Eva Poláchová: I find the role of innovator enjoyable and fulfillingInnovation must go hand in hand with sustainability

Text Jana Jenšíková Foto Marek Jenšík Publikováno

"For every entrepreneur, it is important to know that their people stand behind them and are willing to accept and fulfill their vision. Innovation makes sense if it motivates your co-workers and if they embrace it. Without that, you won't bring your idea to life, regardless of how amazing it may be," emphasizes Eva Poláchová, member of the board at two of our major insurance companies, namely ČPP and Kooperativa from the Vienna Insurance Group. Mrs. Poláchová has dealt with innovation throughout her whole career, so she is well familiar with the topic.

The right mindset and motivation

"Some people see innovation as change, but we have never really seen it like that. It's making things better," Apple CEO Tim Cook once said. What does innovation mean to you?

I think that's a great way to define innovation. Innovation is a prerequisite for any company to succeed. It requires not standing still and being able to look at things in a new way. It also requires responding to the rapidly changing conditions, having your visions and dreams, but also knowing their added value. Last but not least, it requires being able to present it and convince your people that you are going in the right direction so that they themselves implement and embrace innovation. I know from my own experience that it also always involves considering what your company really needs and not being afraid to take a different path than others. If I should point out two things that have the biggest impact on the overall success, I would say it's the right mindset and motivation of people.

For over twenty years in the insurance industry, you have seen a lot of innovation, even if it wasn't called that way back then.

Yes, I started after maternity leave in the early days of the insurance industry, when after 1989, we were building up momentum in the private sector. Everything was being developed and newly set up, we were writing insurance terms and conditions, inventing products and building business support. I liked the multidisciplinary nature of insurance, which in itself gives a lot of room for creativity. Today, I am really happy that I can approach every innovation with the experience and knowledge that I have gathered over the years. Some experience cannot be gained through reading, you really must live it.

Your current agenda is very extensive. Besides innovation and related projects, you are also in charge of risk management and security as well as communication with the supervisory authority, the Czech National Bank. Can one person really cover all of this?

All of these things that fall under my responsibility are interconnected. Simply put, you need to know where you want the business to go and what it will bring to you. You need to have new ideas but also modern technologies to turn those ideas into reality, and at the same time, you need to be sure that it is safe and eliminate risks. One would not work without the other.

Risks and sustainability

Let's talk about risks. Who else should know better how to work with risk than insurance companies, which are permanently exposed to it. Can you give our readers any recipe on how to deal with risk?

In every type of business, small or large, we should learn to measure and weigh risks and act accordingly to prevent their consequences. In principle, with exaggeration – there are no good or bad decisions, only conscious decisions taking into account the possible risks and consequences. If we do business with the aim of long-term success, sustainability must come first. These are the steps that keep the company in shape and give it the opportunity to develop strategically.

This also inherently involves the ability to respond to change. Don't let change paralyze you, but take it as a chance, a chance to improve something – and here we go again with innovation (laughs). We don't live in a vacuum, and even in business, we have to respond to many changes. In the insurance industry, this includes regulation as well. The key is to find new opportunities and improve your business within this regulated field.

Efficiency, flexibility and transparency

Your business is specific in that you sell a product to the client that is long-term, it's a service that can only come later during your business relationship, that is, in the future. Therefore, you have to think far ahead in your long-term strategy to innovate. Can you tell us what you are currently working on? Where are you heading to?

I am involved in the management of several strategic group projects, but at this point, I would name Neuron. This project has been running for the second year, and its progress so far has been incredibly encouraging to me. It has convinced me of the quality of our companies and the incredible potential of our people. I like to say that Neuron has given me wings, and I believe it will give imaginary wings to our future business as well.

We are building our new core system on our own, which will cover all the everyday processes of the insurance company. It assumes that we are changing the old system that our people have been forming and using for a long time. That is not an easy thing to do and requires a great deal of humility towards reality.

You need to have a really strong idea to convince them that this is the right innovation at the right time. What will the Neuron project be better at?

First of all, I should say that although it is a technologically timeless project built on digital transformation, the driver of the change was not technology, but client expectations – namely, the emphasis on transparent services and flexible service setup. Clients need to know precisely what they have bought from us, what exactly their insurance covers, and they have to be able to set up insurance on their own as efficiently as possible. At the same time, they decide on how they wish to communicate with us as an insurance company – whether and at what stage they will use a distributor, advisor or online client service.

Rebuilding the entire system of the insurance company's operation is something your competitors are now likely to be dealing with as well. What makes you different?

I think it's mostly the fact that we are creating and building the entire transformation in-house. We have been given enormous trust and freedom by our parent company VIG, which believes we can do it. We appreciate that and are working to live up to these expectations. It's only up to us how we will leverage this huge potential and how we will develop it further. I do believe that our clients will soon see the first changes.

Eva Poláchová was interviewed by Jana Jenšíková

Photo credits: Marek Jenšík

Celý článek si přečtěte v tištěné verzi TRADE NEWS 2 / 2024 na straně 60-61.

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