How did you first get started in the travel insurance industry, and how did you come to be in your current role?
I joined Allianz in 2002 to head up the new product function for our US business, and from the very first moment in the new role, I knew the travel insurance business was for me. Over the years, I’ve learned a great deal about the travel industry and travellers’ needs and really enjoy it. About three years ago I was asked to take on my current role, as we were reorganising around global lines of business and, given the success we’ve had, it was a natural fit.
Your role involves overseeing the development and implementation of new insurance products – in a world of personalisation, where customers are ever more fickle and have a plethora of options at their fingertips, what are the key elements of making an insurance product that stands out?
The key to making a product stand out is value and experience. Today’s customers are demanding indeed. As am I, both as a customer and the product developer. At Allianz, we put the customer at the centre of our activity, ensuring a quality customer experience and delivering products that have real value.
This new consumer landscape must also have a knock-on effect when it comes to marketing. With customers being so bombarded with information via the internet, how can brands hope to capture their attention?
We’re fortunate to have terrific relationships with travel media and influencers who have been very helpful in explaining the benefits of travel insurance to their audiences. Having real value and ensuring customers are satisfied is a sure way to capture everyone’s attention. I can’t count the number of positive comments we get a week from customers who tell the world on social media how incredible their Allianz travel insurance experience was.
How is Allianz Global Assistance (AGA) harnessing new technology to improve and streamline its processes? What’s next for AGA in the insurtech space?
We’ve been a technology leader in the travel insurance space for over 15 years and have partnered with technology-forward clients to provide innovative solutions for their customers. Allianz is committed to continue leveraging technology to make the experience for our clients and their customers relevant and easy. Our award-winning TravelSmart mobile app is just one of many examples of our leadership in this area.
As travel becomes cheaper, more and more people are choosing to take trips to ever more far-flung destinations that pose their own unique set of risks. This obviously creates knock-on challenges for insurers – how does AGA keep on top of new traveller demographics and the new places they are travelling to in order to mitigate its exposure to these new risks?
At Allianz, we invest in understanding customers and their needs and we provide products that provide value. We have a robust Voice of the Customer programme, supported by technology, which provides real insight. What’s more important is our associates care about the customer experience and take actions from this insight, from new coverages, to easier claim filing, to our new SmartBenefits programme, we are always looking to help our customers. And yes, we need to manage risk, but that’s an Allianz core competency.
Do you think the travel insurance industry has a greater responsibility to provide pre-travel information and educate travellers about the benefits of travel cover and the risks inherent in their destinations?
Customers do face risks when they are travelling, and we as an industry need to do more than educate them; we need to anticipate travel situations and protect them. At AGA, we have tools on our TravelSmart app that provide location aware information and alerts to help travellers avoid risks and help them if something goes wrong. In the future, TravelSmart will alert travellers to situations near them that may impact their trip. We expect to roll out these contextual alerts to our customers sometime in 2020.
Allianz Partners was awarded International Assistance Company of the Year at the recent ITIJ Awards. What does this win mean to Allianz?
We’re thrilled to win International Assistance Company of the Year because it is a terrific endorsement of our dedication to helping customers whenever they may need us and wherever they may be. Travel assistance tends to be the unsung hero of the travel industry, but when a customer needs help in an unfamiliar location, our assistance team are the ones who spring into action to tackle problems big and small. When we say that ‘travel insurance gives travellers the confidence to travel off the beaten path’, assistance is a big part of providing that confidence, and we couldn’t be prouder to be recognised as this year’s top international assistance company.
Can you describe a typical day in your role, if there is such a thing?
I’m glad I can’t answer this question. I couldn’t imagine doing the same things over and over. However, we do have lots of conversations around our customers and their needs!
Which aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?
I get a great deal of satisfaction providing people with protection they value and use. It seems to be paying off as we continue to grow and remain a market leader.
If you do any other job in the world, what would it be, and why?
I think being the editor at ITIJ would be my ideal job, but only when I’m done at Allianz driving the best product portfolio for our clients and customers.