Attention, commitment, transparency. These are all needed for open innovation yet social inclusion. “We can and must work to have more accessible and inclusive companies and products. Technology and innovation allow us to do this better, combining social responsibility and business.” Andrea Veltri, Deputy CEO Digital Transformation, summarized in this way the mood of Open-F@b Call4 Ideas 2021, the international contest supported by InsuranceUp now in its eighth edition. This year’s topic is “L’Assicurazione + Accessibile” (“More Accessible Insurance”). Until September 26, the call is open for ideas and solutions aimed at making communication easier, the experience flowing more seamlessly, and responses faster. The goal is ambitious: to be ever closer to customers and promote social inclusion by offering the possibility to be insured to as many people as possible..
Andrea, what does “more accessible insurance” mean?
Making insurance more accessible, the mission of BNP Paribas Cardif, means defining a path to make protection more accessible with a two-pronged approach, simplicity and personalization on the one hand, and the inclusion of new population groups on the other. It means, in short, making it possible for customers who are usually not insurable to become so. Insurance cannot be a luxury; it cannot, for example, exclude by default those who have specific pathologies or neglect those who have genuine difficulties in understanding the policy conditions.
So, is this to say that insurance today is not yet for everyone?
This is a matter of fact, even if finding “mitigators” for profiles considered high-risk is justified. However, this should not mean excluding them. Let me give you just a few examples. Many group policies have parameters that exclude those with a weight-to-height-to-life ratio that is out of the norm. There is also no provision for a higher premium. You don’t get the policy at all. Try looking for a policy against loss of employment, a very topical subject. It’s easy if you’re employed by a large company, but what if you’re a caregiver and the risk is the death of the employer who is also the recipient of your care and therefore not exactly in the best of health?
This is a matter of insurance rules. Why does technology matter?
It matters, and a lot. I’ll give another example: diabetes is a disease whose complications are difficult to predict. So diabetics are usually not insured by anyone. In the U.S. companies have developed apps that are certified as medicines that follow your lifestyle and treatment. The company guarantees you coverage if you follow the directions of the app. This way, behavior becomes traceble through technology, allowing you to be under insurance cover.
So through Open-F@b Call4Ideas this year, are you looking for hi-tech ideas to bring those currently struggling to get this protection under the insurance “umbrella”?
Of course, but we are also looking for solutions that make insurance simpler, more transparent, faster; and therefore more encompassing. It’s an ambitious goal since this is a field yet to be explored by companies: today it still represents an area with small numbers and high risk. However, we are confident that with digital technologies, traceability first and foremost, the risk can be contained and therefore a service can be provided to those who today cannot have it.
Open-F@b is a long-lived open innovation project. What has changed in eight years? What have you actually learnt by working with startups?
We have learnt to work with MVPs (“Minimum Viable Product”) and proof of concept, and startups have learnt to deal with the complex dynamics of an incumbent. Yet you can’t ask a fledgling company with a few people to talk to all the functions of a large company. So we started creating small, focused teams. Our R&D efforts in this regard were fundamental: it was the creator of complexity needed to do open innovation. Working with startups, we rediscovered the taste of feeling involved in a project, the satisfaction of getting to the release. In short, we experienced the entrepreneurial mindset in the company.
You’ve also developed new products and services with startups.
Yes, and we’ve done that by getting to the very roots of open innovation. When you decide to get into something new you either rely on the generalist consultant, who offers you sound but standardized solutions or you manage to find the best specialist. This is what happened, for example, with D-Heart, startup winner of Open-F@b 2016 with its portable electrocardiograph: we saw it grow and put it at the core of our Healthy Corners. This year we are also back to look for business ideas, as in the beginning, to be supported from the very first steps towards growth.
Working with BNP Paribas Cardif is not the only benefit for those who take part in the contest…
No this is not, with all the startups that over the years have participated in the call, and there are many (500 applications and 80 ideas selected since 2014, ed.), a valuable network has been created for everyone. In eight years, there’s something that never changed: this is not a call to look for the best or award a prize, but rather to find a fellow participant, a partner to do something with. Over time, the dimension has changed. We started in Italy, then we expanded the project to an international level to bring innovative ideas to Italy wherever they were, and this year we are back to focus on Italy.
Why is the focus back on Italy?
We want to identify Italian ideas and talents to bring to Europe. To do this, we have partnered with PNI Cube, the association that brings together Italian academic incubators and business plan competitions. Universities are a powerful source of entrepreneurial creativity and we think we can offer them an opportunity for international visibility.
How will this international visibility be achieved?
In several ways. First of all, each shortlisted project will enter Scoop, BNP’s Open Innovation platform, used within the Group to share, manage and promote cooperation with startups and vetted worldwide. Then there is another opportunity: the three winning teams will be mentored by BNP Paribas’ BivwAk! accelerator, an innovation boutique in the heart of Paris. Hosted startups have the advantage of a direct and simplified relationship with all group companies. So those who make it to the bottom of Open-F@b Call4Ideas will enter the BNP Paribas innovation ecosystem…
We want to offer tangible opportunities for growth and investment. BNP Paribas is the only Financial Group to represent fintech and insurtech issues at Station F, one of the world’s biggest innovation platforms, where, with Plug n Play, we offer an exclusive acceleration program. The winners will then be able to enter the batches of Plug and Play, which runs the fintech accelerator there, and will be introduced to the C. Entrepreneurs Fund, BNP Paribas Cardif’s venture capital fund managed by Cathay Innovation, a French fund with a global reach that has resources for over $1.5 billion.All rights reserved
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