Jean Elia (SOGELIFE): Imagining the "new normal
The implementation of a digital culture for several years has enabled SOGELIFE to get through the health crisis in a fluid manner. According to Jean Elia, CEO, the time is ideal to imagine a "new normal" that is more digital, less complicated and more "responsible". Interview.
How has SOGELIFE's activity evolved over the last 12 months?
The year 2019 was marked by a gross written premium of 2.3 billion euros with more than 51% in Unit-Linked, placing us, according to ACA statistics, as the third Life insurer in Luxembourg in terms of premiums. This was an excellent result for SOGELIFE, in line with the strategy launched in 2015 aimed at transforming the business mix by favouring unit-linked products in both premiums and assets, which have exceeded 11 billion euros at the end of 2019. This momentum continued in 2020, with very strong inflows until March. We have then experienced a slowdown in activity due to the crisis and the wait-and-see attitude of our clients, but we expect a potential recovery during the fall. Regarding the progress of major projects, we are carrying out a major transformation in the digital area and have benefited from the lessons learned from this crisis to accelerate several issues. Finally, as part of our Customer Experience programme - a priority project - we have worked with a large number of our partners to identify with them the "pain points" and areas for improvement. Following this initial listening phase called 'Sense', we moved on to the 'Dream' phase, allowing us to co-design a 'delightful experience' with them through the implementation of 9 structuring projects. We are now in the 'ACT' phase of co-development of 4 of these initiatives, which are highly appreciated by our partners and final clients.
"The crisis has taught us that we can take decisions much more quickly without complicating our lives."
What measures has your firm put in place to deal with the health crisis?
The health and safety of our employees were our guiding principles from the outset. Our IT infrastructure enabled us to switch to teleworking from the very first days of lock-down in an efficient manner. We already had laptops equipped with VPN connections and were in the test phase for teleworking, so all we had to do was to generalise access to all employees and all applications while remaining vigilant about confidentiality rules, of course. Thanks to the measures taken at the beginning of the crisis, but above all thanks to the commitment of our employees, we did not lose a single day's work, nor suffer any customer incident, while at the same time we posted an "availability" rate close to 100%. We are now focusing our efforts on maintaining productivity and are already entering the phase of gradual “lock-up”. Thanks to the support of SG Luxembourg, we were able to carry out all the necessary installations in our offices to accommodate our employees. I think that the 'new normal' will combine on site and teleworking. We are keeping the same thread and studying the best options through dialogue with our employees, the group, internal workshops, observation of the market and of course the evolution of the crisis.
What challenges and opportunities do you identify for SOGELIFE in the medium term?
Three axes should be distinguished: operation, strategy and digital transformation. At the level of our functioning, the crisis has taught us that we can take decisions much more quickly without "complicating our lives". Previously, to give you an image that was given to me by a partner, we used to test that everything was 400 meters waterproof, whereas we never go down to such depths. This makes it impossible to think 'outside the box'. We have to realise that certain decisions can be made more fluidly and follow the pace of an accelerated digital transformation. This will allow us to review how we operate by identifying processes that need to be improved, maintained, stopped or invented! The lessons of the crisis will clearly help us to review our strategy and priorities in terms of our product range and distribution markets. Finally, we are also accelerating our transformation by relying on two strategic foundations: customer experience and Corporate Social Responsibility.