The insurance sector is experiencing rapid change as new technologies, new players, and consumers’ higher expectations redefine the landscape. The leaders in this industry are innovators. In 2021, Assicurazioni Generali (Italy) walks away with the crown—the Efma-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2021 Global Innovator Award! What makes Generali the winner? And what has earned Discovery and China Life the Silver and Bronze in this highly contested category?

Generali’s winning strategy

Generali was named Global Innovator 2021 for its many innovative projects. These include its Smart Automation Centre of Excellence, the Vehicle Ownership Lifecycle Digital Management, and its use of AI-augmented underwriting, which uses geospatial data. But these are not one-off projects—innovation is in Generali’s DNA. “Innovation is in Generali’s heritage, present and future”, says Danilo Raponi, Group Head of Innovation. “We have been continuously innovating, reinventing ourselves to remain competitive for over 190 years.”

“Innovation & Digital Transformation” is a key pillar of Generali’s 2019-2021 strategy. The goals of this strategy are to deliver world-class experiences to its customers, agents and employees by leveraging both external and internal innovation.

“The Group has committed to spend €1 billion in digital transformation and innovation in its 2019-2021 strategy. That’s a strong testament to the importance that management places on what will power the company forward in the future,” says Raponi. “Insurance is changing rapidly, and we are doing everything to ensure that Generali will be a protagonist of change, not a follower”.

For innovation to thrive, I believe it has to become part of the culture of an organisation. Generali’s vision “Innovation Everywhere for Everyone” embeds innovation in the daily efforts of its 70,000 people in approximately 400 companies and more than 50 countries. In 2020, this translated to hundreds of innovation projects—leveraging both external and internal innovation—aimed at improving internal processes and the customer experience. In 2020, the company launched the biggest AI and analytics program ever seen in the group, 3.6 million customers in 10 countries made use of its mobile and Web hub, and virtual agents served customers and agents using technologies that streamline and innovate insurance processes.

Recent examples of Generali’s innovations include bAIby, an AI-based device that translates the cry of a newborn; Highway Parametric Microinsurance, which provides an automatic toll refund in case of delays; Smart Savings, a solution that makes automatic contributions to a pension by rounding up card transactions; Smart Gallery Pro, an AI-driven solution that leverages images to streamline motor claims; and City Forward, a predictive machine language model driving real estate investments.

A key element of its Innovation & Digital IT Transformation strategy is Generali’s Smart Automation Centre of Excellence that, is accelerating business transformation and increasing operational efficiency. “Smart Automation is not about applying robotic automation to simple repetitive tasks; for Generali it is a combination of methodologies and technologies used to identify behaviors, content and information, and to analyze, prioritize and automate processes. It’s an innovative approach to generate value, which allows for significant improvements in the company’s operations and user experience,” says Raponi.

What are the key ingredients for innovation success? “Innovation remains, by definition, a field where testing and experimentation are unavoidable,” says Raponi. “At the same time, we interpret innovation with a certain dose of pragmatism, as we believe that it is necessary to focus on the projects and ideas that make most strategic sense for the company. The road ahead remains long and uncertain, but we are beginning to see some promising results”.

Discovery’s Vitality model transforms markets

Discovery, the South African insurer with global reach, won Silver in the Global Innovator category.

Its Vitality model, which incentivizes and rewards healthier lifestyle behaviors and prices this behavior change into insurance pricing, is transforming insurance markets globally. The Vitality model has been adopted by insurance leaders including John Hancock, Manulife, Generali, AIA, Ping An Health, Prudential, IGI Life, and Sumitomo Life, among others. An ecosystem of reward partners, technology assets, clinical capabilities, and actuarial data and structures help partners integrate behavior change into products and pricing. Together, this network of Vitality insurers represents more than 30 percent of the global personal protection market, with over 40 million lives across 27 countries.

What positions Discovery as a global insurance innovation leader?  Discovery’s corporate culture is premised on disruptive thinking, says the company. Instead of leaving innovation to chance, it has integrated it as a core, scheduled feature of working at Discovery. As a result, Discovery has introduced over 150 product innovations since 2013.

Discovery entered 15 innovations across a number of categories in the Efma-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2021. These include the Vitalitydrive smartphone and sensor technology, a solution that measures driving behaviour without the need for deep-installed telematics devices; Crowdsearch, a solution that uses the 500,000-strong network of Discovery app users and wireless telematics sensors to locate stolen vehicles. AI Quote is a standout solution which won the Core Insurance Transformation 2021 Award. Using AI Quote, brokers and clients can upload a PDF or pictures of competitor insurance and investment documents via phone or desktop, and receive an equivalent Discovery quote in seconds.

China Life – 178 patents in 2020

China Life is China’s largest life insurance company, and the first insurance company to list in New York, Shanghai and Hong Kong. It follows an innovation-driven development strategy, with technological innovation as one of three major engines. In 2020, it applied for 178 new technology patents that include cloud, blockchain, big data, AI and mobile capabilities. Its goal is to deepen the integration of technology within the life insurance value chain—and its achieving this in a way that sets a benchmark for the industry.

In 2020, it paid nearly 16.1 billion claims, 70 percent of which were handled using its intelligent services model (structured data, intelligent risk controls, automation) throughout the process. It is also using technology to solve key challenges—this includes direct payment of medical claims via a micro-insurance product which alleviates risk and hardship in poverty-stricken segments. It’s a solution Harvard Business School uses to illustrate pioneering solutions in the Chinese insurance sector.

Winners all

This year, 12 companies were shortlisted to win this Award. My congratulations to Assicurazioni GeneraliDiscovery, and China Life for taking the lead in this tough field of contenders. I look forward to seeing how their innovation excellence positions them in the year to come—and drives the evolution of this sector.

Until next time

For more on the Efma-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2021 winners, and the Global Innovators Award winners, click through to their innovation entry submissions on the Efma website and register to view. Or browse through the Efma winner’s series of posts by Accenture leaders.


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