarding climate change?
The role and the activity of Allianz are visible on three different levels. I truly believe in these, and I am committed we need to promote sustainability.
- First element is our own operation that we want to keep sustainable. We commit to CO2 reduction and to more environmentally friendly ways of doing business, which includes for example energy efficient way to operate our facilities or reduce travel.
- On the second level, we address a much larger perimeter, by being more selective in our underwriting, where we avoid some areas, like coal-related industries.
- Finally, Allianz Group is one of the largest investors in the world, and thus has a huge influence on were and how the company put its own and its customers money. We invest in a more ecologically friendly and sustainable projects, or we ask companies we invest into for higher sustainability standards.
Allianz is very active in sustainability, for example, we are the founding of member of United Nation’s convened Net-Zero Insurance Alliance, as well as of Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. And we strive to play a leading and shaping role, not just as a participant.
How do you see the year ahead? When will the market, such as travel insurance, return to pre-corona levels? What do you see as the biggest challenge for next year, and how do you prepare for it?
This year the Hungarian insurance industry become stronger and more successful. Both, life and non-life markets showed a strong growth this year. For us, this was a successful year, if we take a look on our progress and numbers it is a pleasant surprise. Allianz become the number one brand in the insurance industry globally, according to Interbrand’s Best Global Brands Ranking. Next year – as I see for now – the main trends will remain. The insurance industry, together with the economy, will grow further. As for Allianz – we keep learning from the new trends and adapting as well. With regards to the travel market, it will take some time to go back to the pre-corona level, but perhaps the recovery might happen faster than expected. Allianz Hungária will move to intelligent and consistent digitalization, which includes customer services, and back-office operations.
As a matter of fact, customers also learnt many things over the lockdown. They saw these new digital solutions are good, and now those became expectations. I used to say even before corona that we must compare ourselves not only to companies within the insurance industry, but companies like Google, or online retailers. This race is never ending, however it is good for us and good for the customers.
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