The future of the business world – the big unknown we are all so eager to discover. What drives us? Which factors determine our lives and economic ties? These are the questions we look at during a round table with Heinz Baumgartner, CEO of Schweiter Technologies AG, Severin Moser, CEO of Allianz Suisse Versicherungs-Gesellschaft AG, and Stefan Pfister, CEO of KPMG Switzerland. The discussion was moderated by René Lüchinger, Publisher-in-Chief, Blick Group.
Heinz Baumgartner: I’m convinced that innovation will be the most important long-term value driver, regardless of which industry you look at. Of course that goes hand in hand with the question of what the customer of tomorrow’s needs will be. Since innovation is always driven on the customer side, that means we have to be in a position to understand customers and anticipate their needs.
Stefan Pfister: In the advisory business, we have to identify the challenges facing our clients as early as possible so that we can develop innovative, forward-looking solutions. This can only happen if we have enough qualified resources, in other words enough specialists, who ultimately determine our capacity to provide our services. And lately, this set of required capabilities, know-how, experience and skill has been rapidly changing. Right now the current challenge to our business model is the fact that we must, to a large extent, develop the specific specialist skills that we need in-house through training and professional development programs. The education market simply doesn’t offer the rapidly evolving qualifications that we need.
Severin Moser: Despite the fact that the insurance industry also offers a relatively abstract product, our business is still based on the principle of innovation and the early identification of new client needs. Yet innovation in our industry doesn’t just happen at the product level, it’s also found in interactions with clients and in claims handling processes.
Severin Moser: That means clients want to be able to communicate with us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether they need to submit a claim, take out a policy or request an offer. Clients are caring less and less about agencies’ traditional opening hours. Plus geographical autonomy is important nowadays. The younger generation of clients is less interested in having insurance agents make traditional house calls and visit comparison sites and online insurance coverage calculators instead.
Heinz Baumgartner: Digitization will change our business, but this change won’t happen nearly as rapidly as is generally predicted. In our branch of industrial manufacturing we will have intelligent components like façade elements that detect outdoor weather conditions and relay them to the climate control system inside the building.
Heinz Baumgartner: That’s correct. Digitalization offers huge opportunities for the manufacturing industries in that regard, but there are some drawbacks too.
Heinz Baumgartner: On the one hand there are questions regarding data protection and data security that need to be cleared up and, on the other, we’ll eventually reach the point where computers will be making and implementing more and more decisions – decisions that had previously been evaluated and carried out by humans. That gives rise to entirely new legal and ethical questions, for example when it comes to the concept of selfdriving cars.
Stefan Pfister: That’s actually already a reality in a few countries and in areas with a low degree of complexity. Digitalization is a hot topic for us at KPMG and it’s permeating our business on three levels. First, we’re asking ourselves how data analytics and digitization can generate added value for our clients. The advisory sector needs to assume some kind of pioneering role here and examine which elements of the digital universe are potentially useful to clients and which are not. Second, we’re working to find the best possible way to apply the technology we use by focusing on process optimization and topics like big data processing. Third, we’re taking a critical look at how we organize our work environment and assessing our employees’ profiles. Here, we’re asking ourselves if digitalization will require more or fewer specialists in the future. Or rather, will it call for specialists with a different set of qualifications? In any case, these three areas are making our business development process quite dynamic.
Stefan Pfister: Actually, right now nobody really knows where this road is taking us or what kind of information we can generate with the enormous volume of data that we’re collecting, storing and feeding into new algorithms. We’ll know more in another five years. Still, I see huge potential not only in the areas of audit and advisory but also in terms of new product and service development both in Mr. Moser’s insurance industry and in Mr. Baumgartner’s industrial manufacturing. For those of us working in the audit business, for instance, big data means continuously asking ourselves which additional insights can be gleaned from our audit activities and how this information generates value for our clients. For example, we can help companies access previously unknown information that could facilitate monitoring at the board of directors level while also supporting and simplifying management decisions.
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