Pioneer for innovation

Victor Thoma is Project Manager at ERGO Innovation Lab

Magazine, 14.06.2019

Innovation is his daily work. Victor Thoma works at ERGO's Innovation Lab in Berlin. His task: to develop new ideas and test them in practice. It is also often a matter of thinking of and taking new paths.

Victor Thoma

What tasks do you deal with in the Innovation Lab?

The lab I work in is part of ERGO's innovation management. There we try out new things, specifically new products and services that are in the insurance context. For example, we clarify “Can I take out insurance with Alexa?”,  “Can artificial intelligence understand texts that are sent to us via chat?” Or “can I use a Smart-watch to see if someone has fallen and is this analysis so reliable that ERGO can offer this to its clients?”

Especially the Alexa Skills is an important area, isn’t it?

Of course, ERGO, together with ERGO Travel Insurance – formerly ERV – was the first insurance company to have a policy via Alexa. We certainly play a pioneering role here, which also strengthens ERGO's brand image. The topic was launched as a project in the Lab and it has now developed into a new business unit in Düsseldorf. 

What exactly does your work in the lab look like?

We have six permanent colleagues in the lab, but almost never work together on the same project. Everyone has their own projects and then works with freelancers or start-ups. My daily work is almost exclusively digital. I am currently supervising a global health insurance project for digital nomads, i.e. people who are without a permanent employer and change their place of residence on average once a quarter. For this group we could not offer a real product so far. We have become aware of them here in the Berlin area. This is also the advantage of our co-working space, where we get in contact with other people and start-ups a lot. It is very obvious to involve the digital nomads in the development of the product, in the hope that we will then come across things that we might otherwise not have paid attention to. That is why the exchange with them is very close. 

How did you actually end up at ERGO?

I studied classical business administration and, at the end of my studies, founded a start-up in the utility vehicle sector with fellow students. Axel Springer invested in us back then. I got in touch with ERGO about this. After my early years, ERGO approached me because they were looking for people who thought entrepreneurially and did not come from the insurance sector. Back then I was only an external employee and now I have been a permanent member of the team for two years.

What do you need to bring for your job?

It definitely helps to put yourself into the customers' perspective. In addition one should be open for new ways and solutions and be able to mediate well between different worlds. And very importantly, a certain persistence in questioning established structures. This often requires stamina. So in my job I have a lot of personal responsibility and have to push my projects hard myself. This is a bit different than in the classic ERGO world.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I'm studying part-time programming right now. With this I would like to expand my technical know-how. I've noticed that this is becoming more and more important if you want to guide developers in the job and give them the right input. Beyond that I like doing sports. I often play golf or tennis. Of course I also like to meet friends and drink a good rum on weekends.  

From Benjamin Esche

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