Corporate Innovation Spotlight on Baloise

June 4, 2021

Baloise Group, a corporate partner of F10 since 2017, has been at the forefront of corporate innovation and startup collaboration in Switzerland for years. Let’s take a closer look and learn more about their startup collaboration strategy, what they’ve learned along the way and where they see the key trends in the InsurTech space.

We talked to Philipp Marty, Director of New Business & Partnerships and Till Schaltegger, New Business & Partnerships and part of the startup collaboration team at Baloise.

How does Baloise approach innovation?

The Baloise innovation strategy really took off in 2016, and since then it has been a key strategic priority. Our innovation projects generally focus on three key pillars: focus on the core, reimagining the core, and diversifying the core. We have many experts and enablers internally with an appetite to change things, therefore it was important to build our innovation strategy from the inside-out.

When it comes to startup collaboration, we learned that the push approach to bring innovation into the organization needs internal door-openers helping to facilitate and also navigate the organization.

That’s why we have a dedicated team to ensure we make the most of these collaborations.

We strongly believe that creating innovation is simply the first step, you need to execute on it and find profitable use cases for it in order to succeed.

That last part is incredibly difficult in the insurance industry. You can collaborate amazingly well with startups, but if you then don’t put in the necessary work to execute on it, nothing will change.

What would be your advice to get started with startup collaborations?

When first starting to work with startups, you need courage to take the plunge, commit and experiment. You’ll make mistakes, but this is how you gain the experience to create value through innovation.

In the beginning we had an incredibly diverse and broad playground of ideas and startups. We would find use cases for interesting solutions that startups brought to us. Now, our approach is much more targeted – we look for solutions that fit into our overarching strategy, but we keep an open mind for promising new trends.

We see that our active engagement in the startup ecosystem over the past years pays off in that respect.

We are seen as a trustworthy, fast and experienced collaboration partner that is open to new ideas.

Now, we often get approached by startups directly.  

What has changed over the last years?

The mindset has changed: from fear of being disrupted to seeing the opportunities to work together with startups.

Corporate/startup collaboration has started to become daily business for us, which is a great sign. We were an early mover in the space and have found our way to combine our strengths with the diversity, speed and focus of startups. Now the challenge is to keep the momentum going. Because it may not be one big disruptor that will threaten incumbents across the whole value chain, but there will be startups that do specific things very well that can definitely become competition for large insurance companies.

What we’ve seen over the last years is that in the insurance industry change and disruption is gradual. But if you lose business, even on a small scale, it’s incredibly hard to win it back.

In general, the InsurTech sector is maturing.

And the next few years will be crucial for startups to show that there’s a real business case. A lot of money is being invested – it’s still relatively easy to raise funds - but time will tell whether those startups can deliver on their promise.

It’s also important to look at what has not changed. And that’s the importance of our physical distribution network. Startups want to work with our distribution, because that’s how you really reach the customer, especially for products that are as abstract as insurance. High tech and high touch are both incredibly important in our business and go hand-in-hand.  

How did you start collaborating with F10?

At the time we got involved in the F10 ecosystem, we founded Friday, we bought Movu and we created our internal innovation program for employees, Kickbox.  F10 was the right partner at the right time. 

Generally, insurers have the image of being the last followers in many topics – so we decided that we needed to become a first-mover.  

Our engagement with F10 brought us brand awareness and visibility in the startup ecosystem. It also allowed us to give our employees the chance to experience entrepreneurship and the startup world first-hand, supporting internal awareness and a shift in mindset.

The deep expertise of the F10 team in corporate/startup collaboration, support with building use cases or setting up PoCs, has been incredibly valuable – especially at the start.

In addition to developing startup collaborations, we’ve also sent corporate startups to F10 programs. We believe an incubation program like at F10 is an amazing opportunity for corporate startups that have a great, motivated team – but maybe need more support on developing the product and business model. We’ve had corporate startups that did not survive, for different reasons. But that doesn’t mean they were a failure. It’s still a great learning experience for all the people involved and brings new knowledge into the organization. 

Could you give us some examples of successful collaborations with startups?

We have a long track record of successful startup-collaborations. The most famous one is probably with KASKO. We identified KASKO for a partnership to start selling smaller digital products; a project that resulted in winning the innovation award of Swiss-Insurance. The real success story is about innovating and then putting it into execution – from B2C-insurance, to B2B2C-Insurance through partners and our sales people.  

This year, we’ve started working with F10 alumni Meloncast, a Swiss startup that uses AI to enable hyper-personalised, data-driven content to increase conversions. To promote Baloise's products, such as home insurance, to a young target audience, Meloncast and its analytical content insights were used to identify relevant topics and channels. This resulted in a significant increase in engagement, such as views, likes and shares in the relevant target group.  

We are also in the early stages evaluating projects with other startups from the latest F10 Incubation program.

What are the key trends to watch out for in InsurTech?

There are a lot of interesting things happening in InsurTech right now.  Automation is not new, but highly relevant and will stay with us for a while, especially to optimize internal processes. Robotics is very interesting when it comes to creating interim solutions to integrate with legacy systems, that are still prevalent at incumbents.

In terms of UX, there's still a lot of potential, since customers have extremly high and ever-increasing expectations. Furthermore, we see more and more startups move directly into the customer interface.  

Cross-industry integrations through Open Insurance will become more prevalent: There’s a huge amount of data on other platforms that insurers don’t have access to. By building partnerships to leverage that data, we can create embedded insurance products that add-value where the customer is. For example, accounting software that matches directly with a relevant insurance product, ie. payment protection.

What would be your advice to startup founders?

Team is everything

Surround yourself with brilliant people. Without a great team, your startup will not succeed.

Don’t lose yourself in the details

Listen to the client first, ask the right questions, understand them – before diving straight into the details and practicalities of a potential collaboration. Only that way you really learn about their pains and can propose a solution that fits.  

Believe in your idea – but be flexible.

We have worked with several startups that adapted their business model in the process. Sometimes, the solution needs to be tweaked to fit the pain point, sometimes the technology may be too ambitious for the current reality. For startups, just like for corporates, the key to innovation is to explore, to adapt, maybe even to start from scratch - and then to scale it. That does not mean startup founders should give up on their vision, it just means there is opportunity in being flexible.

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