CEO Belgium Heidi Delobelle looks back on some of the most significant highlights of the past year for our Belgium business.
As well as ensuring we quickly responded to what was a very new reality for our people, we were constantly challenged to come up with new creative solutions to support our clients and distribution partners, and this tested our ability to innovate but also our technical capabilities. The priority was to help customers with processes that were not fully digitalised but needed to work well. We had to work hard to help customers adopt digital solutions but took time to do this, particularly where we knew it could significantly improve their lives. This included finding solutions for processes that historically could not entirely be executed in a remote way. For instance, simplified online medical acceptance procedures that do not require a medical visit.
But from the start there was one very important objective which recently appointed CEO of AG, Heidi Delobelle explained: “It was important that we got through the crisis without reverting to technical unemployment for AG employees. This was not always easy as clearly there were some activities where there was less work required because of lock-down measures.” AG responded proactively by retraining some of its people remotely, to leverage their skills in other ways in support of busier colleagues.
Maintaining strong communication was also important during this period which was helped by the introduction of a professional social media platform as a communications tool. But for many, these were particularly stressful times. Some people had to manage small children while continuing to work, while others just felt immense loneliness. AG put its medical services team and HR colleagues at the disposal of all employees as an additional layer of support.
While the pandemic took us by surprise, we needed to stay focused on delivering business as usual, against our Connect21 plan. In 2020 we were able to progress on all our planned projects with good results.
In looking to go “Beyond Insurance” and delivering on the two strategic domains of prevention and assistance, 2020 had been designated the year of AG Health Partner. AG Health Partner is a digital platform that helps companies in the development of their approach towards the wellbeing of their employees both physical and mental. But the planned launch was designed as a physical face to face process with our employer clients. The entire programme was redesigned into a digital package kicking off with free webinars to keep employees physically and mentally fit. This included tips and tricks on how they could stay connected.
In 2020 we also continued to make progress in digitalisation across all our activities from sales and underwriting to claims handling. This included among others a fully digitalised process for pension capital payouts and the introduction of a chatbot function in the online portal My Global Benefits. And the AG Health app made life easier for clients, enabling digital hospitalisation declarations, posting and consultation of medical expenses.
And we focused on continuing our sustainability drive, for example in investments where we have significantly increased our investments linked to society. AG is the only life insurer to achieve sustainability labels on branch 23 and branch 21 products. This matches the demand of customers for long term investment options that have an impact on society. And for our brokers, for whom we have already invested a lot in digitalisation in terms of the tools available to use with clients, we adapted procedures to help them through a difficult year. We also introduced video connections allowing us to stay in close proximity. Through eight virtual roadshows we were able to keep our 3,500 brokers connected and fully informed on our 2020 achievements and plans for 2021.
In 2021, our focus will be on responding to the continuing low interest rate environment and presenting attractive solutions for our customers. We will also focus on continuing the digitalisation of our process based on what we have experienced with our customers during the crisis.