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“Change is the only constant in life”

Digitalisation is changing the world. Innovation is one response to the challenges of this megatrend. Pietro Carnevale, Head of Strategy and Innovation, and Samyr Mezzour, Head of Innovation Garage, discuss the importance of new technologies, cooperating with start-ups and focusing on customer needs.

How important is innovation at Generali?

Pietro Carnevale: Generali is currently undergoing a phase of modernisation and digital transformation. Large companies like ours need to do more than just keep pace with trends. As society continues to develop, we need to embrace the changes that are taking place and become part of them. I see innovation as key to making this happen. Thanks to our very own Innovation Garage, we are now closer to technology trends and able to leverage their potential. As we all know, change is the only constant in life.


How is this put into practice?

Samyr Mezzour: That’s why we have our Innovation Garage, where in-house projects and external start-ups meet. We work together using various methods that promote innovation. One of these is “design thinking”. That means placing a firm focus on customers and their needs in order to create products and services that are “human-centred”. Partnering with start-ups in the fields of artificial intelligence, blockchain, digital payments and cybersecurity is a way of developing the best possible solutions for our customers.


Where do you find the start-ups and what criteria do you use to select them?

Samyr Mezzour: When it comes to finding suitable start-ups, we work closely with F10, Switzerland’s leading FinTech and InsurTech accelerator. Once they have completed the F10 programme, we choose the start-ups that are most likely to help us meet the needs of our customers.


Start-ups from various fields can be found in the Innovation Garage. How important is it to be close to these partners?

Pietro Carnevale: Innovation is increasingly the result of open co-creation. “Co-creation” means creating things together – with start-ups or established companies. “Openness” refers to working with people who come from different backgrounds and look at things from different perspectives. This kind of network, as we’re experiencing through the Garage, opens up new ideas that lead to prototypes, MVPs (minimum viable products) or new market solutions. And the entire ecosystem benefits.


Have any products already been developed in-house that are now available to customers?

Samyr Mezzour: We should definitely mention our corporate start-up Lings, through which we launched Europe’s first on-demand insurance. We’ve also developed an e-mail bot in collaboration with the start-up Enterprise Bot. It uses artificial intelligence to automatically forward customer e-mails to the right departments, which means we can reply to them faster.


What will be “the next big thing” in the world of insurance?

Samyr Mezzour: In future, we will have to be proactive in ensuring we are always here for our customers and not just when damage has occurred. That could involve parts of their everyday lives, driving the children safely to school or protecting against data theft. We want to provide our customers with services before any damage occurs – and ideally to prevent any claims from arising. That means thinking outside the box and looking beyond the traditional insurance business.


Pietro, the Innovation Garage is celebrating its first anniversary today. What do you wish it for the future?

Pietro Carnevale: Like any other one-year-old, I hope the Garage grows up healthy. In this case, growth means that the child becomes capable of interacting with other children (start-ups) as well as with adults (established companies). This interaction helps us to learn together and thus develop products for the future that are even more customer-centric.




Living a culture of innovation in the Garage

Generali Switzerland opened the Innovation Garage at its head office in Adliswil on 26 April 2018. Using an open innovation approach, Generali insurance experts work side by side with start-ups, universities and other companies to explore the future horizons of the insurance world. The interview with Pietro Carnevale, Head of Strategy and Innovation, and Samyr Mezzour, Head of Innovation Garage, was held to mark the Garage’s first anniversary.



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