ITIJ 180, January 2016
Our industry should take a leadership role in providing enhanced services through technology
ITIJ spoke to Ida Luka-Lognoné, the new CEO of Allianz Worldwide Care, about geographical nuances, the importance of technology and an ever-changing industry
How did you first get started in the insurance industry, and how did you progress to your current position?
I have been very lucky to have enjoyed a long and happy career in the insurance industry over the last 20 years, but insurance is not where I started out. I actually studied oriental languages at Krakow University, in my home town. In the early nineties, just after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, I was approached by a Swiss insurance group who were looking to expand in Eastern Europe. A number of factors such as my multicultural profile (I speak seven languages), my knowledge of the region and my Polish origins were attractive to them.
Four years later, I was appointed director of business development for Central and Eastern Europe at Elvia Travel Insurance. A move to Mondial Assistance in 2000 saw me take on the role of director of the European region, before joining its executive committee in 2002, where I established new entities in Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic, and initiated the company’s Health Services strategy.
In 2007, I joined Allianz Global Assistance as CEO for Europe, Middle East and Africa and became a board member with responsibility for Asia Pacific development, specifically in China, India and Australia. I was then appointed to the executive committee of Allianz Worldwide Partners overseeing strategy, market management and innovation worldwide. Working in these areas and sectors has given me incredible insight and a diversity of skills that have enriched me both personally and professionally and have allowed me to embrace my new role at Allianz Worldwide Care.
What does your new role as CEO of Allianz Worldwide Care entail?
Since the merger with the international health divisions of Allianz France in 2014, Allianz Worldwide Care’s offering has expanded significantly and I now find myself between two locations: Dublin, which is the support hub for global operations, and Paris, the company’s HQ. As CEO, my focus is to identify more opportunities for growth. These opportunities might be in new markets or they could involve new products or segments, but irrespective, I am hugely passionate about the role and it’s my responsibility to secure and maintain Allianz Worldwide Care’s position as an industry leader and sustain its global reputation for innovation. I am already enjoying working with a new and really strong team and I’m looking forward to taking the company to the next level.
You have two decades’ of experience in the insurance industry; what are some of the major changes you’ve seen in that time, and do you foresee any major changes on the horizon for providers of international health insurance?
The last 20 years have seen major changes, particularly in the area of regulation to which, as a global company, we have had to adapt quickly. I have also seen a shift in the way insurance is perceived, not just by corporates but by consumers as well. Consumers have helped to drive market change; they want to be able to buy their insurance from different sources and in different ways, whether that is online, over the phone or via a broker, and insurance companies have responded accordingly.
Interestingly, insurance nowadays is not just about the client paying a premium but also about the insurance company providing a service. There needs to be a keen understanding of the need for strong service provision, right across the industry – it’s certainly a priority for Allianz Worldwide Care. Customers can interact with us anytime and anywhere.
Did serving as Allianz Global Assistance’s CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa give you a wide-ranging view of the idiosyncrasies of these different regions?
These markets actually have more in common than they have differences, but there are nevertheless some recognised challenges which differ from region to region, due to the complex make-up of the insurance sector. Legal frameworks and regulatory requirements can vary greatly not only between continents, but between countries and regions, and so the need for companies such as ours to have the correct level of compliance in place becomes all the more essential.
Similarly, providing cover in regions that are often politically or economically unstable gives rise to further challenges. Local market knowledge and working with the best local partners is crucial to providing robust cover to our clients. To address the very unique challenges of unstable markets we also have to ensure that we have the right plans and processes in place to deal with every eventuality. In response to these needs, we can offer services which range from building onsite healthcare capabilities, to monitoring and preventive programmes for employees, as well as telehealth. We work with corporations, inter-governmental organisations and non-governmental organisations who may operate in fairly remote regions. They need to feel confident that they will have access to the highest level of care, when needed.
You have pointed towards mobile and digital technology as increasingly important delivery mechanisms for insurance products and services – are industry movements keeping pace with technology development, or does more need to be done?
Technology has evolved at a lightning pace and service industries right across the board have had to work very hard to keep up with the pace of change in an increasingly globalised world. This means that we have to come up with cutting-edge solutions to keep up with this level of change. By focusing on the customer experience and equipping them with information and processes, we can make sure that their experience will be made easier and more efficient, and will also provide them with information relevant to the area in which they are living, such as details of local hospitals and specialists.
The success of Allianz Worldwide Care’s MyHealth app is testament to the absolute need for digital solutions in the insurance industry. As well as the simple three-step claims process, it also provides support to members offering fast access to local emergency services’ numbers on a country-by-country basis as well as the medical term translator that shows key medical terms in 17 different languages.
Our industry should take a leadership role in providing enhanced services through technology, continually looking at new and innovative ways to further develop service offerings to clients through digital platforms. The advantages are self-evident, particularly as digital allows for enhanced communications in real time, which instils confidence in our global client base who are accustomed to these instantaneous methods of communication.
What are you looking forward to most about your role and what will the main challenges be?
I have already spoken about the regulatory changes and the culture of compliance that should be fostered from these changes, but we should also give regard to geopolitical instability and clients’ expectations. Working in countries with challenging environments requires a great deal of innovative thinking to ensure we are consistent in the quality of service we provide to our clients.
Creating an environment of opportunity within the company is also something that I am immensely passionate about and will be a real driving force for us over the months ahead. We have a large value proposition with bespoke solutions for new markets such as Asia or Latin America, programmes for specific segments such as individuals seeking access to international healthcare or international students in search of services and protection. There are obviously further inroads that need to be made in the digital arena and, as previously mentioned, this is an area in which Allianz Worldwide Care has already made considerable progress. I am looking forward to working with our teams to see how new innovations in technology can improve the customer journey and interaction with our partners, brokers and providers.
What are your proudest achievements, personally and professionally?
On a personal level, I have two amazing daughters and a supportive partner, who have given me the grounding to succeed in both my personal and professional life. There is often a perceived discord in any industry, particularly for women operating at a high level, between family and working life. The fact that I have reached the level of a top executive at a global company, with a loving family behind me is enough to show people that it is perfectly feasible. Professionally, I have been awarded ‘La Legion d’honneur’, which is the highest distinction one can receive from the President of France for important achievements, which in my case was a recognition of strategic developments I have led in the international arena.
Since joining the Allianz Group, I am proud of being part of very talented and customer-oriented teams building businesses within a whole host of different countries.
If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?
When I was at university, I had a strong interest in linguistics and this is a passion I’d like to pursue when I retire, which might mean getting involved in research or studying for a PhD – or both! If I had to pick any job in the world, however, I would love to be a Professor of Rare Languages or alternatively return to my earlier passion for the ancient languages of Africa and Mesopotamia. A job like this would help to both satisfy my curiosity and allow me to put my multicultural perspective to great use. n