Read our interview with Global Head of Transformation Joan Cuscó on working with start-ups and scale-ups, emerging technologies, market opportunities and why innovation is so important to MAPFRE.
For anyone who isn’t familiar, can you kick off with an introduction to MAPFRE?
MAPFRE is a global insurance company with its headquarters in Madrid, Spain. Today, our company is the largest Spanish-owned insurer in the world, and the sixth largest insurer in terms of non-life ranking in Europe by premium volume.
In numbers: we have over 26 million customers worldwide; 34,000 employees; and over 25 billion euros in revenue (2020).
Our main shareholder is Fundación MAPFRE, a non-profit organisation devoted to improving people’s quality of life and driving social progress.
What is your personal role there?
I’ve been part of MAPFRE Open Innovation since its inception in 2018. Last year I was appointed Global Head of Transformation. The main mission of our team is to create business partnerships with start-ups and scale-ups, for which we have a dedicated program called insur_space by MAPFRE. Besides that, it’s also our duty to collaborate with universities in research and entrepreneurship programs; and to oversee our investments in venture capital.
MAPFRE has a strong focus on innovation, why is it so important to you?
We live in uncertain times, and as a socially-driven organisation we think it is our duty to help things develop towards the bright side. MAPFRE Open Innovation is our strategic bet for a brighter today and tomorrow. And we know we cannot do this alone; the future is about collaboration. So, the purpose of MAPFRE Open Innovation is to drive a customer-centric and society-centric transformation through partnerships and the use of emerging technologies. We join forces with other incumbents to create a positive impact today that results in value for both our business and society tomorrow.
Can you tell us more about your Open Innovation platform?
MAPFRE Open Innovation is a global model with teams in different MAPFRE entities and countries. It’s led by our Group Chief Innovation Ofﬁcer, José Antonio Arias, reporting directly to the Group Chairman and CEO. In 2018 we committed publicly to invest 1% of our gross profit in Open Innovation initiatives, with the aim of positively impacting 1 million customers in three years. We’re glad to say that by the end of 2021 we’ll have exceeded both goals.
How do you attract and work with innovators?
Our boldest message is directed to start-ups and scale-ups: there’s enough innovation theatre out there, let’s talk business. That’s the purpose of insur_space.
insur_space was born in 2018 as a new generation corporate accelerator. Three years and up to 40 startups later, insur_space has grown to become a global fast-track-to-market program for start-ups, focusing on different verticals every year.
The value proposition is clear: we offer up to €100k to cover pilot costs, no equity involved, and we commit to reaching the market in less than six months. Our matchmaking and onboarding process are meant to shorten the pre-sales offer from months to weeks.
insur_space has dedicated staff, budget, portfolio and governance, so our business areas are free to explore without burdens. While the corporate team is based in Madrid (Spain), insur_space drives initiatives all over the world, involving any MAPFRE entity or brand.
What areas are you focusing on and why?
In 2021 we are focused on five opportunity areas:
- End-to-end claims automation: Providing our customers with straight-through processes so their claims can be solved and paid in a single interaction and in self-service mode. Our most advanced collaboration in this field is the one with French unicorn Shift Technology.
- Voice automation: Allowing the customers that contact us via phone to talk to a virtual assistant for simple transactions in which waiting for a human adds little value (e.g. changing your banking details).
- Assessments by image: Applying the power of deep learning to inspect vehicles and properties automatically and in real-time. In that area we’ve announced collaborations with Allianz-owned ControlExpert and US startup Flyreel.
- New generation insurance products, especially around auto insurance and cybersecurity (that’s all I can say for now). We’ve been working with Israeli startup KOVRR for almost three years.
- Non-insurance products and services, with special focus on wellbeing and seniors (ageing at home). In that regard, we have successfully launched collaborations with Made of Genes (Spain), Woom Health (Uruguay, México, Dominican Republic) and Aerial (Spain), and others will be announced soon.
Are you actively investing in insurtech, and if so, how?
So far, all our venture capital investments have been directed through the fund Alma Mundi Insurtech, in which we are anchor partners. The fund was created three years ago and has become the largest insurtech fund in Europe.
Where do you see the biggest areas of opportunity?
In one word: health. Because of the ageing population, the shift of our industry towards prevention and the fast development of new kinds of treatments (genetic-based medicine, digital therapeutics, artificial organs, etc). And because the WHO says that “health is more than merely the absence of disease or infirmity”, so the scope of the health insurance business should be broader that it is today.
Any emerging technologies that you find interesting?
Besides the ones mentioned for health, in the long-term we see quantum computing and the evolution of Blockchain as potential game-changers in an industry that’s as data-intensive as ours. In the short term, there’s still a lot of potential for AI, advanced analytics and graph databases.
For more information on MAPFRE, go to mapfre.com