EP 186 – Hassan Karim – Head of Strategy, APAC at Zurich Insurance – When You Stop Innovating, You Die


Michael Waitze worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo.  Michael lived and worked in Tokyo from February 1990 until December 2011.  Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, building one of the biggest and fastest-growing podcast listener bases in the region.  His AsiaTechPodcast.com show has listeners in more than 170 countries and his company, Michael Waitze Media produces some of Asia’s most popular podcasts.

Hassan Karim

Originally from the UK, Hassan Karim, is a Chartered Insurer, Chartered FinTech Professional, Qualified Risk Professional (QRGP), & Forrester CX-Pr, Ex CEO, CMO, and CUO. Prior to his current role as the Head of Strategy for APAC, was the CEO & President Director of PT. Zurich Asuransi Indonesia TBK (a public, non-listed, entity formerly known as Adira Insurance) & before that PT. Zurich Insurance Indonesia (ZII), as well as serving as a corporate board director. He previously held Senior Executive roles in UK/London, Hong Kong, Indonesia & Global Underwriting operating at Country, Region & Global levels.

This episode is brought to you by:

The Asia InsurTech Podcast was catching up with Hassan Karim, Head of Strategy – APAC at Zurich Insurance to talk about the potential of strategic partnerships in APAC. The last time we spoke, Hassan was the CEO of Zurich’s P&C business in Indonesia. Listen to the episode here.

Here is the transcript of our recent conversation.

Michael Waitze 0:16
Anyway, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia InsurTech Podcast. And who am I with today?

Hassan Karim 0:38
Hassan Karim from Zurich Insurance.

Michael Waitze 0:40
That is awesome. So you’re new here?

Hassan Karim 0:42
Yeah. I’ve been in Singapore for about five months.

Michael Waitze 0:46
Why does it seem so much longer to me? I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending so much time in Singapore for the last few month.

Hassan Karim 0:51
It could be the the number of conferences we’ve seen each other at.

Michael Waitze 0:54
I think that’s actually true. Because you were at that one in June. I was Yeah. At that bespoke one, right? Yes. That was kind of good, don’t you think?

Hassan Karim 1:00
It was really good actually. I think it was good coverage of what’s happening in the digital world and the importance of ecosystems that are happening and why it’s important for insurers, incumbent insurers, reinsurers and also digital insurance plays.

Michael Waitze 1:12
I kinda liked the size. Really great discussions. I also liked the fact that it was just in that one room, and it seemed like more informative and yet less formal at the same time. Yeah, if that makes sense.

Hassan Karim 1:27
It was good. As a presenter, it was good to have the interaction with the audience, as well as sometimes when the conferences are too large. You just can’t have the same interaction level.

Michael Waitze 1:34
I mean, one of the things why MC that whole conference, right, and one of the things that I said at the beginning of it was I want to make this different, because I really wanted to have that interactivity, particularly at a small conference, right. So like, I was at ITC, which I love what the ITC team does, right? And in the room where I was hosting, it was huge. Yeah, right. And again, I love what they do. There were 1300 people there, I met some unbelievable people that I’d never met before. But in this room, I wanted to do it differently. Because I wanted to take advantage of the fact that there were literally like 100 people in there. All of them were senior executives, all of them were decision makers, like they were all just like you, it’s just that some of them are in the audience. Yeah. And some of them are on stage. And I just thought what a waste it would be. Because they’re sitting there thinking, you know, I love what Hassan just said, but I want to add something. Or I want to ask something. No,

Hassan Karim 2:17
no, it was great. And it was great. Being able to take q&a from the audience as well in different points. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 2:22
So you said you’ve only been here for what, five months now? Yeah, where were you before?

Hassan Karim 2:26
So I was in Jakarta before running our P&C business there.

Michael Waitze 2:28
You were, you were but you’re not even from this region.

Hassan Karim 2:34
I’m British originally. I’ve been in Asia now for coming up to eight years. Two years in Hong Kong, five years in Jakarta. And now Singapore.

Michael Waitze 2:43
Okay so what is the difference between your old role and your new role?

Hassan Karim 2:46
So my old role was with running all P&C business there. So as chief executive and President Director. The new role is head of strategy. So working across life, PNC and corporate insurance across all of our countries that that exists in the Asia Pacific

Michael Waitze 3:00
region. What does that mean, though head of strategy.

Hassan Karim 3:03
So it’s helping to shape the direction of where the organization is going, what our strategic priorities are as a business, and then working with the local countries on what their strategic priorities are, as well as looking at trends that are happening in the marketplace, competitor analysis, and just trying to find the white spaces in which we can play.

Michael Waitze 3:18
So where are you finding them? And because I’m really interested in we used to ask for the first time guests, right, tell me what the trends are in insurance and in InsurTech, I didn’t want to ask you that again. But you do bring up this thing trends, right? What’s new, like what’s going on? Now that wasn’t going on before?

Hassan Karim 3:34
So I think there’s much more interest in both the digital side and the partnership side of the insurance business. So when we spoke last time, I think it was fairly nascent. Listen, Indonesia, it was at the time now I think it’s evolved. And you’re seeing a lot more opportunities for collaboration. And new forms of business models are arriving, particularly in the partnership space, where you know, you’re seeing embedded insurance is starting to take to take an impact. And you’re also seeing ecosystems of third parties opening up to to insurance and to monetization, which again, creates more opportunities for customer contact.

Michael Waitze 4:04
Can we dig a little bit deeper into this idea of ecosystems and partnerships? And even if you don’t give me exact names, although feel free to do that, if you want to, but what does it really look like? So I’m a big global insurer, and I want to have a partner with somebody in an eco who’s building an ecosystem business. What’s like the ideal partner look like? Like when you’re sitting there in your office thinking strategy thinking I got to talk to somebody at x. What does that look like? And then what do you want that to end up looking like from a partnership perspective?

Hassan Karim 4:31
Sure. And it’s great. It’s a great discussion point, because there are partners that are a great strategic fit. And there’s partners that are just trying to monetize a database. And the two things are very, very different. Yeah. So when when we look at which partners are we looking for? We’re obviously looking for platforms and ecosystems that have a large customer base, because that has the most potential to reach the largest number of people. We’re also looking for some commonality within the customer journey paths. So we want to make sure that our products and services are offered in a contextual manner to Do the products or services that are being sold by that third party? So like water? So for example, if you’re buying, say travel insurance, right, we were buying a flight ticket or a hotel, or you’re booking something on a travel, something travel related, it would make sense to offer travel insurance. Sure, it probably wouldn’t make sense to have a home insurance at that point, right? Because the feeling would feel jarring. And you’d feel like you were being sold something that wasn’t in line with what it is you’re you’re purchasing.

Michael Waitze 5:23
But does that mean then you could then work with I property or with property guru? Correct? Correct? Yes. Because you mentioned homes, right, or apartments, or whatever it is, and say, Hey, if you’re moving, maybe you’re buying furniture, exactly. Buying this type of furniture. Yeah, and this type of insurance

Hassan Karim 5:36
Exactly. And that’s really where the contextual part comes in. And I mean, that’s the Holy Grail, being able to offer the right products and services that are relevant to customers at the right time. Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s not an opportunity to offer other products. But those products come at different times within the customer journey. So that’s one of the first things we look at. The other one is a customer who’s really interested in offering products or services to their customer that are beneficial to those customers. So there has to be a real customer value, you know, what we’re not interested in is large customer bases where, you know, it’s just about sell it’s like knee high and selling it cheap to as many people as possible we want as a partner, who’s going to work with us to say, how do I normalize my customer base? And maybe insurance is one of those things where I can actually add some value. Yeah, back to the customer?

Michael Waitze 6:18
Did you have potential partners come to you and say, Hey, we think we could offer our because you said, monetize a database. I love this idea. Because I hadn’t thought about it this way. This is why I love doing this. I’m serious. I’m really serious. Because now I can think about this in that context. But do you have people that are coming to you and saying, Hey, we think we could sell 10 million policies or even 100 million policies, but you know, for $2 apiece, and think you know what, maybe we don’t want to do

Hassan Karim 6:42
that. No, that’s still attractive. It depends on Yeah, go ahead. So no, I mean, it depends on what’s the customer value, right? We want to make sure it’s something that the customer would benefit from, and something that there’s a real need for so we spend a lot of time looking at customer journeys, customer needs and customer segmentation. But we’re, again, we’re looking for partners that will will work with us that want to have a strategic engagement with us where it’s about growing a customer base and offering those products and services to to those customers that are relevant. And

Michael Waitze 7:07
how hard is that to do? I’m always looking at this from the two sided way, right, in the sense that if I’m running a pizza restaurant, yeah, and there’s a hamburger shop next to me, and I see people lining up for it. I’m like, I can make great food. Sure. Should I build a hamburger for my clients as well, so they don’t have to go next door? Right. But some of the clients want to be in a hamburger shop. Yeah, right. And on the flip side, somebody may come in and go, Hey, can you make me you know, shrimp cocktail? And you’re like, we don’t do that here. And we don’t want to do that here kind of thing. So do you have people come to you and say, Hey, we think this is great, you know, like, that’s not going to work in the way we want to work. And then on the flip side, go to people and say, we really want to build this with you. Because we think it adds value, it takes time to convince them.

Hassan Karim 7:46
Yeah, both of those scenarios. So both critically important. And when we look for a partner, we look at the opportunity to co create, right? So you know, I think when when digital and partnerships really started, it was all about for a lot of companies taking existing products and services and putting them on the shelf. Right. Right. Right. But I think that’s changed now. And part of that is, you know, just the customization that’s come out of COVID and the expectations, but really now it’s about CO creating what makes sense for that individual partner and their customer base, and then tailoring something that’s really specific to them. So you know, whilst there may be products and services that do come off the shelf, I think there’s a real opportunity to actually create something unique for individual partners. But in order to do that, you need a large enough customer base for it to make sense. Otherwise, if you’re not able to do that, and you’re not able, as an insurer to offer value added services, and value added products that really improve the lifestyle of the customers and help them live the lives they want to live, then very quickly, you become a capacity provider. And if you’re just a capacity provider, then you don’t differentiate, right? And then you’re not innovating, you’re just

Michael Waitze 8:45
in a way you’re just waiting, right direct, in a way almost like a venture capitalist who’s just sitting there waiting for people to come pitch to you. And that doesn’t seem that interesting to me. But if you’re doing that, right, from your strategy, perch, do you also think even just internally, we have to change, like the way we use technology? Definitely.

Hassan Karim 9:03
You know what I mean? Definitely, yeah. Right. So it’s

Michael Waitze 9:05
not just externally like we have to deal with these people and those people, but internally, we have to be strategic as well.

Hassan Karim 9:10
Yeah. And it’s also a mind shift for people as well, because it’s a different way of offering insurance products. So you know, this skill sets, you need also mean that you have to improve your capabilities as an organization. But from a technology side, definitely. And you know, I think that becomes a combination of both native applications and platforms, but also utilizing those of third parties where they add significant value or have expertise outside of the realm of what you have internally.

Michael Waitze 9:32
So I think it’s super topical. I want to go back to something that happened a few years ago, right when Facebook bought Instagram. It’s an example it felt like if a way overpaying in retrospect, they now make so much money off Instagram, probably more than they make off of Facebook. Yeah, but I think it’s a really good example. And then the most recent one, obviously, is Adobe goes out and buys figma, which felt like figma was this company that was on the sideline going, Oh, really? We can do this online. Do you do that as well? Yeah. And I’m not saying buy stuff, but I’m just saying like you look around and go we need that. Yeah, I

Hassan Karim 10:00
mean, it’s always about looking at what makes sense, again, with the customer in mind, right? So you know, one of the things that is increasingly important is around customer data and understanding customer data and using that data ethically. And that necessitates bringing in new capabilities there around data analytics and data science. But as I said before, sometimes it makes sense to use a third party, sometimes it makes sense to build those in house capabilities, depending on what it is you’re trying to build and where you are in your maturity cycle. And that differs across countries and

Michael Waitze 10:27
differs across regions. What is the conversation like internally, though, and I’m thinking back to my days of Goldman Sachs, where, you know, when I arrived there, the trading system that we had was literally like, from the 1940s, it really wasn’t, it was so bad, and so slow. And when I sat down on the trading desks for the first time, I remember looking around and just going, Okay, we need to upgrade this thing, right. And we worked really hard with our global tech team to do it. But there was some resistance to saying like, do we build it internally? Do we even know how to do this? And if not, do we buy it externally? How do you get around that, because it’s true every year. This is not just unique to you.

Hassan Karim 10:59
No, I mean, for us, it was very much looking at where we wanted particular parts of our business to go and looking at the speed to market but also the the capabilities that we had. So obviously, we do have capabilities to build certain things on a native basis. But doesn’t mean we have to build everything, right. So it’s looking at okay, well, what makes sense for us to build and what makes sense for us to buy in or contract in? And, you know, what does that do to the long term as well, because you also have to look at what this means, right? I mean, otherwise, you can end up with system dependency on something you don’t own, you can end up with, you know, information sharing conflicts and things like that. So it’s very important that you spend the time working very closely with the experts in those areas, right. So with an IT team, with our architects with our digital team, so it’s all very much a holistic approach to make sure that we’re we’re understanding what it is we’re building and then building a roadmap.

Michael Waitze 11:47
And is there is this like part of the evolutionary process? I don’t know when we can say that InsurTech started, I don’t want to date it at the beginning of this podcast, as much fun as that would be for me. But I’m not that egocentric. But the point is that interjects have now been around, let’s say for give it five years. At scale. Yeah. But at the beginning, I think a lot of incumbent insurance companies were looking first of all gone, that doesn’t matter. The second thing was, oh, no, right? Are we past that point now where it feels scary. And now to the point where even the InsurTech show thinking, Yeah, we talked a lot at the beginning about maybe taking away all their business, but now we just feel like if we could just be a part of the business, it would be better. It’s more collaborative than competitive.

Hassan Karim 12:24
I think so. I mean, this is my personal opinion. But yes, I think we’re in that place now. Because I think for a lot of the InsurTech’s and fintechs, they’ve, they’ve come in, and now they’ve kind of looked at the complexity of the insurance space, and it is a complex space, right. But there is definitely room to coexist. And you know, there’s a range of different insurtechs and fintechs out there that do different things, some do a very small part of the value chain and solve an issue there. Others are more on the distribution side. And then you’ve also got the essential full stack insurance carriers, but I think all of them bring something different. And what we’re starting to see more of is a lot more collaboration, a lot more opportunities to work together, whether that’s on distribution front ends, or its own, you know, back end automation, right? So

Michael Waitze 13:03
You know, before we started recording, I was telling you that I was here in June. And one of the things that I did was, I participated in the launch of this new company that was coming out of Silicon Valley, and they were expanding to Southeast Asia, and they’re in the HR space. And you know, if I go back to my own corporate career, I never would have thought that HR would be something that could be abstracted out of a big company, or even a small company. But tech is now allowing us to do some really interesting things. And it was on that day, actually, where I thought they’re not trying to take over Goldman Sachs. They’re trying to abstract just a piece out of it. And from the company perspective, not having to build that thing in every country. And in every city in which they operate is actually super powerful. Do you see the same abstractions happening in insurance as well? Do you look for them? Like you talked about this idea of whitespace? You can look internally and go, we can do that? We can’t do that? Well, everywhere. Maybe we let it keep going. And if we find a solution to fix that, that’s global, we use that like, Is that also happening?

Hassan Karim 13:58
That’s also happening. And I think there’s also another angle as well, which is sometimes it takes time to build stuff. Yeah. So sometimes it’s it’s good to work with a third party on a stopgap that allows you to still have the speed to market fair enough, whilst you build your own capabilities. So I think you’re seeing more of that generally, in the insurance space as well. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 14:14
I mean, look, we saw this a lot back in my time on a trading desk. I think at the end of the day, what we found was that we would take this third party thing in with that idea of like, we’ll bring it in, because we need something faster now. But while we’re doing that, we’ll build something on our own off to the side. And that thing always died. I’m not saying it always does. But that was my experience.

Hassan Karim 14:35
I think that gives an opportunity to the insurer Tech’s and the fintechs to really demonstrate their value, right? Because if they can do something initially as a stopgap but they can show the capabilities that they have and why this is better than I think most companies would look at that and say, Well, does it still make sense for us to do what we’re doing or does it make sense to formalize an arrangement here?

Michael Waitze 14:52
I want to ask you about just a business philosophy if you don’t want so if a company comes and tries to sell you something, right, just think of Got this for a second, and they sell you this really big vision. At some point, you’re like, I can’t get my head around that whole vision, right? I can’t see how I could fit that into what I’m doing. But if the company has a vision, just work with me on this for a second. But if the company has this big vision, but all they’re trying to do is get this one little piece for you done, right? They’re trying to take this little part of the value chain. So we know we can do this super well. Yeah, but once they get in, then they bit by bit add more, do you think about this as well? Because because I think that works? Actually, I think

Hassan Karim 15:26
it does. You know, often it’s it is tricky if someone comes with a whole end to end solution sometimes. And whilst it might look fantastic, it involves then getting rid of something else, or stopping something else, or

Michael Waitze 15:36
just like finding little places inside your company to put this piece, but we don’t need that piece.

Hassan Karim 15:40
And that’s sometimes a lot easier to justify. Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, it’s also around when you see some of the insurer Tech’s especially the ones that offer low code, no code platforms, there’s a lot of them that offer the same thing, right. So I get probably one company they approached me with, can we solve this issue for you? Right, a day a day, you know? So it can, it can be a lot, and sometimes it’s hard to differentiate and say, Okay, well, look, I’ve I’ve seen three or four of these platforms, why is yours better? That’s sometimes one of the big challenges, I think that we’re seeing in, in this space is lots of companies doing the same thing and how they differentiate. And I think those that can carve out a niche can get those contracts signed, can elevate what they’re doing outside of their competition will be the ones that end up successful.

Michael Waitze 16:20
I think you’re right. Look, I was teaching a course at Chulalongkorn University a couple years ago, you just made me think about this, right? And I was teaching a course on innovation and communication. It was I think, at some level, those two things were fitting together, and maybe they just need to fill those two things, right. And I asked the students, they were 19 or 20 years old, because they didn’t understand like, how do I come up with an idea? And I said to them, Do you ever like go through your day to day life and think I wish somebody would fix that thing? Right? And most of them are like, No, I’m like, okay, just a bunch of self entitled kids that don’t have any problems. But that’s not that’s not why I wanted to bring this up just this idea of, I wish somebody would fix that thing. So you’re sitting inside of a big company, right? We talked about if somebody comes with a full stack thing, you have to find the places to fit it in. But if you step back a little bit, even not just inside this company, but just inside the industry, and you thought I really wish somebody would fix this. What would that be? You know what I mean?

Hassan Karim 17:10
Yeah. And that’s something we’re trying to address through our civic innovation championship. So yeah, it’s a big deal. It’s kind of cool, right? And it’s a fantastic opportunity, where we open ourselves up to startups and fintech and InsurTech players who are working on real life problems for us, right. So in this one, how does it work? So they’re, they’re working on real real? Yeah. So so we said that we sent them a challenge in some cool areas.

Michael Waitze 17:33
So some of them were you Sorry to interrupt, but were you’ve identified or the firm’s identify, like, we really want all of our windows fixed, or whatever it is, yeah. And then you find a bunch of people that fix windows, and they come in and propose to you how they’re going to do that.

Hassan Karim 17:43
Yes. So for this one, I’ll just name two categories. One was on sustainability and creating a brighter future, right. So we opened ourselves up to companies that are solving something there that could have insurance practicality. So we saw some very interesting companies that were doing stuff on climate analysis are the ones that are doing sustainability analytics are all things that will be very important in the insurance world. And especially for a company like Zurich, where sustainability is so important. We’ve set our stall out to be the most impactful company in the world. So that’s an area that we’re really, really serious about. The other one was that I think is interesting was around insurance reimagined. So what could insurance look like? What are what are the if you take off the blinkers you come into the insurance industry new, what are the challenges? And how do you how do you kind of address that? And what does the future look like? So some really interesting companies, they’re doing things like wellness analytics of your mobile phone, for example, which is something we talked about a little bit earlier. Yeah. So you know, this, this is really kind of saying, okay, look, sky’s the limit, let us know. But start relatively small, let us try something as a proof of concept. So basically, we have local heats, then we have regional heats. And then they go and present to our leadership team in Zurich, and those that get through that they come and do a practical project in a particular country. And then we look at how we scale it.

Michael Waitze 18:52
When I was at ITC in June, there was a company there from Israel. And I wish I could remember the guy’s name, but he was 100% Convinced that they’d build some technology on the mobile phone that you could like, literally scan your body. And it could tell you, it could diagnose certain things about you. Is this what you’re talking about?

Hassan Karim 19:09
Exactly, exactly.

Michael Waitze 19:10
It’s kind of cool.

Hassan Karim 19:12
It’s very cool. I think that’s showing the evolution of technology, but it also creates new opportunities and new challenges for insurance, right? Because with that technology there is how do you how do you use it? How do you make use of that, and in the wellness space, I think COVID One of the few things to come out of COVID Apart from a larger acceptance of digitization because we will have to do everything through digital.

Michael Waitze 19:33
Even people that didn’t buy it beforehand, buying it now

Hassan Karim 19:35
well, even my mum for example, we had to order stuff on a on a smartphone and she’d never had a smartphone before really so you know, it was just a necessity so but that’s led to WhatsApp and everything else now and much easier to stay in contact. So apart from that, I think there is a wellness angle and I think the world has gone a little bit more healthier or a little bit more health conscious. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 19:53
I would argue that maybe not healthy enough, but how does it manifest itself like in your day to day life? I mean, I will say this You look

Hassan Karim 20:00
Is that okay? Yeah, no, that’s fine.

Michael Waitze 20:02
You feel great as well. I’ll tell you, I don’t talk about this a lot on January 1 2022. I weighed 81 and a half kilos. I’m five foot seven. Yeah, that’s not good.

Hassan Karim 20:12
So I was worse than that. So I started my fitness journey about a month after moving to Singapore. And I came in at about 8089 kilos.

Michael Waitze 20:19
But I remember because we’re not. When we met at that conference we were talking about you had told me Yeah, because you were still a little bit bigger.

Hassan Karim 20:25
Yeah. Ah, 90-89 kilos. And 168 centimeters tall, which is about five foot six.

Michael Waitze 20:30
Yeah, so Bureau, same height exact. And should you’re a little bit bigger than I am naturally, because I’m small, but like, we should be around the same way. I was at one and a half, and I’m now underneath 70. So I’ve lost like, 25 pounds. Wow,

Hassan Karim 20:42
that’s amazing. So I’m down. Now what am I today? 72 kilos, give or take.

Michael Waitze 20:46
But 72 is killer. Right? Like, yeah, fighting weight. You know what I mean? I’m trying to get down to 70 now and then then we’ll see you I’m in the gym trying to trying to bulk up as well, at the same time. But you know, part of this was also having had COVID several times know that. Yeah. So why she ended up in hospital with COVID. Oh, na in Jakarta. Are you nervous? Yeah. I don’t know. Anybody who’s had COVID. Yeah, it’s just three weeks in Jakarta in hospital three weeks in the house. Yeah. It was quite worrying. And it was. How did you feel though? I felt okay. I mean, my oxygen levels to go down pretty new on a What? Is it a ventilator? No, I didn’t get onto the ventilator. But it was very close. There was something I argued against to be perfectly honest. Yeah. But, you know, at that point, you do kind of think I need to make better health decisions, you know, right. Like, yeah, when I hit 81 and a half, and again, not spent a lot of time talking about when I hit any one and a half, I stepped on the scale. And I was like, Dude, what are you doing? Yeah,

Hassan Karim 21:34
yeah. So you know, with two young kids, it was something I had to take a decision on. And I went to work with a personal trainer, and it’s having really great results. But part of that is also tracking things on an app. Yeah. So I tracked my I track my food, I tracked my way to track my sleep, I track the amount of water I consume in a day. And it’s all things that just remind me to stay on track. Now, without that, would I have been successful on the fitness journey? Probably not. But it’s great to be able to gone through that. And it certainly makes things easier from my perspective.

Michael Waitze 22:02
So how do you get more people to do this? First of all, but second of all, how do you incorporate that into the insurance journey? Or in the insurance value chain? Because it’s great for you? Yeah. And that’s awesome. And again, you look great, you must feel 1000 times better. Wait a second you, you’ve lost 19 kilos, no. 17?

Hassan Karim 22:21
17-18 kilos. In about three in about three months. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 22:26
I had a double scoop of ice cream last night. And I feel I feel guilty. But again, it’s on me, right? I’m not making a judgment about the way anybody else lives their life. Yeah, right. But I feel comfortable telling you, you look great, because I don’t think you’re going to be like, Well, you tell me I was heavy before. It’s not that kind of thing. Because you also feel pride in this. But the pride is one thing or feeling great is one thing, but how does it get incorporated then into this health and wellness into insurance?

Hassan Karim 22:49
Yeah. And it’s a great question. And I was at a conference the other day, we were talking about exactly this. So we’re looking at health and wellness, and how do you drive people to positive behaviors? So you know, one part is around education. Right? But I think everybody knows they shouldn’t eat, you know, chips every day. Burgers every day. I mean, that doesn’t mean you can’t have those things. It just means like a scoop of ice cream. Yeah, it’s a sometimes it’s a sometimes, which is what I say to my kids, right? Sometimes. And that’s really important, right? So you know, everyone knows this, right? But if you say, Okay, you should eat some kale as opposed to the chips. Yeah. Okay. Thank you very much. I’m still gonna go and have my burger tonight. Right, right. So I think gamification and shining a spotlight on it is something that’s quite interesting. So you know, it’s not a Zurich example. But it’s something I’m working on now. Or something I’m seeing now is, you know, my bank has a wellness app incorporated into it, right, your bank, my bank? Why do they care, though? Well, I have some life insurance

Michael Waitze 23:41
products with them. So insurance, interbank assurance, come to your bank. Yeah.

Hassan Karim 23:45
Okay. Got it. So for them, they have a vested interest in keeping me healthy, right. So yeah, helping you I am the longer I live. And therefore, hopefully, I reached the end of the expiry and therefore they claim to be a bit cynical,

Michael Waitze 23:55
but they’re like, Give me three more days.

Hassan Karim 23:59
But it’s fantastic, because it also rewards me for doing the things that I’m doing anyway. Right. So now I’m living healthier, healthier life, my banking app will suggest things to me to live a healthier life, like what’s the reward, like take 10,000 steps, and we will give you some some cash. So it’s a cash reward, which goes straight into my bank account. Yeah. And it’s great. Where did they get

Michael Waitze 24:17
the cash from? So I think they just consider it like a marketing expense.

Hassan Karim 24:21
I think it’s probably two things. I think one is probably a marketing expense. I think the other one is, it will have an impact on the actuarial model, right? So if your health score is above a certain factor, you’re likely to live longer, you’re gonna have less risk, and that risk comes at a price right? So

Michael Waitze 24:33
so they’re actually doing mathematics around the amount of care you’re paying to your health, the impact that it’s having on you. Do you share like body mass with them and like weight and stuff like that? Then they’re like, Jesus, the guy lost 17 kilos, give them 100 bucks. It’s more complicated and more

Hassan Karim 24:48
complicated now. But it’s all linked to your to your wellness apps, right? So everyone has wellness apps on their phone these days, right? Everyone’s wearing. I mean, if see, you’re wearing an Apple Watch, right, come on. But everyone’s got a phone in their pocket that’s measuring In the number of steps whether you want it to or not, yeah. So it’s just tracking that stuff. And you know, if you’re making those choices, and there’s different challenges, like taking time to meditate, taking time to, you know, go to the gym time to walk, therefore, by doing these things, you’re likely to live longer, you’re improving the risk factor for the insurer. So I think, you know, this is one of the things I’m definitely seeing more of, and there’s a plethora of different apps out there. What we’re seeing now go into the point that we had earlier is, is an agnostic approach to that, right. So as opposed to you needing one particular tracker on your, on your phone or device, now they’ll interact with most of them, right? So you know, if you’re using the Nike one to track your run using RunKeeper, or you’re using underarm as workout app, you can track across all of those at the same time counted, and whatever else you’re doing. So

Michael Waitze 25:48
does it mean that an insurance company then has to change the tech stack that it has? Because the way you’re connecting to them? Right? They may have API’s, you may have API’s, but those have to talk to each other. I really want to bring it back to this tech thing, too, right? Yeah. Because it’s great to have the wellness app on your phone. And to use any of them is really great, right? But at some point, it has to the data has to get shared, we can talk about GDPR and data compliance, stuff like that, like, that’s a given to me, right? You have to do that. But to share it properly, your tech stack has to change,

Hassan Karim 26:14
it just has to evolve. And you have to be able to use those API’s to interface in those API’s. And the way that we’ve we’ve looked at this as always, to go tech agnostic. Ideally, we want to be able to use any interface with any app or Garmin device or a Apple device or whatever other device, because otherwise you’re trying to tie it to a single device, someone’s gonna go and buy something new. Yeah. And you know, with the best will in the world. That doesn’t work. No,

Michael Waitze 26:35
no. But so does that mean, you have to be even more collaborative? I think so. Yeah. Yeah. And does this affect the way I was on the phone with somebody who’s running an insurance company in Bangladesh, actually, and I think that’s going out today, actually. But anyway, he was telling me that it changes the way he hires people. Okay. Yeah, in the sense that he’s not looking for people that necessarily have a deep interest yet in insurance, but data scientists, all these, like super technical people, just bring them in, and then use their skills to change the way they use technology. Again, I’ll give you a perfect example. Right? So I have a media company, I consider myself pretty tech savvy. I heard for interns, they’re 20 years old, right? And they’re doing stuff with their phones. I just think it’s insane. Right? So I love having them around. But does it change the way you think about who to bring in based on that type of idea? You know what I mean?

Hassan Karim 27:27
Yeah, I mean, I think it changes depending on where the business is going. Right. So as we move more into digital and digital, native type build, and obviously, you do need to bring in people with a UX background, a product management background, a data background, but one of the reasons we created the Zurich innovation championship was really to bring in those skills that we don’t have, but also to shine a light on areas that are that are developing, where maybe we haven’t thought about a use for a particular technology in the insurance space. And that allows us to, you know, work with some really amazing companies that come in and say we think this would be great for your industry. Here’s the use case, right around those areas that you’re interested in. And you know, particularly in the wellness space, and you mentioned, you know, some exciting evolutions there. Would we have come up with those on our own possibly, but there’s possibly, possibly right so maybe,

Michael Waitze 28:11
yeah, yeah, yeah. So having that how long is the this is Zurich? What do you call it? Innovation championship and around?

Hassan Karim 28:18
So we’re now in our fifth year? Okay.

Michael Waitze 28:19
Yes, he was right, five years? And does this keep going this innovation championship idea? Or do you think at some point, because here’s the thing I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, and I had a guy on, tell me about this. He’s like, all insurtechs will die. I’m like, okay, I get it clickbait like, I completely understand what you’re doing. But this idea that at some point, because if you looked at the market five or six years ago, and this is true, not just for insurance, it’s true for every market, right? But insurance companies were not so focused on using technology to innovate and change the way their business practices were in the products and stuff like that. But now that they’ve seen it, and seeing the possibility, they’re not just sitting around hoping somebody else will build it for them entirely. At some point, do a lot of these things just get taken in house,

Hassan Karim 28:59
I think there’s always an opportunity for new ideas. Because if you stop innovating, you die. Right. And I think that’s a really important thing to bear in mind. So while some things might go in house, and I think it’s a combination of both, right, so we open ourselves up to innovation coming internally, with people having great ideas and fixing things up, we have a program in the APAC region called Breakthrough where we empower the people within our organization, wherever they are to come up with ideas for improvement. So you know, something doesn’t work, just go fix it. Right? So we come up with the idea of fixing it. Well, what does it tell complex?

Michael Waitze 29:28
This gets back to what I talked about before we started recording, right? Complaining is not commentary. Don’t moan about the fact that it’s not working? What are you doing? And this comes

Hassan Karim 29:35
with some really fantastic ideas from employees of maybe we just need to do this, right. And this will change the way that something operates or something works or becomes more efficient, right? And that will always happen. That’s fantastic initiative. And you know, we’re very happy with that. At the same time the innovation championship brings an external view because you can also if you only fixate on what you’re doing internally, right, I think you miss the wider what’s happening in the wider market. So I think they’ll always be a space for for new companies that are doing exciting things to come and talk to us about how they’re changing the world and how we can be a part of that,

Michael Waitze 30:05
do you look at some of the platform businesses that are out there? I don’t know if I’ve asked you this before, but even if I did, I’ll ask you again. Do you look at some of the platform businesses out there and think, why don’t we have our own platform? Do you know what I mean? Let me give you the example. So Shopify is my favorite example of this. Where like big companies big, big other software companies can then build on their platform and actually charge for it make a ton of money doing it. But so not interested in rebuilding Shopify at all. But because Shopify didn’t have a great way to do like page building, what was the name of this company? Samurai, no Shogun, okay. Samurai Shogun, same thing, not really. But you know what I mean, this company called Shogun and went out and said, We’ll build a page builder for Shopify. And now it’s worth like three quarters of a billion dollars, is there a way for insurance companies at scale to build their own platforms so that other companies can build even just little bits and pieces to connect? Yes,

Hassan Karim 30:54
no, I think there’s definitely space for that, because it goes back to what I was saying earlier that for a lot of companies, they can’t build everything end to end, right. So they can build air, they can build parts of it that they have expertise in that makes sense for them to own. But for other things, it might make more sense to actually have a third party come and say, Look, we can do that. Right. So front end web design, for example. Some companies will have capabilities there. Other ones will say, what do we need to do that? Right, I think one thing that you might start seeing, which is quite interesting is on those platforms, whether you have third party products and services coming on there as well outside of what the normal insurance company is offering.

Michael Waitze 31:26
Do you think that if you follow what’s happening in open banking, is there move towards open insurance?

Hassan Karim 31:32
I think there will be Yeah, I think there will be I think they’ll also be moved towards insurance as a service, kind of following the banking model. What does that mean? So you’re now seeing banks offer their products and services to third party platforms where they provide the back end servicing for

Michael Waitze 31:46
so like anybody can be a bank? Correct. So anybody can be an insurance company. But what does that mean, from a regulation standpoint? Well,

Hassan Karim 31:52
you know, in that kind of scenario, the back end and all the compliance areas still sits with the insurer, right? So it’s basically taking all the insurance aspect of that, and still keeping that with the insurance company, but allowing it to access or allowing the platform to access their customers and provide their services. So a variation on the on the partnership model. So almost like a white label, right? So

Michael Waitze 32:13
Right. But does that mean that I can become an insurance agent as well? Like, kind of on the side? Like if I’ve been really happy with somebody who’s providing my health insurance? Yeah, I should be able to tell my cousin like, you should definitely buy from XYZ. And should I get a confidant or

Hassan Karim 32:25
no, you can always be an agent. So but I mean, I don’t want to

Michael Waitze 32:29
do it full time. I’m not saying I don’t want to do but if I don’t want to do it full time. Right. Yeah. Right. But I’ve just had a great experience in the same way that I can say like, you need to go to this restaurant. Yeah. Because the food there’s

Hassan Karim 32:38
so I can introduce her. And I you are seeing more models moving moving that way as well. So I think there will be that, you know, you’ve seen a lot of this on social on social media platforms, right? Where Yeah, you want influencers to drive people, their followers towards a particular product, whether that’s insurance or not, right now, they don’t want to sell insurance, right? They just want to talk about why it’s beneficial to them. And they might say, Okay, well, if you if you need health insurance, go speak to Company X, if you need home insurance, go speak to company why right? So this? Yeah, and you’ll definitely see more of that coming.

Michael Waitze 33:08
Are you surprised by the way platforms like Tiktok just seem to come out of nowhere? Do you know what I mean?

Hassan Karim 33:14
Not really, because I think it’s an evolution. So you know, if you looked five, six years ago, Facebook was a dominant platform. Yeah. And then you had, you know, YouTube video videos long form on YouTube typically, or it was then you had, you know, tick tock, come with the 32nd videos for 18 seconds. 32nd videos,

Michael Waitze 33:32
but we had vine before, right. Yeah. And what was the other one? I can’t remember some other really short video platform, but something happened on Tik Tok that just seemed to explode. Yeah, yeah. You know, I was on Twitter this morning. Yesterday, I can’t remember. And somebody posted this, somebody tweeted this, it said, I’m amazed at how big and powerful Amazon is. And yet, they still have a terrible UI and UX. I’m 57 years old. Yeah. And the only thing I could think of was, if I and I tweeted this back if you replaced IBM or Amazon with IBM, and then if you replace like UI UX with like product suite, and then said, I can’t believe how big and powerful IBM is. And they have such a poor product suite. Is it I just want to talk about this evolution, right? And maybe even separate to anything we’ve already discussed. But like, Are you convinced that companies that are around today are still going to be around in five years as dominant as they are? The platform companies? More importantly, like I’m not convinced that five years from now we saw Facebook, get killed by tick tock? It’s not dead yet. But you know what I mean,

Hassan Karim 34:32
I think there will always be an evolution. I mean, if you look at the companies that were around in the 1970s, if you look at the s&p top companies where they’re all gone, they will go from one.

Michael Waitze 34:40
Yeah, but almost all of them are gone. Yeah, exactly. That’s not an opinion. That’s no, no.

Hassan Karim 34:44
Yeah. So you know, I think there’s always that evolution, there’s always that change. Because it depends on what people see value in right. So whether that’s products and services or whether that’s you know, customer experience or whether that’s just a changing world. So I think you will if you look at the media companies will things change Will there be something that comes out of left field in supplants tic toc? Well, there will be at some point,

Michael Waitze 35:05
but you think about that when you think about partnerships and which platforms to partner with, or you just kind of don’t care, you want to make it easy for every platform to partner with

Hassan Karim 35:12
this second second option, because, you know, I think trying to guess who’s going to be successful in the next 20 years is, is very difficult, right? But if you look at the number of users on various platforms now staggering, right? So it’s really, it’s really around trying to work with I mean, you know, I’m lucky I work in an industry, which adds a real social value back to the consumers, right? I mean, insurance is one of those things that if you don’t buy it, and you need it, you regret right? Well, you really wish you had it, you really wish you had it. I don’t have ever told you the story of when my daughter was born, she had a congenital heart defect. And I was persuaded by a friend of mine who’s a broker to purchase a an all encompassing medical product before she was born. And at the time, I was thinking, I’m healthy. My wife’s healthy. This comes at a cost of several $1,000 Is something Why do what’s the point, right? Statistically, it’s very low, but we bought it in the end. And I remember the doctor telling us you need to have an operation, and it’s going to be this price for your daughter, you’ve Oh, my daughter, like it’s so sweet, like three months old, but it’s so scary. And we were looking thinking we’re gonna have to remortgage your house to take a loan, like you’re broke. Right? Yeah, exactly. And, you know, we’ve we’ve signed up for insurance companies that know you’re fully covered. Don’t worry. All right. It was the best call I’ve ever made.

Michael Waitze 36:23
Honey, I think we’re fine. But again, I look at my like, you can’t Yeah, this right now. Yeah.

Hassan Karim 36:26
But that was, you know, and that was amazing. That operation was paid for success, thankfully. But you know, after that, it’s never even a question about renewing that cover. Now. It’s something I will always renew, it’s something I will always, always keep. Yeah. So I’m very lucky to work in an industry where we have that kind of impact on people’s lives, we put people back together again, we put them in the same place they were before, there’s very few industries, you can do that. So you know, it’s a product that I think everybody needs, right? Everyone has different needs. But everyone needs insurance, right? And the best thing about these platforms is being able to get to a large number of people and explain why this is why this is something they need and cover those needs. Right? So

Michael Waitze 37:02
I’ll share a story with you as well. You know, I worked for big companies my whole life, and I never paid for my own insurance. And to be fair, I didn’t even understand like, how it got paid for. Right. And I had so much coverage that I never had to worry about anything. If I went to the hospital, I rarely did. But even if I did, it was just like someone just paid for it. So when I didn’t have a job anymore, I didn’t work for a big company anymore. I didn’t even really think about getting insurance. Again, I’m healthy. I’m super healthy. And I’ve never had like a medical problem ever. I mean, I’ve broken bones in my fingers. But that’s like when I was a kid, right? But I mean, I’ve never broken my leg or arm or anything. And I’ve never had a big medical bill. And I needed an operation in 2000. And I can’t remember anymore what year it is 21. And I had been considering buying insurance prior to that. And I was like, Yeah, nevermind, I had to go in and have an operation was not cheap. Yeah. Right. And you’re right. As soon as I was done, I did what every dumb person like I am done. I went out and bought insurance. Because you’re right. It was just regret. Yeah, pure regret.

Hassan Karim 37:55
And I think with these platforms with large audiences, it’s a way of getting to that population. And you know, it’s not a hard sell. It’s just about if you have an insurance need, this is something you should you should think about. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 38:06
Where do you stand on financial literacy in the sense that is there a role? And this is the last thing I’ll ask him? And I’ll let you go. Yeah. But is there a role? You think that from a strategic standpoint, even big companies have to play in our region, in particular, to help make the populations more literate, so people don’t end up in the situation that I did, where, where they don’t have enough coverage when they could

Hassan Karim 38:26
Completely. I think it’s it’s something especially in emerging markets, where insurance companies have to take the time to educate and you know, educate a bit of a patronizing word, right? Because it’s not really educated, it’s more make people socially aware of what insurance does, right? Why it’s important. And, you know, I mean, coming from a market like Indonesia, where I would often go and speak to people about insurance. And you know, if I speak to people who are from a more modest economic background, right, they would say to me, I don’t need it. I’m not I’m not rich race, okay, well, you know, you’ll probably need it more than anybody else. Because if you were from a wealthy background, you could probably stomach a risk, right? If you had something go wrong, but if you’re on a modest income, and you lose your car, or your motorbike, or you have a medical bill, or you lose your job, it could be crushing, it can be crushing, you know, and you can drive people into into poverty. And that’s why I think it’s really important. And I think, you know, one of the great things of these platforms like your tic tock or like even Facebook, or any of these social media platforms, it allows companies to speak to people in a way that’s much more authentic, much more personal. You know, it’s not just a corporate press release. It’s about linking to things that they find important. It’s about engaging the population in a way that you can’t do through a newspaper ad, not through a pamphlet. It

Michael Waitze 39:38
It doesn’t work. Exactly. And I don’t think it’s going to work at all. Anyway, Hassan Karim, thank you so much for doing this today.

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