Partnerships and collaborations have been important for highly-skilled and innovative sectors such as fintech and its wider ecosystem to foster solutions in an ever-changing world. The Fintech Times is celebrating October and is speaking with Dikla Wagner from Munich Re about her own company and professional journeys through partnerships. She is based in Israel and discusses specifically on insurtech.
Dikla Wagner is the Head of Tech Scouting for Munich Re in Israel
Dikla Wagner is the Head of Tech Scouting for Munich Re in Israel. Munich Re is one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies. It is 140 years old, with a turnover of more than €80 billion from reinsurance alone. It was named one of the pillars of the German economy.
Prior to her role at Munich Re, Dikla was a serial entrepreneur and investor, with over 14 years of experience in the Israeli ecosystem. She is a lawyer and economist. Dikla started as a co-founder of two start-ups. After that, she joined a local VC and led investment and analysis.
Along her way, Dikla has supported and mentored over 100 start-ups and entrepreneurs in their journey for success, with a mission to share the nation’s start-up stories and promote Israeli tech. She is a key opinion leader on insurtech (tech for insurance), and a speaker on the topics of outcome innovation, cyber, IoT, and more.
Describe your company journey in Israel
I am on the hunt for new technologies, new business models and revenue streams. As Munich Re’s Head of Tech Scouting in Israel, I am seeking out new technologies that can be put to immediate use by Munich Re, its subsidiaries and its clients – insurance companies.
We are also looking for something else: we are dealing with questions such as how to build new business models and new revenue streams for ourselves and for our clients.
We will look for InsurTech technologies, but also way beyond insurance, at other ecosystems: AI, cyber. Why? Because we can understand complex technologies and this exposes us to wider opportunities. One of our goals is to push the boundaries of insurance and look for innovations that will change the trajectory of the industry for years to come, or expand and have effects beyond insurance. That is a challenging task. To succeed, you need to have a deep understanding of the insurance world and the tech/start-up scene. And so Wagner meets with hundreds of Israeli start-ups and partners each year, checking to see which ones can offer the right product or software for Munich Re and its clients, or with which ones a collaborations will be disruptive. “The goal is to explore beyond the obvious in innovation – to come up with disruptive ideas and concepts that will bring value to us and our clients, and effect real change. Five years ago, we did not imagine the tech shift the industry would go through; now we are living the change. And we want to lead the change. For that, you need to be open to embracing new ideas, collaborations and products.”
Can you give us a glance into the InsurTech ecosystem in Israel?
The InsurTech ecosystem in Israel is growing very fast. We have around 100 companies in this field.
Israel is home to the worlds’ leading InsurTech companies and has seen mega-investment rounds: such as Lemonade, which raised $350 million from SoftBank; Next insurance that raised $250 million led by Munich Re, and recently announced another $250 million round led by CapitalG with participation from Munich Re; and then there was Hippo that raised $150 million. We definitely believe that this list will grow, thanks to the talents and the real hunger that Israeli entrepreneurs have. We also believe that Israeli start-ups will become more sophisticated with their solutions, leveraging tech capabilities and advantages in their business use cases. For many years, the greatest challenge for Israeli start-ups was to scale outside of Israel, but the leader of the market has proven us wrong.
Looking at the start-up maps attached by SNC, we believe that the section in the map labelled “Technologies for risk reduction” has the greatest potential for growth. We are identifying additional companies in the Israeli market that can develop solutions for risk mitigation and reduction. Those companies are not addressing insurance companies today, but their technology is highly attractive to us. We believe it is a matter of time and adduction for those companies to join the insurance sector and develop offerings for carriers. And that is part of our role here in Israel.
How have partnerships and collaborations played a role in that?
Partnerships and collaborations have absolutely played a major part in opening up innovations to us.
Munich Re is leading and initiating many innovation projects, mostly because we have a deep understanding of market and client needs. We try to think five years ahead, looking at the horizon and not only at the here and now. We believe in the power of innovation for the short and the long term.
However, we also deeply believe in the power of collaboration:
First of all, with start-ups – since we appreciate the dynamic, fast cutting-edge tech that can build rapidly and aim to change the world.
But also with partnerships with other giants I always say that in innovation 1+1=3 – the power of combining two different sets of expertise into one partnership outweighs the value of both. We are looking to do that in several strategic fields.
How have partnerships with your customers and understanding their needs allowed Munich Re to grow? Since we are also innovating for our clients, I offer another question below that may be of interest to you. Please let us know if that alternative is OK with you and provides an interesting angle for the article.
Post-COVID-19, what do you think will be the biggest two trends and how are they relevant to insurance?
- The speed of digitisation!! Everyone understands that they need to ensure business continuity and the digital enablement of their own workforce. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that for many, returning to work will be a process that could take a year or more, and that they cannot go back to the way they were.
Instead, companies will want to seize the moment to reimagine and reinvent the future, building new muscle and capabilities to come back strong. Even well-run companies may find that they need to reinvent themselves more than once.
For insurance, that means we have to accelerate digital-product building. If we think about buying behaviour, it has changed dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, i.e. people that had never purchased goods online have now set up Amazon accounts. We therefore need to adjust and accelerate digital-product development and building.
- Changes in distribution channels – it is clear that we can no longer rely on one distribution channel. We need to find new/additional disruption channels. This applies to various different players along the supply chain: OEMs, manufacturers and suppliers, and it also applies to insurers.
We need to rethink our distribution strategy. This goes for carriers as well as for brokers.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future businesses in the region who are looking to grow?
For any insurance company, I would recommend starting this innovation journey today! It does not have to be major projects or budget, we can start with small steps. The first step will be to learn where our biggest pain point is, and to start from there.
For insurance companies that are already innovating, I will recommend to always stay updated on the different technology trends and the latest upsets in the market. Technologies are changing very rapidly: what you know today will change tomorrow. A specific tech can be around for only a very limited time.
When insurance companies ask me where they should start innovating, I have to admit my answer has changed following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has opened our eyes to what the world is going through. 2020 was a year of many natural disasters: fires, floods, hurricanes, and so on. Munich Re registered 820 natural disasters that caused insured losses in 2019. Climate change was also a major topic this year.
We see the year 2020 as a year to prepare for the future, and Munich Re is very active in this. We are working on learning how we, our clients and the other organisations can become more resilient – how can we prepare for the future, starting today! One example is a project we are currently exploring for SMEs – which were dramatically hit by COVID-19. SMEs are targets that need a great deal of support, so developing solutions that address them is also a great opportunity. But this is not an easy task – to bring real value to SMEs, we need to overcome real challenges and find the right business models. I believe that companies that develop solutions for SMEs will be winners after we have beaten the coronavirus.”