Innovation at the Desjardins Insurance Group

Desjardins Insurance Group Innovates

KPMG’s Louis Régimbal, Partner with KPMG in Canada, discusses innovation with Henri Dolino at Desjardins

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Following on from our recent innovation report – A New World of Opportunity: The insurance innovation imperative, Louis Régimbal, Partner with KPMG in Canada sat down with Henri Dolino, VP of Marketing and Corporate Strategy at Desjardins General Insurance Group to discuss Desjardins innovation strategy and recent launch of Ajdusto, a 100% app-based telematics program.


1. Desjardins Insurance Group has quickly become one of the most innovative insurers in Canada and a leader around the world. What is driving your innovation goal?

I wouldn’t say that our goal is innovation as an end. Our goal is to become a more customer-centric organization. I think property and casualty (P&C) insurers have always been good at understanding risk, but we have not been very good at understanding the customer in terms of their requirements and needs. Once you start actually listening to the customer, you quickly realize that their expectations are shifting and the only way to really respond is through innovation. 


2. In that case, how has customer centricity influenced the innovation model? 

Right now, it’s all about the digital space and so we are really focused on two main areas. The first is coming up with new ways to use digital to improve our current product and customer experience. And, at the same time, we are focused on how we can use new and emerging technologies to breathe new life into our customer proposition.  


3. How has that translated into the way you design your products and services?

It’s had a great impact. For example, we recently launched Ajusto, a 100% app-based telematics program. The basic value proposition is that they can save up to 25 percent on their auto insurance premiums if they drive safely while using the app. But we went beyond just analyzing data about speed, time of day and driving smoothness. We also included features like the ability to share your results with friends and compare them which promotes good driving habits and road safety. 


4. How do you inspire that type of innovation within the insurance group?

For that specific project, I think the way I would characterize it is ‘commando mode’. We have a team of people with a wide range of specific skills from both inside and outside of the insurance industry who have the responsibility of bringing these ‘first wave’ innovations to market in a short time frame. But you can’t do everything in commando mode. The reality is that – once you bring a new idea to market – you still need to improve on it, and that takes different skills. You really need a process for moving innovations quickly into an operationally-oriented organization that can further develop the product and iterate it. 


5. Have you found challenges finding or developing the right skills for innovation?

It takes a long time to build up the right skills. We started at the turn of the century when we started bringing people in from outside of the organization to help us regarding our online offering. And we’ve been steadily building up our skills since then. If you look at Ajusto, even if the technology had existed in 2013, I don’t think we would have had the skills – or the confidence – to be able to launch one of the world first 100% app based telematics insurance solution if we hadn’t previously launched a first version in that was less disruptive using an ODB device. 


6. What advice do you have for others who are looking to innovate in this sector?

I believe you have to think about the ecosystem and where you can play a role. When you bring new innovations like app-based telematics to market it makes you think about how you bring added value to the customers and how you incentivize the ecosystem which, in turn, helps you stay ahead of your competition. It’s a virtuous cycle.  

KPMG Insight

  • Desjardins has been looking to the future with the aim of remaining relevant and an attractive option for customers going forward. Initiatives like Ajusto show how the organization is trying to use new technologies as a platform to offer improve products and services, in some cases outside of the traditional insurance realm. 
  • The organization’s willingness to bring in people from outside of the insurance sector to help challenge the traditional ways of thinking shows confidence and helps grow the group’s overall capabilities. Tenacity and a long range thinking has been very important; the Desjardins General Insurance C-suite deserves credit for encouraging progress on the digital front, even though success has not always obvious. 
  • Desjardins have recognized that they need to protect themselves far into the future – well beyond the tenure of some of the current executives – so that the next generation of executives and innovators have something to build from. Not all organizations are willing to think in those terms.

About Desjardins

Desjardins General Insurance Group, part of Canada’s largest cooperative finance group is one of Canada’s top P&C insurers, and one of Quebec’s leaders for direct P&C insurance and individual P&C insurance. Through its subsidiaries, Desjardins General Insurance Group delivers its products directly to consumers, businesses and partner groups.

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