Finding the ideal line.
Martin Jara, CEO Switzerland, has got his country market in good shape to tackle helvetia 20.25. The warm-up’s complete and the kit is top notch. Those without a starting number or still in doubt about the programme need to get a move on. The season has already started.
Interview Dominik Chiavi Photo Florian Brunner
The Switzerland country market has formulated six action areas on the basis of Helvetia’s strategic priorities. Sounds like a lot. How does Helvetia plan to implement all that?
It’s true that we’re ambitious. Our goal is to safeguard and build on our top-three position as an all-lines insurer in Switzerland. To do so, we need to strike a better balance between growth, the loss ratio and efficiency. We want to outpace annual market growth in our traditional sales channels and continue expanding alternative customer access points. At the same time we have to shore up our margins and keep a lid on costs. With this in mind, we defined our strategic action areas and launched the necessary initiatives.
How does Helvetia intend to distinguish itself in the market via its new strategy?
It’s perfectly clear – by living up to our brand promise: “simple. clear. helvetia.” That’s why we have to strive for even greater simplicity in how we address customers and formulate our offers. And all our products and services have to be designed from the customer perspective.
You mentioned efficiency and cost management. Do we need to save?
Costs and cost management are not an end in themselves. They always have to be viewed in relation to efficiency and to the customer benefit our products and services offer. Where this relationship is out of sync, we have to lower costs and enhance efficiency. Our cost management efforts do not prevent us from reaching our goals as regards customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and growth. On the contrary, they are an important prerequisite for maintaining our future competitiveness and for creating attractive offerings for our customers.
The strategy relies firmly on strong growth in our core business, and that includes corporate customer business. How does Helvetia want to enhance its position in this highly competitive segment?
We have already demonstrated in recent years that we are capable of doing just that. More than 150,000 corporate customers across Switzerland have already placed their trust in us, and we can offer SMEs attractive products and interesting modular solutions. I see potential in broader-based consultation, allowing us to increase customer penetration, and in supplementary services that add value for our customers.
Our partnerships with the IFJ Institute for Young Entrepreneurs and the services offered in our Atlanto ecosystem for SMEs are important steps.
What do we still have up our sleeve in the private customer segment?
When it comes to non-life business, we continue to develop excellent offerings for our clientele. The important thing is to keep a close eye on the margin of our in-force portfolio and make the most of any opportunities that arise, for example to expand the customer base. In this respect, the new data analytics tools we have at our disposal are a real boon. Life business is suffering from the decay of interest rates. Making provision for retirement is becoming ever more important for customers. We are seeing strong demand for high-quality consultation and bespoke solutions – especially in an environment where there are no guaranteed interest rates and which is characterized by growing uncertainty surrounding state-run pension funds. The consultation services provided by our field staff can add a great deal of value for our customers. As for pension products, we are working closely with Asset Management to be able to offer the right solutions.
The subject of alternative areas of business was handled in depth during the strategy process. Why?
Insurance is a basic need – and I am convinced it will remain so. But we also have to think outside the box and find out what customers want, where we can reach them in future and what role insurance plays for them in real life.
Martin Jara, CEO Switzerland, wants Helvetia to stand out clearly in the market with its brand promise: “simple. clear. helvetia.”
Can you give a few examples?
To be specific, Smile, MoneyPark, ETI and our partner business give us a very strong basis that we can evolve and, in combination with other Helvetia offerings, make even more relevant. What is more, we must rigorously exploit any new opportunities that arise during the strategy period. A current example of this is our new partnership with Polestar. As the exclusive provider of Polestar Insurance, we are right there with our offers on the Polestar platform during the sales process, where the need for insurance arises.
More and more customers are demanding online and mobile solutions.
Our customers’ needs are as individual as the customers themselves. By continuing to tap our omni-channel potential, we can satisfy those customers’ diverse needs. Digital channels are creating an additional access point for our services. In somewhat more complex situations, the same customers prefer a personal consultation. The key aspect is for all channels to dovetail without friction.
You need the right mindset to tackle new challenges and advance innovation. In this context, you have often talked of a “performance culture”. What does a performance culture demand of us in our day-to-day work?
Today, we have a culture of constructive collaboration, consensus and good relations with one another. We need to supplement this positive culture with more performance-oriented components. To this end, we are challenging and encouraging our staff in their personal development, setting clear goals and ensuring they are achieved. And, with a view to making our company a success, we are also broaching difficult topics with our employees rather than sweeping them under the carpet.