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Dynamic and passionate leader, Aleksandar Mlinar took over the Market Management department at Allianz Hungária Insurance Company this year. He is a truly international leader who has held various positions within the Allianz Group in different parts of the world over the last ten years. The experiences he gained during his journey, he brought to Budapest to reshape the image of his new area of responsibility. These days require leaders, who are confident enough to navigate through stormy times and innovative to spot the opportunities on the road. And there are a lot of opportunities for insurance: this rather traditional industry started transforming heavily in the last years, in terms of digitalisation, processes and service offering. Sooner or later – insurance industry will need to be able to benchmark itself to other industries – Aleksandar Mlinar is telling us more…

How long have you been working in the insurance industry, and how did you become Market Management Director at Allianz Hungária?

When I joined Allianz Hungária in July 2022, it was exactly ten years since I started working at Allianz and in the insurance sector. Being grateful for development opportunities my company offers, I had a chance to work in different roles as well as geographies. Lately I was dealing with corporate development topics at Allianz head office in Munich and became responsible to develop and run bancassurance business in the CEE region. Prior to that, besides my engagement with Group Direct and Global P/C activities,  I was offered to join our retail distribution team in Sydney and grow our Direct business in Australia. Similarly this time, there was an exciting opportunity to come to Hungary, which I gladly accepted.

What are your goals and plans and how would you like to achieve them?

Allianz is one of the leading insurance companies worldwide, as well as one of the key market player in Hungary. With this comes the responsibility not only for shaping the market, but also further increasing awareness of the importance of insurance protection and offering innovative products and services to meet evolving needs of our customers. At Allianz customer experience is at the forefront, and it is one of our key objectives that makes us occupied these days. We work hard on improving our digital journeys and increasing the usage of our digital tools, being it at a point of purchase (via new quote and buy), service (customer portal) or claim (via online claims tracker). And we listen to the feedbacks of our customers through our Voice of the Customer initiative which helps us identifying areas where we should improve. Our plan is also to grow in new product offering and innovative services.

And to meet our objectives, we also rely on the great team that we have here in Hungary, which I am happy to work with.

Did you have any role models, an important person or leader who may have influenced your career?

It would be very difficult to name one specific person. I would highlight my family, parents, my wife, sister, and finally certain colleagues. Close circle of important people who have been supporting me throughout the journey so far. I was growing up in not easy circumstances in my home country, marked by unrest, civil war and hyper-inflation in the 90s, still I consider myself lucky to be able to say I had a healthy childhood. Looking at it professionally, I regard each experience as something that shaped me – even and especially in the challenging times. And there have been quite a few during my journey of life in 5 different countries so far.  

What type of leader do you consider yourself to be, and what are your main strengths?

I see myself as a dynamic and passionate leader who likes to try new things and I challenge myself consistently. I like to connect to people, promote diversity of thinking, create an atmosphere of trust, a kind of “safe zone”. I believe these are very important in building and running successful teams. I like to take broader view and see higher purpose in the activities,but I also enjoy deeply seeing concrete progress, seeing execution. Sometimes, though, I can be impatient. Especially if I change environment where previously I got to do things in a different way or pace. The greatest value for me is the overall learning and how it supports me shaping further agenda and activities.  

Allianz introduced new initiatives and transformational projects some years ago. Can you share any information about the progress?

Yes, Allianz is on the ongoing journey of transformation, starting from central level with redefined strategic targets, set clear purpose and pillars for reaching overall objectives. Customer centricity reflected through our Allianz customer model, simplification of the processes and products, sustainability focus are some of the important elements of our strategy. We have done quite a lot already, which is also reflected in our brand image where – from the brand value perspective (Interbrand ranking) – we kept the position of a leading insurance brand worldwide 4th consecutive year and increased brand value by 23% compared to last year. Still, if we benchmark ourselves to some other industries, there is further room to improve and we are committed to do this in our journey.  

Allianz is developing new and innovative products, some of them are completely new to the market. Can we know a little bit more about them?

We put important focus on innovation. Recently we launched a new health product and in motor insurance we designed new covers tailored for electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids as well; anticipating new segments and growing customer needs.

If we look at how much of a burden the pandemic brought on the healthcare systems in Hungary but also across other countries, we can identify some critical elements. These elements can be supported from the product side: in order to make customers’ life easier. Being it through a possibility to get quicker doctor appointment, online consultation or needed screening in a selected medical center, as an example.  

This approach applies to customers who drive electric vehicles too. What happens if they run out of the battery in the middle of nowhere? Who is going to support them in such situations? This is what we need to think through when launching new and innovative products and services. Another innovation worth mentioning: we successfully launched first block-chain solution which provides possibility to our Travel insurance customers to get claim settlement instantly in case of a flight delay or cancellation – for this we only need in addition the bank account and flight number.

We live in a difficult time and environment both geographically and economically. What do you think are the biggest threats to the industry? What causes the most challenges these days?

This year seems as a “perfect storm”. If we look at inflation, interest rates and other macroeconomic developments further deepened through energy crisis, we see an unprecedented situation in which the World is right now. And we still haven’t properly recovered from the pandemics. It is difficult to predict what will happen with the current economic developments. Some years ago, we witnessed “new norm” of having negative interest rates, something not easy to imagine from traditional economic perspective, also penalizing generations of “savers”. Now we face sharp increase of interest rates (with inverted yield curves), and I would say late reactions from central banks to tame inflation, having as consequence fuelled recession risks with big pressure on local currency FX rates and budget deficits of many countries due to expensive financing. Beyond macro-economic developments, we can spend more time speaking of the impact of climate change, which can have some profound impact on the industry as well.

For us as an organization, what is very important – especially in these circumstances – is living to our purpose: “We secure your future”. Building on our resilience, stability and trust that customers place in us, in providing security and insurance protection – is in these times as important as it has ever been.

What do you think the future holds for the insurance industry?

If we look form the industry’s perspective, we are now in both challenging but also exciting times. Challenging because there is an increased level of uncertainty driven by climate change, geopolitical and macroeconomic risks. On the other side from insurance industry perspective new trends are creating new types of risks. Starting from new types of mobility forms that are emerging (e.g. autonomous vehicles), then risks in the digital space (cyber) etc. Industry needs to be able to understand these, provide proper solutions and price them properly. This, however, can be tricky, as insurance is one of the few, if not the only industry, where exact costs of the product sold are not known in advance.

If we look around, we can see that new risks are appearing, there are new types of behaviours in terms of transportation for example.

Climate change brings already some visible impact, this year we had unfortunate and unprecedented draught not only in Hungary but across Europe, which impacted agro-sector, among others. We also need to be mindful of the fact that with extreme developments there could be higher emergence of uninsurable risks in the future where proper solutions need to be provided through joint work of public and private sector. Insurance industry can and should have important contribution to limiting the impact of climate change and supporting shift to sustainable solutions, where Allianz is putting already quite some efforts and actions.

As a leader what advice would you give to younger professionals to help them build a successful and fruitful career at Allianz?

My advice to aspiring young leaders is to approach career as a marathon rather than a sprint. Be persistent and authentic, build and shape your confidence. Nurture feedback culture – ask for feedback and provide it openly whenever you have the opportunity, it will help you see things you don’t and create better connections with people. Try to see things through positive attitude, be kind to others. The environment is changing at a faster pace, try to find the right balance at the end of the day, and don’t forget to have fun.

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