Interview with Nikolay Stanchev, acting CEO of Generali Bulgaria: In 2021, we will focus on the digital transformation
08 February 2021
In an interview for Bulgarian online platform Insmarket focusing on both domestic and international financial market, Nikolay Stanchev, Chairman of the Management Board and acting Chief Executive Officer of Generali Zastrahovane AD, talks about his new role, share his thoughts on the differences between Bulgarian market and the situation in other European countries, as well as his expectations of 2021 in terms of results. Read the entire interview below.
You have been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Generali Insurance AD during the Covid19 pandemic - what are the additional challenges that the crisis poses to you?
I am honoured and grateful for the trust received by the Shareholders, and I believe that the company will continue to grow steadily. Generali Insurance AD results have been remarkable despite the unprecedented pandemic thanks to the relentless efforts of the management and of all our employees and agents.
The Coronavirus pandemic is having a negative impact on Bulgarian economy, as all over the world, but this economic slowdown is not affecting the Bulgarian insurance market so badly as other industries. The biggest challenge for us was to react swiftly and effectively to the rapid spread of the virus by implementing numerous measures to protect our employees, agents and customers and to ensure business continuity.
At Generali Insurance AD we consider this pandemic not only as a threat but also as an opportunity to improve our operations and accelerate some initiatives. For example, through remote working and digitization of processes we achieve also higher efficiency and better customer service.
This year Generali Bulgaria celebrates 15 years on the Bulgarian market, what has the company achieved?
We are proud to have built such a successful company. Particularly, in the last five years, we optimized a number of processes and developed digitization. We established long-term relationships with our partners and above all we proved to be a lifetime partner to our customers. This is a very solid basis for the successful development of the company which can rely on a great team of employees and professional agents.
For two years we have been working hard on our corporate social responsibility, partnering with The Human Safety Net and the Foundation for Our Children. We chose to focus our efforts on improving early childhood development. Helping children up to the age of 7 is extremely challenging, since we believe supporting children at an early stage will improve relationship with their parents. I am extremely proud of the proactive involvement of our employees and agents on this initiative.
What does your 2021 Strategy envisage for the development of the company this year?
Generali Bulgaria 2021 strategy is based on several priorities - sustainable growth, financial stability, innovation and digital transformation. The company is focused on becoming a lifetime partner of its customers by offering innovative and customized solutions. Our aim is to stand out in the Bulgarian market by introducing Generali Group standards and best practices. Our long-term goal is to build a sustainable relationship with our customers and partners based on trust and consistency. Our focus in 2021 will continue to be digital transformation. We are working on several projects to make it easier for our clients to contact us and to manage their own insurance policies.
Two years ago Generali Insurance Bulgaria implemented an environmental protection policy, introducing paperless documents, to ease our job, and to reduce paper consumption in the company. Generali is a strong global brand, and one of our tasks is to popularize it further in Bulgaria.
The company has been working tirelessly to digitize its processes in the last two years. What has been achieved so far?
We developed several strategic projects in the last two years that are fully focused on digital transformation. The most important project is ´My Generali’, our new online platform and application, which will enable all our current and future customers to easily manage their policies. We also have other projects related to simplification of claims handling and paperless processes which are in their final phase.
You announced the launch of a new online platform and a mobile application. Tell us more about them.
The online platform and mobile application ´My Generali´ are going to be launched soon. ´My Generali´ portal is designed for our customers who will be able to receive information and make payments. Over the next few months ´My Generali´ will provide a number of services: e.g. fully online insurance policy conclusion, real-time claims notification, claim tracking and online policy info.
Generali launched also the ‘My Health Record’ platform. What is the benefit for the customers? Is this the market niche you are aiming at?
We successfully developed an innovative service – “My Health Record”, which will fill the existing gap for collecting, systematizing and tracking the overall health information regarding the patient's condition. By using this platform each of our clients will be able to store their health history, which is a step towards the digitization of this type of services. In the current severe health crisis, preventive medicine and telemedicine are the best tools to take care of our customer's health. Another innovative service for our clients is that they can autonomously check their basic health indicators through a telemedicine chair and get connected with a doctor.
Do you foresee potential in online sales?
Yes, certainly. Online sales in the insurance industry are not sufficiently developed compared to other financial sectors. In my opinion, there are still many opportunities to be explored in our business. There are legal obstacles that can jeopardize this kind of sales in some insurance lines of business. I believe online sales will grow in the future, especially in MTPL, CASCO, Household and Travel Insurance. The Covid crisis has further highlighted the need for online sales, and I am sure that we will experience an increasing number of customers in this sales channel.
How would you compare the insurance market in our country with others in Europe considering volume and insurance portfolio mix? Has the insurance culture of the clients developed enough and do they trust the sector as a whole?
The insurance market in Bulgaria is quite different from developed European markets. Unfortunately, the penetration of insurance products in our country is one of the lowest in the EU, hence the small premium volume of the market. This is due to several factors, such as historical reasons, demography, economic situation, and others.
MTPL and Casco are the main lines of business in our country. Other products, such as Household, Accident, Health Insurance, etc. are not popular in Bulgaria yet. We aim at improving the penetration of these products to enhance the relevance of health and property coverages among Bulgarians. Our goal, "to enable people to form a safer future by taking care of their lives and dreams", is the foundation of our company and it motivates us to increase insurance culture in Bulgaria. This cannot happen quickly, but we are constantly working in this direction together with our partners, insurance brokers and agents. Another major difference between our insurance market and the European one is the distribution network which in Bulgaria is dominated by brokers.
Due to this peculiarity, we changed a number of processes with our partners in the last year. We opened two brokerage centers in Sofia and Varna to facilitate the relationship with brokers by covering the entire insurance process - from underwriting to training and providing fast information on claims handling.
The growing share of insurance brokers in premiums requires highly qualified professionals to respond to their needs. Our goal is to provide the best service to insurance brokers on the Bulgarian market in order to build long-lasting and efficient relationship.
What are your expectations for 2021 and what results do you plan?
The ongoing pandemic and the continuing uncertainty make me feel less optimistic for 2021. I expect that the prolonged downtrend of the economy will spread its effect also on the insurance industry this year. This is why our 2021 forecasts are more prudent than 2020. Nevertheless, I am optimistic about Generali Insurance AD due to the resilience already shown and I am confident to even exceed the expectations as we have been doing for the past few years.