The ability to innovate has become increasingly important to the insurance sector. Gulio Dell’Amico, Director with KPMG Italy’s strategy group sat down with Gian Paolo Meloncelli, Strategy and Business Development Director at Generali Group to discuss innovation, the role of partnerships and the management of disruption by new entrants.
1. Generali is building quite a reputation for innovation and innovative business models within the European market. What makes your approach different?
These days, it seems everybody is trying to position their organization as being ‘innovative’. But what really differentiates the winners is how they are innovating, not whether they are innovating. We see so many best practices that are already working for other industries around the world and we are striving to learn what we can from them. Think about how Amazon interacts with clients or how Discovery – a South African company – has revolutionized the insurance sector. These are companies that have been able to create unique relationships with their customers through simplified interactions. As Leonardo De Vinci said in the 15th Century, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
2. What role do partnerships play in your innovation strategy?
We are doubling down on our efforts to partner with companies that can make a real difference within our value chain. Take, for example, our partnership with Discovery which has allowed us to radically change the protection and health offering in Europe. It’s these types of relationships and partnerships that we are systemically scouting out.
It’s not just the established start-ups and players that we are watching, it’s also new ideas that can create value. So we spend significant time and effort identifying, testing and investing in ideas that we believe can make a real difference in our product offering, our distribution or even our non-customer facing activities.
Ultimately, we understand that we cannot innovate all by ourselves, and that there is still much more that we can learn from our business partners and new innovators. We’d be missing a massive opportunity otherwise.
3. How do you monitor for new ideas and potential threats and disruption in the market?
Look, the risk of disruption is always there; no matter how intensely you monitor it, there is always the potential for a new market entrant to emerge and disrupt your position almost overnight. The only way to really respond to the forces of disruption is to be faster and more customer-focused than your competition. At the end of the day, it’s the customer that decides who has the better offering, not the other way around. Focusing on that is more powerful than monitoring for new threats.
4. What are some of the obstacles to innovation for the Generali Group?
I think that – no matter what sector you play in – the reality is that global players with a long tradition tend to have more challenges with innovation, particularly with legacy systems, cultural preconceptions and complex organizational structures. One way to start to overcome these challenges is to have a specialist unit that enjoys a strong management mandate to connect all the dots.
That being said, innovation cannot be confined to a single unit or group. It needs to be rooted across the organization and embedded into the DNA of every employee. We take what we call a ‘snowball’ approach to culture change, by clearly demonstrating that the organization supports those employees who have the guts to try new things.
Gian Paolo Meloncelli is Group Strategy and Business Development Director of Assicurazioni Generali. He has a true passion for entrepreneurial challenges and performance turnaround, prior to Generali he did extensive work at Mckinsey & Company and at StMicroelectronics across Europe, US, Asia and the Middle East. Gian Paolo holds a Master Degree in Electronic Engineering from the Polytechnic of Milan.
For almost 200 years, Generali has become a multinational group present in more than 60 countries, with 470 companies and nearly 80,000 employees. It aims to become the standard bearer and industry leader in the European retail insurance market, building on its existing base of 50 million retail clients, out of an overall total of 72 million.
To know more, visit Generali Group.
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