“Innovation is often also collaboration”

Insurtech Insights 2023

Digitalisation & Technology, 03.03.2023

At Insurtech Insights 2023 in London, Europe's largest conference for start-ups from the insurance industry, ERGO was represented by no less than six heads. A nice opportunity for Sebastian Sehr and Bessem Ayari to tell us about the mission and work of the ERGO Innovation Scouts.

Sebastian Sehr and Bessem Ayari

Sebastian Sehr (left) and Bessem Ayari work for ERGO as Innovation Scouts

In addition to Mark Klein, ERGO's Chief Digital Officer, who gave the keynote speech, and Hanbing Ma (Head of Innovation & Digital Transformation), who took part in two panel discussions, Bessem Ayari (Head of Innovation Strategy & Scouting) and Sebastian Sehr (Manager Innovation Scouting) also took advantage of the two-day event at the beginning of March to sift through further exciting innovations and cooperation opportunities for ERGO. Reason enough for an interview with the two experts, which takes a closer look at the mission and proof of work of the ERGO Innovation Scouts:

How long have there been Innovation Scouts at ERGO, how many heads does your unit now have - and what is your mission?

Bessem Ayari: ERGO wants to be a digital leader by 2025 - and to achieve this, it is important to be one step ahead of emerging trends and technologies. As Innovation Scouts, we identify and evaluate ideas, technologies and start-ups - and in doing so, we want to bring value-added initiatives into the company. Just think of the recent successful cooperation with Air Doctor. In addition to the evaluation based on factors such as market potential, technical feasibility and economic viability, we also always consider a "make or buy" assessment. At ERGO, we develop many things ourselves, but if there are already exciting solutions on the market, we don't have to invent everything twice ...

Sebastian Sehr: Ultimately, it is also the speed of implementation that counts: innovation is often also collaboration. Fortunately, we not only have a good network outside ERGO, but also within it. This enables us to help our internal business owners overcome the hurdles before a pilot phase. For example, by ensuring that data and cybersecurity compliance are always maintained.

Bessem: Furthermore, it is important for us to be a reliable partner for start-ups at eye level. To use an image: Like a speedboat, we want to explore the waters around us to identify opportunities in the market and exploit them for ERGO more quickly than a large company can generally do. That's why we were founded as Scouts back in 2017 - and our unit now already has eleven heads in Düsseldorf, Berlin, Paris and Silicon Valley.

“Time and again, we find that many start-ups and insurtechs are interested in meeting ERGO because word of our high digital ambitions has spread throughout the industry.”

Sebastian Sehr, Innovation Scout at ERGO Group

And events like Insurtech Insights are such waters?

Sebastian: Exactly, because at industry meetings like this, we get a condensed overview of the innovative power of start-ups, can network, present ERGO - and get in touch with potential cooperation partners very efficiently. Time and again, we find that many start-ups and insurtechs are interested in meeting ERGO because word of our high digital ambitions has spread throughout the industry.

Bessem: However, we are not only on the road at trade fairs and congresses, but also keep in touch with so-called accelerators (such as the InsurtechHub Munich), industry associations in the ecosystems relevant to us (such as our new cooperation partner Plug and Play) and trade representations in other countries. In addition, we also observe the start-up scenes with their small, partly decentralised meetings and events with a colleague in Berlin and, more recently, a colleague in Paris. We can also draw on the network of Munich Re scouts in many locations, such as Tel Aviv or Silicon Valley. And last but not least, we also contribute our know-how to industry associations such as Bitkom or the City of Düsseldorf as our digital partner. In summary, you could say: For us as Innovation Scouts, networking is everything from small local NRW start-ups to the big players all over the world!

And do you also cooperate with the specialist departments at ERGO?

Sebastian: Of course, close collaboration with our specialist departments at ERGO is essential. Together, we identify the specific needs of the departments and the challenges that our colleagues are facing - and address these concretely by looking for suitable solutions on the market. A good example is the project with our DKV colleagues: the digital spearheads in the DKV health world. 13 health topics were prioritised in the cross-functional team before our scouting colleague Stefan Schwarz identified the right start-ups for this and supported them further in the pilot phase. For example, the therapy app "Kaia Back Pain", which is now available to DKV customers.

Bessem: We are also available to all ERGO departments that would like to continue working on their digitalisation ambitions - for example, when it comes to specifying their needs and hurdles, evaluating them on the basis of various influencing factors and then entering the solution phase together.

Interview: Ingo Schenk

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