April 19, 2021
Huber describes the value of taking a customer-centric perspective and why doing so can open doors for innovation within insurance
“I joined Zurich International because it's very multifaceted, very international, and there's a lot of opportunities for growth,” explains Huber. “I've been with Zurich for a long time, and so I've performed many different roles across multiple locations.” Indeed, Huber’s journey began in 2013 as CEO of Zurich Life Singapore, then running the Zurich business as President Director in Indonesia and subsequently taking on his current role in 2017. Prior to this, he built an impressive résumé of executive experience at several premier global insurance institutions, including Swiss Life, Allianz and Swiss Re.
Huber believes that there is a vital principle that underpins successful digital transformation: culture. Moving towards a fully digital way of thinking has also transformed Zurich’s methodology for product design; whereas before it employed waterfall project management, the company now opts for faster, sprint-driven agile delivery using ‘pods’. “Pods deliver two-week sprints, and in working in this way we’ve become ruthless at prioritising things,” he explains. Essentially, if a pod doesn't deliver its target within the time period it will be ‘retired’ and Zurich’s focus will shift to another. This allows the company to maintain momentum and innovate on a larger scale within a ‘learn-fast’ environment. “Everyone in the insurance industry has been very shy at experimenting. I always remind people, ‘We don't fly planes; we don't do open heart surgery. We don't need perfection, because if something goes wrong it can be fixed easily. Funnily enough, not many things go wrong at all – guess it is in our DNA to go for getting it right first time.”
What Huber is alluding to is a general change in consumer attitudes, which are now far more tolerant of ongoing updates and improvement, such as the Android / App Store experience. Bug fixes and improvements are pushed to the users on a daily basis and the acceptance of these has become normal. Gaining a better understanding of customers has allowed Zurich to innovate in a new way, and this is an advantage it intends to use continually. The implications of COVID-19 on service have also reshaped the company’s approach, “We retrained some of our staff to become virtual agents so that we could offer our customers an additional access point to get in touch with us.” Taking his cue from the convenience displayed by e-commerce innovators, Huber’s philosophy is that Zurich’s customers should be able to communicate through any means they see fit, “It's not up to me to tell them, that's the old way of thinking. Today, insurance needs to be present wherever customers want it.”
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Concentrating on continuing to reduce future morbidity and mortality, and really giving people healthy life years, remains our key strategic focus.