It is crucial for our business to predict the future!
António is Chief Executive Officer of Zurich Portugal since 2007. With a long career at Zurich, he began by joining the claims department and then took on several management positions.
With vast international experience in the Zurich Group, António has a Master in Management and Business, an MBA in Business Management and Administration, and has several top management, leadership, and coaching degrees in Germany, Spain, France, and Switzerland.
Fluent in English, French, and Spanish, António is, since 2016, President of the Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Portugal. Thanks to his passion for music, the CEO of Zurich Portugal devotes some of his free time to the study and practice of the piano and is a member of Zurich’s music band, ITA – Incapazes de Tocar Afinados. António is also a volunteer at Missão Azul, Zurich’s volunteer club.
REBIS: In the present context of the world we live in, volatile, disruptive and complex, uncertain and ambiguous, we thank you for your willingness to share thoughts about current and future trends, challenges, and opportunities.
What are the main challenges of your current responsibilities?
There is a permanent challenge to which the present moment does not take away protagonism. And the challenge is to constantly and systematically manage uncertainty, volatility, complexity, and ambiguity.
What has changed in recent months is the context because no one has ever experienced a pandemic. And the social and economic impacts are already being felt, but they are not yet fully and properly identified and quantified.
We recently released, with the World Economic Forum and Marsh, the study “COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and Its Implications”, highlighting the prolonged global recession, high unemployment, the occurrence of a new outbreak of infectious disease, and protectionism as the main concerns of companies in the short term.
In the insurance sector all these risks, which are also challenges, translate into expected decreases in new insurance sales, reduction in insurance renewals due to the closure or decrease of the companies’ activity, increase of Life claims by Covid-19, and enormous volatility of the financial markets that impact products with these characteristics.
We live in a context that due to its specificities of geographical transversality and anxiety – waiting for science to give the good news to the world that the vaccine and therapy are found – makes it difficult to have a clearer vision.
It is essential to read and interpret the many variables that surround us – mostly full of uncertainty – and to make the decisions we consider most appropriate to move forward.
Despite all the uncertainty, I have a strong conviction that the context we live in will evolve based, significantly, on technological innovation, on the search for a better quality of life, on the protection of people, and for the benefit of the Planet.
What are the current major trends, that you highlight in the insurance industry?
In recent years the insurance sector has been, like many others, undergoing a complete transformation.
We already lived some trends that will be maintained in the next years, be it the digital transition of the sector, the startups, and insurtech or the alteration of the consumption habits.
The reinvention has been a constant, with a positive response from the market, but these months of confinement provoked by the pandemic have accelerated the taking of several decisions and the implementation of new processes, mostly based on technology.
The digital transition of insurers and industry professionals has been a necessary evolution in recent months and at Zurich, we saw it as an opportunity to advance, and a lot, in the transformation of our business, which we were already doing.
Startups and insurtech have also played a key role in accelerating transformation, innovation, and disruption in the insurance industry.
That’s why at Zurich, all over the world, we are already working with a wide range of startups and insurtech that we have been challenging through a worldwide contest that is in its second edition and that has already gathered almost 2000 projects (Zurich Innovation Championship).
In the first edition, Habit Analytics, selected by us here in Portugal, was part of the group of the eight best startups in the world that competed in the global phase of the contest.
In the second edition, we selected APlanet which, although it was not selected for the next phase, developed with us an excellent sustainability pilot project.
The external knowledge of the startups complements our experience of almost 150 years in the world and more than 100 years in Portugal, enhancing the development of products and services to generate an excellent and unique experience for our clients.
With the Startups we were able to challenge the limits of the transformation of the insurance industry, so we are already working with several in very concrete projects.
All this path of the digital transformation of the sector, endogenous and exogenous, arises because consumption habits have also evolved, the fruit of the new generations that buy differently, to which is now added – also due to the pandemic – a strong evolution of digital behavior.
Almost everyone is digital.
People buy online, want convenience, simple but personalized services, and products, and want experiences in the offline and online world. They want to take out insurance online the same way they buy a book, an item of clothing, or a concert ticket.
Adapting traditional products like car, home or health insurance to these new habits is one of the formulas to innovate in insurance sales.
It is also necessary to speed up the definition and availability of several other solutions to respond to the risks that are emerging, particularly those arising from demographic factors, the concept of mobility, of new work models, or technological risks.
This adaptation shows that the insurance industry is constantly dynamic to respond to the development and evolution of society.
It is important to emphasize that it is equally necessary and urgent to find responses to risks of a global dimension, such as environmental risks, such as fires, floods, droughts, catastrophic risks such as seismic and, of course, pandemics.
In general, what is the distinguishing factor you highlight in the relationship between companies and their customers?
Zurich has a historical relationship with its Business Partners, its Principal Agents, and Brokers, making the business flow in a transparent, strong, and joint relationship, which results in teamwork that has marked our position in the market of recognition of a service of excellence, both during the sales process and in the post-sale.
This factor, together with the Zurich brand and the affective dynamics of innovation that we systematically launch to the market, are distinctive elements that are highly appreciated by our Business Partners.
If we want to synthesize, this relationship is based on several complementary aspects: a strong and credible brand, a unique relational capacity, an excellent service, a constant dynamic of innovation, and the delivery and dedication of our people, make Zurich a company with more than a century of success in Portugal.
All these aspects culminate in what we call #ZurichExperience. That is, the capacity that all those who integrate the customer service ecosystem – employees, Agents, Brokers, and service providers – have to maintain the standard of these distinctive factors very high, always, whether through experiences in the offline world or online.
In the context of Business Analytics (BA) and Business Intelligence (BI), what is your company’s relationship with the data and critical business information?
In the insurance sector, particularly in the development of new products and updating of existing ones, as well as in the definition of prices for each of the products, we work a lot with several databases, whether historical, prospective, or predictive data.
Working with past and present data to predict the future – despite all the uncertainties and risks increasingly interconnected and global – is critical for our business and is, by the way, one of the characteristics of the insurance activity.
The evolution of the sector also goes through an increasingly more complex data analysis.
Today we are already talking about data science, so our recruitments in this field focus on very specific Data Scientist, Data Analyst, or Senior Business Analyst profiles. And I give a very concrete example: Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, and Data Science have been sophisticating what, in insurance, we call “climate risk analysis”, that is, the collection and management of predictive data on risks associated with wind, flood, fire, drought or other climatic disasters.
This refinement of data facilitates the identification of where, how, and why climate risks and impacts and allows us to better understand risks – this knowledge production is reflected in the prevention and risk management that is inherent to the design of insurance solutions.
At the same time, we assume the role of anticipating resilience, whether at the level of communities, cities, countries, or different global regions.
For example, The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is a project where we identify communities more prone to flooding and subsequently make them more resilient to these climatic events.
What implications will such trends have on Business Analytics (BA) and Business Intelligence (BI), companies, and people?
Continuing with the concrete example of climate change, the combination of our predictive models and the geographical mapping of natural disasters that we have at our disposal in the various public and private entities gives us the ability to detail the most likely catastrophic risks of each region.
In other words, we know exactly where certain risks are most likely to occur.
The impact of this knowledge on our business is to adapt the insurance solution with adequate coverage and, the impact on people is that, as a specialist in risk management, we have the ethical duty to share our knowledge with the client and advise him/her to hire a specific coverage that anticipates the protection of the impacts of these risks.
There is also a trend that we will see evolving in the future related to the digital transformation and consumer habits that we have addressed and that is insurance on demand – which activate when necessary and deactivate when unnecessary (e.g. travel insurance) – and the usage-based insurance – in effect only by the customer’s use of his or her asset.
In these cases, the insurer has to be able to know very well the profile of its client, the risk and the use it will give to the insurance, data collected and analyzed via Business Analytics and Business Intelligence.
For you, innovation is…
Innovation is dissatisfaction, restlessness, non-conformity. It is always wanting to do better.
But all this in the right and positive dose. Managed in a rational and emotionally intelligent way.
Innovation is to be agents of change and influencers of new actions and projects, whether we are volunteers in the association near our home, employees of companies, or companies.
Innovation is individual and collective and has to have a purpose.
A purpose to serve better, improving what is around us.
…In 2030, how will the companies be?
More sustainable, with more purpose, more human, with different organizational cultures, with more flexible and global work, with more collaborative workspaces, and with renewed strategies for retaining talent.
Why? Because the well-being of people and the planet, shaped by immediacy and convenience, will be one of the main focuses of a technological future.
Zurich Portugal is part of the Zurich Group and has been in Portugal for over 100 years. It has about 500 employees, 19 own offices and a network of more than 2,500 Insurance Agents serving more than 620,000 customers. Zurich Portugal is part of the Zurich Group, a leading multinational insurer operating in global and local markets which, with around 55,000 employees, offers a wide range of Life and Non-Life insurance solutions in over 215 countries and territories.