Germany has one of the top three European insurance ecosystems and hosts well-known players. Typical German consumer is hesitant to invest in comprehensive financial services but more open to insurance products. Nevertheless, Canada Life’s research from 2019 shows that most German consumers do not trust the newcomers. In Germany, insurance is still a matter of trust, which led us to host experts from Allianz, one of the oldest and most trusted insurance providers in Germany.

In this interview, we’ll be presented with the two different sides of the coin: Klaus Driever, Managing Director of Allianz Germany, will be discussing digital transformation in the insurance sector and later John Ismailoglu, Director of Expat & Startups of Allianz F200, will take over, reflecting his impressions from the field

I – Digital Transformation in the Insurance Sector: Klaus Driever (Allianz Germany)

  • Driever, we appreciate you making time for this interview. Can you please introduce yourself and the position of Allianz Germany in the Allianz ecosystem to our readers?
    • My name is Klaus Driever and I’ve been working with Allianz now for several years. I have started as CEO of AllSecur. Currently, I am the head of Strategic Digital Initiatives at Allianz Germany. In a way, I am a veteran of digitalisation: I started my first eCommerce shops 25 years ago.

  • Defining the strategy for Allianz Germany for many years, you had the chance to observe the impact of digital transformation in the insurance industry. How did the sector mature through the years, and how do you see the German ecosystem’s future?
    • While the trend towards digitalization has been going on for years, we have seen a significant acceleration in terms of digitalization due to Covid-19. Most interesting fact that we see, however, is the digital customer is a hybrid customer, meaning people would like to get the best out of the digital and simultaneously the in-person world. With our strong local presence in Germany due to 8,000 tied agents and our brand strength, Allianz is one of the most popular and wide-reaching digital contact points for all aspects about insurance. For consultation personal contact is indispensable. In my opinion, the ecosystem will likely remain a mix of digital touchpoints and in-person support in the future.
  • According to a survey conducted by Statista in 2019, over 23% of the consumers indicated having one or more insurances at Allianz. Allianz is the biggest insurance company in the world by total assets and is an international household name already caught up with the ecosystem developments. How would you describe the innovation and customer retention strategy of Allianz Germany?
    • At Allianz Germany, we put customer centricity first. Therefore, innovation is is not an end in itself, but improves customer experience continuously and with lasting effect. To make it more concrete in official terms: We have a clear view of what we want Allianz to look like in the future: simple, digital and scalable.

As a digital expert I particularly appreciate the topic of simplicity: Our overarching principle is to focus on what really matters and to keep it simple. We are reducing the number and complexity of our products and processes, and streamline our organization. In terms of products, we have been able to launch insurances offerings in an innovative way by the help of agile teams and constant user testing in our unique community of customers, employees and tied agents.

In comparison to other financial institutions, Allianz doesn’t seem to limit its digital offerings with a basic app offering and pushes forward new channels. In this context, we would be interested in learning more about Allianz Germany’s unconventional digital touchpoints, such as PassionPass or FirmenOnline.

  • Where the customer is, we must be there too. This is true for the entire variety of digital contact points: WebSites, Social Media, Search and mobile Applications. For example, I personally appreciate the usefulness of our customer portal “Meine Allianz” in the form of an app and desktop application. When we speak about PassionPass, I’d rather define them as innovative products where we meet our customers in their current living situation and address special needs. PassionPass allows to insure everything that comes with a passion such as skiing. The equipment is covered and casualty insurance is included. It can be easily activated via an app for only one day or for a skiing holiday for only a small amount of money.
  • Taking a step back, how can insurers use data to boost their operations and pinpoint risks? Do you think the offline insurance distribution channels stand a chance in the future? If I am not mistaken, Allianz Germany has over 8,000 tied agents across the country. Are there any existing initiatives for supporting the tied agents’ digitalization goals?
    • As mentioned above, the unique network of 8,000 tied agents is our backbone and a major USP. Clients are hybrid and demanding for personal consultation, which our tied agents can offer all across Germany. 85% of people searching online for insurance products are signing the contract with an agent or broker. So, please let me highlight how important this distribution channel is and how promising it will be in the future. In terms of digitalizing our agencies, we have implemented several initiatives to support our tied agents. They have a wide range of digital tools they can chose from in order to get in touch with their clients. For instance, over the last few months the number of agencies that advise remotely has increased to 90% of all agencies.
  • We’d additionally be interested in hearing more about how Allianz prepares for a post-COVID19 business environment, from a working culture and digitalization point of view.
    • When it comes to digitalization, I’d say Allianz has been digital for many years. Right now, we can use the additional push due to Covid-19. Being available in an instant via all digital channels is more important than ever before. With our strategy “digital and in-person”, we are well prepared for the upcoming times. The working culture has changed, just as it has in every corporation, I imagine. A significant number of employees are working from home. They likely will keep a mix of coming to the office a few days a week as well as staying home and working remotely. Luckily, we have broadly rolled out “Mobile Office” for employees since several years. So, people were already set up with the right accesses and networks and of course devices and equipment during COVID-19.
  • Speaking of COVID, we were informed that Allianz was recently awarded as number one for digital crisis management with customers – congrats! Please tell us more.
    • Thank you very much. In deed. Thanks to a great team effort and high commitment throughout the very first weeks of this crisis, Allianz Germany has been able to be awarded number one for digital crisis communication with our customers. It included publishing relevant information and content, matching customer needs with offerings, and acting fast and reliable. Crucial is to send the right message to the right customer at the right moment.

II – Startup Risk vs. Insurance: John Ismailoglu (Allianz F200)

  • John, thank you again for pulling strings together for this interview! You are one of Allianz’s front-line workers in Berlin, directly in contact with entrepreneurs and expats. All in all, what are some common risk factors when starting a new business, and how can they be mitigated?

My pleasure, Elif. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this interview. Generally speaking, each newly founded company is unique and the type of insurance required to mitigate risks depends on a variety of factors such as their field of business, exposures, investor requirements and number of employees. However, there are certain insurance programs which nearly all startups should consider. Liability, Legal Expenses, Cyber and Contents are some of the most common coverages obtained by our new businesses clients. As a company grows, so does its exposures and risks. With that said, it’s important to have an insurance partner which understands the needs of the business and tailors the insurance portfolio accordingly.

  • Having experience in two individual ecosystems, how would you differentiate the approach to risk in the US and Germany?

That’s a great question. There are definitely some differences when it comes to how risks are handled when comparing the United States and Germany. I feel that Germans are very insurance minded and actively take the appropriate actions to ensure they are properly protected. Those in the United States aren’t necessarily against insurance but it takes a bit more effort to set them up with the right coverage.  When it comes to the startup scene in Berlin, many founders are non-German and their view on insurance greatly varies depending on where they come from. For example, an individual from the United States may be more insurance minded than an individual from Italy.  

  • How can startups select the best insurance policies for their businesses?

By making sure they have the right insurance advisor which understands their business operations and associated exposures. Based on the feedback we receive from our startup clients, they view the process of insuring their business as cumbersome and tedious – especially when it comes to insurance in German. Often times they are confused and do not make insurance a priority. I completely understand why they do this. Startups are focused on developing their business, perfecting their pitch and seeking investors however not having the right coverage can be devastating to their business should they be faced with an unfavorable situation/claim. 

  • Since the pandemic, the world changed in a matter of months. Can you also touch upon the impact of COVID19 on startup risk and the demand for insurance products? Is it (or was it) common to have such exposure covered in the insurance policies?

COVID-19 has certainly changed the world in more ways than anyone expected. The pandemic has shown us that many businesses are vulnerable when it comes to the impacts of business disruptions and closures. Allianz, along with many other insurers, have reserved and paid out hundreds of millions of Euros for losses such as business interruption. Prior to the pandemic, the interest in coverage for disruptions and losses due to pandemics was not on the radar for many businesses however we have definitely seen an influx of inquiries on this matter. 

  • You are very active in the Berlin startup ecosystem, so let’s wrap it up with some of Allianz F200’s startup initiatives. 

Our division’s goal is simple – raise awareness amongst startups when it comes to the importance of having the right insurance plan in place. Educating startups and founders on why insurance is so important and that sort of risks they face has been an initiative that we have heavily focused on.  Whether it’s through in person events/workshops (pre-COVID19 of course) or virtual events/workshops, we will continue to be an integral part of  Berlin’s exciting and diverse startup community. Equally as important is our role as a connector. We continue to collaborate with many different types of organizations which work directly with startups. These include incubators, accelerators, advisors, investors, law firms and co-working spaces.

Gazi University Faculty of Law graduate Ş. Elif Kocaoğlu Ulbrich has degrees in Private Law from Galatasaray University and MBA from WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, and is also a fellow of Jean Monnet, Joachim Herz Stiftung. After working as a lawyer in various international law firms in Istanbul and Ankara for more than six years, Denizbank A.Ş. He started his banking and finance career in 2013, specializing in business development, project management, FinTech regulation and lobbying activities at FinTech startups (FinLeap, Cringle, Lendico) in Hamburg and later in Berlin. Co-author of The PAYTECH Book, The AI ​​Book and The LegalTech Book, which are planned to be published in 2020 in cooperation with FINTECH Circle and Wiley, Kocaoğlu Ulbrich has been providing consultancy, training and publishing services since 2019 through Berlin-based Contextual Solutions, which she is the founder of.