Europ Assistance Portugal invests in technological innovation

Paulo Xardoné, IT & Innovation Director at Europ Assistance Portugal speaks to Vida Económica

Paulo Xardoné

Paulo Xardoné, IT & Innovation Director at Europ Assistance Portugal, believes that new opportunities are opening up and very interesting niche markets are being created. The company intends to strengthen its presence in the Portuguese market via international asset sharing, processes redesign and digitalization.

Vida Economica - What are the main challenges facing the insurance / assistance sector in this digital era?

Paulo Xardoné - In the sector, we have the emergence of the “fintech”, with less regulatory pressure and offering to the market some interesting niche solutions. On the other hand, the technological evolution is gradually diluting market boundaries, increasing competition and enhancing collaborative ecosystems (for instance, a car manufacturer integrating with an assistance company so that the vehicle’s computer can provide on line information about a breakdown, enabling repair on spot, without further inconvenience to the customer). The near future will see driverless cars, able to recognize, communicate and even self-correct breakdowns, smart houses, helping in the identification and resolution of home claims, or medical assistance and surgeries carried out remotely.

All this happening with a customer-base eager for agile and innovative solutions but, at the same time, with a set of very demanding regulatory frameworks, with authorities who need time to correctly evaluate those innovations and integrate them into the norms.

Vida Económica - What is Europ Assistance's technological innovation strategy?

Paulo Xardoné - Our strategy is based on 3 key pillars: asset sharing, process redesign and digitalization.

Europ Assistance Portugal is part of a global group and can get great advantages from this reality. Within the group’s WeConnect strategy, we embraced an asset sharing approach (products, services, providers’ networks, platforms) which empowers our ability to serve customers in Portugal.

In 2017 Europ Assistance Portugal launched a "lean" initiative, in which all departments and processes are being reviewed and simplified, making them more efficient. This initiative, which will run until the end of 2018, is already resulting into greater operational efficiency and improved quality and diversity of services.

Finally, technology is an accelerator and an enabler of all innovation that Europ Assistance Portugal is implementing in a transversal way. In the center of this technological innovation is the company's digital strategy. This digitalization approach encompasses the entire value chain, starting from the customers’ interaction channels, going through the internal operating and support systems and reaching third-party platforms that cooperate with us in our assistance providing. We also have a set of platforms that are being migrated to the cloud, further enhancing their availability, security and scalability.

VE - What is new for this new year?

Paulo Xardoné - At present, we have just launched the electronic billing service for our corporate customers - insurance companies, fleet management, manufactures - greatly simplifying the billing process and cost reconciliations, significantly reducing paper consumption and back-office work on both parts.

In the automotive area we will have mobile sites, allowing customers to activate an assistance request without having installed the mobile app. We are also launching “virtual agents" in our call center, capable of digitally manage a standard assistance request with no human intervention. Customers will have at their disposal this additional access channel that will play a fundamental role, especially in call peak situations. We will also launch a digital solution for tow trucks that we trust will be a great success, given the economic and operational benefits it will provide, compared to the existing alternatives.

In the "Home & Family" area, we will launch a mobile app for the in-field technical experts, enabling faster loading, analysis and decision on asset claims, vastly improving the quality and availability of information to the customer in the process.

VE - This service digitalization trend increases or decreases costs for the customer?

Paulo Xardoné – Our service digitalization strategy is not motivated by financial drivers, but by our desire to improve customers’ experiences and respond to their needs. A digital transformation requires significant investments to be consistent and complete, and most assistance companies in our market won’t have the capacity to do so. About costs, I can say that this market digitalization trend will give customers a much better cost-benefit ratio given the speed, diversity, quality, reliability and coverage of the services they will get.

The insurance sector is competitive, but we trust this to be both positive and challenging, bring out the best in us. Europ Assistance, combining innovation with technology, aims at offering to its customers the most fitting and distinctive solutions, in a value-added perspective.

VE - Is the industry properly regulated?

Paulo Xardoné - Insurance business is an increasingly regulated activity. We have recently seen the implementation of Solvency II and in 2018 the new Insurance Distribution Directive will also be implemented. Additionally, there is also GDPR, which is not insurance sector specific, but that will also have a significant impact on our business. But regulation is a process and technological evolution keeps on bringing new challenges both for the sector and for regulators. A good example of this technological evolution are the smart contracts, based on blockchain technology, that are now emerging as a new reality that has to be dealt with.

This first article appeared in Vida Económica, Portugal on 22nd December 2017.