CEO Continental Europe Steven Braekeveldt discusses some of the key moments of the year for Continental Europe.
The experience of 2020 taught us that we needed to find new ways to communicate more than ever, and this required a lot of creativity. Technology was without doubt critical as an enabler. Virtual formats allowed us to connect with our employees and distribution network, and strong visual communication with the outside world was key. Bringing a moment of joy, hope and happiness to people’s homes was for instance the inspiration behind the motivational music videos made by Ageas talents.
But the challenge in 2020 was also about perseverance. People managed so many challenges at home while ensuring that every single project was delivered. Across each of our markets - France, Portugal, and Turkey - in many cases we even overachieved despite the circumstances. As an example, Ageas France were able to conclude a remarkable 1,800 risk Life contracts and 600 savings products in December alone.
Overall, we improved our efficiency and continued to reinvent ourselves, leveraging technology that benefits the customer journey. In Turkey we further increased the number of transactions handled by our Artificial Intelligence robot ‘ADA’. In Portugal, as an example, we set up an entirely new area of process-review linked to robotics, a geographical underwriting tool was added to the underwriting process, WhatsApp and video at distance was incorporated into the claims process, and telemedicine was made available for our customers resulting in high NPS scores. We also connected three start-up companies in different parts of our company, and we held hackathons and innovation labs at Nova University with great results.
The strategic choices within Connect21 remained a top priority for our businesses, and we remain on track to deliver against all aspects of the strategy in the final year of our 3-year strategic plan.
We went one step further, beyond the usual parameters of financial returns, to also include the emotional skills needed to make the right connections – the human side of our business. We established in Portugal a partnership with ‘House of Beautiful Business’, a global think tank and community with the mission to humanise business in an age of digitisation. We challenged our management and staff on ways to bring more emotions through the interactions with our different stakeholders.
We strive to go beyond insurance, beyond the traditional areas of engagement for an insurer. We started a number of new projects and engaged with new partners allowing us to build a broader ecosystem, such as the launch of our very own Mundo Ageas platform.
At the same time, we also made progress in the areas of social impact and sustainability which are increasingly important to us, but also to all our stakeholders. We are viewed as a company that is highly creative, energetic, and innovative, through the initiatives we take both inside and outside of the company and across all our markets. And increasingly we are also described as socially responsible. We have engaged with social impact start-ups allowing us to share our passion for innovation. For those joining our company, a commitment to sustainability is more and more important as a benchmark when making choices. In Portugal we are considered a leader in this area. In 2020, three out of ten new recruits told us that they chose to work with us because of our record on sustainability. We will be satisfied when that gets to ten. We have also identified projects against each of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals we chose to support. We still have some way to go of course, but progress is being made.
This past year it has been particularly important to safeguard the wellbeing of our people and reinforce our company culture. Feedback from our employees suggest we are viewed as an open and transparent company, where both new ideas, and criticism are welcomed. In Turkey this is facilitated by an HR feedback app for keeping a finger on the pulse of our employees.
Ultimately, as we look at those parts of our business we are most proud of this year, it comes down to people. The people who work for us. The people who work with us. And the people we impact in different ways: our customers, who year after year rate our services more positively, and society as a whole.
In 2021 we will not only deliver the final year of Connect21, we will also strive to get emotions back into insurance, making a difference to the customer. After all, insurance is about emotions: the protection of the family, the protection of a home, … the protection of everything that matters.