Generali Vitality GmbH launched six years ago as a new digital arm of the European insurance company giant, Generali Group. Its purpose has been to develop and roll out a new wellness programme throughout continental Europe.
Peter Stockhammer, Managing Director of Generali Vitality, has enjoyed a long career in the Life insurance space and is a passionate advocate of advancement and innovation within the sector. He says that to truly drive forward new strategies, operatives need to understand how to liaise with each other and provide suitable support.
Originally, Stockhammer ended up in the life segment by chance following a new career opportunity. But the shift in perspective is one he’s embraced. He explains, “What attracts me now about the sector is the challenges it presents. We're living in a fast-moving world, and despite that, life and health insurance contracts have very long durations. So, it means you have to make a decision based on risk factors over long, long periods.
For example, say someone is buying a retirement plan in his early 30s. His contract runs for 35 to 40 years, and the health proposition runs alongside the main customers for the rest of their life.”
Generali Vitality and digital transformation
The life and health insurance industry is undergoing seismic changes as digitisation transforms the global business market. The new technologies that have emerged over the past decade have made it possible for established, traditional companies with core legacy systems, to consider new modes of operation.
Generali Vitality is a transformative subsidiary of a 190-year-old industry heavyweight, which made the decision to revamp its core services and offerings to fit in with the changing industry, back in 2015. Today, it is positioning itself as one of the most progressive operatives in the marketplace. Considering Generali Group’s reputation and global customer base, it has become a force to be reckoned with.
The concept of incentivising wellness via the Vitality initiative, was first established in 1997 by the Discovery Group in South Africa. It is the world’s largest, scientifically proven wellness programme and has expanded its global operations to countries all over the world with over 10 million members.
Generali Vitality combines actuarial, behavioural and clinical tools in a step-by-step programme that helps members improve their health through wellness activities and healthy lifestyle choices. Members receive rewards for getting healthier, and this has a positive impact on the mortality and morbidity experience in the insurance business and in society.
Stockhammer explains how the relationship between a wellness app and one of the world’s oldest insurance companies was forged.
He says, “It started with a journey six years ago. Generali was founded in Trieste, Italy, and is celebrating this year its 190th birthday so we are nearly 200 years old.”
“In terms of digitalisation and innovation, you have to bear in mind when the company was set up. It was in a time when cars didn’t even exist. So our challenge was rooted in trying to move a 184-year old insurer into the digital era.”
Stockhammer and his team were tasked with creating a legal entity and startup within the global group to bring a digital, app-driven product to its customers. They then decided to add prevention as an additional service to the protection cover they were offering.
Today, as well as offering comprehensive and intelligent life insurance solutions, Generali Vitality provides holistic, preventative incentives that are centered on customer wellness. As part of this drive, the company can access data directly from mobile fitness apps and trackers to assess customer health and offer incentives and rewards based on their proactive responses.
Stockhammer says the team drew on their experiences in the insurance space, as well as bringing in new talents from the technology industry to work on aspects like customer experience and journeys. The combination of a global customer base alongside an innovative entity, is, he says, an exciting and dynamic opportunity.
“We have this startup mentality in an international environment. When we launched the team six years ago, there were around 25 of us from 14 different nations. That meant we had a very international outlook and it helped us in terms of trialing products for different cultures as well as collaborating with new partners. It’s also helped us engage with our internal and external stakeholders.”
Wearables for wellness
Generali Vitality, says Stockhammer, is specialising in wellness motivation. The focus of the company is to create products that encourage customers to live healthier lifestyles. If they embrace the concept, they are rewarded with points that can be redeemed in a number of different ways.
The app provides hints, tips, and notifications that alert customers about better living and work on changing negative behaviors. “We want to give them a nudge in a healthy direction,” says Stockhammer, “and this is obviously quite a different offering provided by traditional life insurance policies.”
Every Generali Vitality customer downloads the app and is permanently using it to upload data on their health status. This can be done using wearables, and when uploads of workouts are carried out, rewards are offered. The company also has a strict data consent policy so that no information is recorded without the express permission of its users.
The app is adaptable to a range of IoT devices and can be plugged into the vast majority of existing hardware. Stockhammer says popular options with customers are Apple watches, Garmin, Polar, and Fitbit.
Generali Vitality’s team is also keeping a close eye on the market so that the company can innovate its products to keep up with the latest health monitoring options. Currently, they are working on ways to measure customer blood pressure, oxygen and glucose levels as well as heart rate for an indicator of wellness.
When customers first log into the app, they receive an initial health assessment and then are provided with a ‘Vitality age’ which, says Stockhammer, is usually quite a bit higher than their actual age. With the wellness incentives, they can reduce their Vitality age and bring it further in line with biology, as well as lowering their premiums, he explains.
Managing the data
Naturally, with so much data being used to assess customer wellness, management and privacy is a key area of focus.
Stockhammer says the insurance industry has always dealt with vast amounts of data, even from its inception. “When you are a health insurer, you're getting a lot of data, meaning by someone signing up. Customers have to fill out a medical questionnaire sometimes based on their insurance, while others carry out a medical check.
“Today, it’s even more pronounced. Think about yourself, what you're really doing on your smartphone through social media - and how much data you're offering up. The priority for Generali Vitality is that customers must have full control over their data. Privacy and security is critical.”
Managing the technology for such an operation has, says Stockhammer, resulted in Generali Vitality working with a large ecosystem of partners, all of which bring value to the operation in different ways.
From data analytics and insights to the gamification of wellness - and the incentives offered, the digital insurer has teamed up with several big industry names, from Apple Watch and adidas to Expedia and Amazon. Accenture has also played a vital, supporting role through its range of products and services.
The Generali Vitality brand has scaled quickly as a result of its innovative products and services.
Stockhammer explains that entering new markets as well as adding new services to the proposition is a top priority. While there is already an established presence in Germany, Austria, and France, the company also rolled out its services in Spain and Italy in October. In 2022, Eastern Europe will be targeted, with services first launching in the Czech Republic, and then Poland.
The future of Life insurance
In terms of the future, Stockhammer believes that more and more traditional insurers will adopt mobile technologies to stay relevant within the space. The Life insurance industry will also undergo radical changes, not only because of new technologies but because of changing health demographics.
Generali Vitality is aiming to develop lifelong relationships with its customers, and although long-term contracts will, in the main, remain, the nature of cover will change to reflect the needs of the customer.
“People are living longer,” he says simply. “Each person on this planet (especially those born this year in Western Europe), will, in all likelihood, live until they are over 100. But our main objective has to be; "If you're getting 100 years old, how many of those 100 years will you live healthily? While people are living longer in the West, we are also seeing trending health problems like obesity, poor nutrition, and the general negative impact this has. If we can reduce this by incentivizing our products to help people, it’s a great motivator.”
And mobile technology is the critical vessel, through which, people can be encouraged, and helped, he says. “Smartphones have changed the world, and I, for one, am curious to see what will be the next.”
He adds, “Already, stats show us that there are more mobile phones on this planet than there are people. That’s an incredible reality if you can help by reaching out to people and helping them to achieve a better lifestyle."