Oliver Bäte, CEO of Allianz SE, today opened the 44th annual Insurance Conference in Sun City, South Africa, with a keynote address on the conference theme “Disrupt, Debate, Deliver”. In his speech, Bäte addressed the profound transformation of the insurance industry wrought by digitalization.

“In today’s fast changing world, it’s critical to innovate quickly and to change course rapidly if necessary. The insurance industry, like other customer service industries, is transforming because of the all-encompassing impact of digitalization on our lives. Customers have new expectations, a growing number of disruptors are taking the stage and new megatrends, such as artificial intelligence (AI), voice-based smart assistants (i.e. ‘Alexa’), telematics, wearables and drones are fundamentally changing the traditional insurance model.”

“We are completely rethinking the way we serve our customers, not least because of the competition posed by disruptors from the fin-/insuretech space, who have an impressive facility with mobile technology and analytics. Today’s customers will choose a product primarily because it’s easy to use, transparent in terms of price and quality, and personalized – and because it’s available to them via the digital channels they want it from.”

Allianz-Bäte-Africa

From left: Allianz CEO Oliver Bäte with Thusang Mahlangu (CEO of AGCS South Africa), Coenraad Vrolijk (Regional CEO Africa, Allianz), and Delphine Maidou(Regional COO Africa, Allianz)

“Digital comes naturally to African customers”

“While traditional markets, such as Europe, are struggling with their digital transformation process, Africa is digital by nature. Mobile is the fastest growing sector and innovation enabler on the continent with an expected 1.2 billion African subscribers by 2018.”

“By leveraging the internet and mobile penetration, African countries can leapfrog innovation. African customers will rightfully demand and drive insurance innovation in Africa as they expect offerings and channels to be fully digitalized. This, and the fact that rules and regulations are favorable for innovation in financial services, puts Africa in a great position to become the digital insurance leader of the future.”

A ‘Single Digital Agenda’ to meet disruption

To transform Allianz into a truly customer-centric, ‘digital by default’ company, the Group established a Single Digital Agenda. Allianz is spending over 700 million euros ($800 million) annually on shaping and orchestrating the digitalization of its 127-year-old business.

The ‘Single Digital Agenda’ is a portfolio of change initiatives built on five pillars, the cornerstone being the Allianz ‘Global Digital Factory’, a place where experts from all parts of the company rethink customer journeys from our various business segments and make them globally scalable. The second is ‘Global Digital Partnerships’ to foster collaboration with tech and sharing economy companies. The third is ‘Digital Pure Play’, the conception of 100 percent digital insurance and assistance offerings. The fourth is ‘Advanced Business Analytics’ with the aim to increase customer satisfaction and the effectiveness of the business. And the fifth is ‘Allianz X’, a fund and incubator, for which the company has set aside 430 million euros ($500 million) over the next four years. The fund invests in promising start-ups that are part of ecosystems relevant to the business, such as connected property, connected mobility, health, asset and wealth management.

In Africa, where the Group is already present in 16 countries , Allianz will focus its digital activities on increasing customer reach in key growing markets, where insurance penetration is still low, and efficiency in markets with higher penetration.

“Insurance companies have much to offer to the African economy. Digitalization allows us to gain considerably better insights into our individual and institutional customers and thereby to better serve their needs. We believe deeply in Africa’s huge long-term growth potential and we will leverage our global footprint and extensive expertise to strengthen our market position and to attract African talent,” Bäte said in closing.

Allianz CEO Oliver Bäte speaks to CNBC Africa