“Real disruption happens when competitors collaborate to achieve more together”

Christian Eggers (Microsoft) and Tom Van den Brulle (InsurTech Hub Munich / Munich Re) talking about industry-specific challenges in digital transformation and cooperation as a disruptive force

In fall 2019, the world’s largest software provider Microsoft joined InsurTech Hub Munich as a new member of the network. Tom Van den Brulle (ITHM CEO and Global Head of Innovation at Munich Re) spoke with Christian Eggers, Sector Director Financial Services at Microsoft Germany, about expectations of the new partnership and the challenges of digital transformation.

Christian, I recently came across a quote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who spoke to me from the bottom of my heart: “You join Microsoft not to be cool, but to make others cool!”

Yes, Satya said that about a year ago in an interview with CNET and I think it describes very clearly what Microsoft’s claim to a successful customer relationship is. This statement has since become a fundamental part of our corporate culture. Our focus is on empowering our customers to achieve more and to stand by their side as a trusting partner.

I like this quote so much because it would also work perfectly as the motto of the InsurTech Hub Munich. Our task and our self-image is to act as a link between our partners and the startup scene, thus pushing the digital transformation of the industry a great deal forward. Although it would be somewhat bold in the insurance environment to want to make someone “cool”… (laughs)

When we talk to our clients in the financial services industry about digital transformation or new business models, we often hear an urge for change, speed, and flexibility. At the same time we sense the readiness for close and trusting partnerships. In the recent past, Microsoft has initiated a culture change that requires every single employee to make his customers more successful. For us, this has already developed into very close partnerships, which we are proud of.

In the insurance environment, we are increasingly succeeding with new, innovative ideas based on our cloud technology. Although in the past the insurance industry has not always been associated with the word “cool” – I agree with you on that – times have changed. Almost every insurance company makes great efforts to adapt to new market conditions, investing in innovation and digital transformation.

What do you think the insurance industry has to do in order to be perceived as disruptive?

I believe the industry can not afford the luxury of philosophizing about how it is perceived. Just as little as Microsoft can insist that we have been the “top dog” among the providers of operating systems and office software for decades. Almost every industry is facing a very real threat from new players outside their own ranks. In the insurance sector, but also in tech with their often purely virtual goods, this is perhaps more obvious than, say, in the manufacturing sector.

I think there are really disruptive impulses, such as those of Daimler and BMW: We see competing companies combine forces to diminish the likelihood of being left behind by Tesla or Sixt when it comes to future-proof mobility solutions. Another exciting example is Vodafone’s recent entry into car insurance. The insurtech EMIL occurs here as insurer, with the actual risk carrier largely remaining in the background.

What do you expect from the new partnership with InsurTech Hub Munich?

Getting in contact with the startups from the InsurTech Hub Munich network is extremely important to us. We still face the challenge that Microsoft’s advanced capabilities are not sufficiently  transparent across the industry. Some of our customers still see us as “old” Microsoft or pure software vendors of standard software, which has nothing to do with today’s reality. With our cloud platform, we have achieved a momentum that makes us a trusted advisor for digital transformation. For us, partnerships are the key to success in the future. In this respect, we already have an intensive exchange with the innovation leaders in the insurance industry. We hope that a close partnership with InsurTech Hub Munich will expand this dialogue and change the perception of Microsoft in the industry.

We are very pleased that you bring your technological expertise into our ecosystem. It will be of great help to our startups when they put their business models to the test and we can explore questions about data protection, regulations or the possibilities and limits of cloud solutions together. Munich with its short distances offers us the perfect infrastructure for a lively exchange.

It’s exactly this dialogue that we want to strengthen with you. The use of cloud solutions in the regulated environment makes complex demands. We’ve begun to openly address these needs and seek solutions directly with regulators and our customers early on. As a result, we can already report on many successful cloud projects in the industry and look forward to sharing these best practices with the startup community. Here in Munich – for example at the Oktoberfest – it is always said: “Ruck` ma zam” (let’s move closer). That could serve as a disruptive motto, to achieve more together! (laughs)

Interview in German: click here.

Interview: Markus Walter