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Philipp Gmür discusses the effects of digitisation

The SwissMediaForum took place on 22 and 23 September 2016 in Lucerne. For the media industry, the topic of digitisation is paramount but, as revealed in a podium discussion with four CEOs from leading companies, other industries – including insurance – are also unable to ignore digitisation.

28 September 2016, text: Christina Wahlstrand-Hartmann / Jonas Grossniklaus, photos: SwissMediaForum / Jean-Pierre Ritler

Moderator Susanne Wille (centre) was joined by Marcel Stalder (EY), Susanne Ruoff (Die Post), Urs Schaeppi (Swisscom) and Philipp Gmür (Helvetia) for a discussion at the Swiss Media Forum.
The CEOs Marcel Stalder, EY, Susanne Ruoff, Die Post, Urs Schaeppi, Swisscom, and Philipp Gmür, Helvetia, emphasized the disruptive power of digitisation.

The SwissMediaForum is a gathering for the media industry. Publishers, editors-in-chief and journalists from all the important media titles in this country and beyond meet up in Lucerne to discuss the trends and developments in their own industry – this year with a focus on digitisation. Amongst other things, Kai Diekmann, former editor-in-chief and current publisher of the BILD newspaper, revealed how his paper got to grips with the digital transformation. BILD continues to earn good money with its print products, but the paper now also has more than 300,000 digital subscribers. Diekmann emphasized that had the BILD not cannibalized itself online, others would probably have eaten it up.

The disruptive effect of digitisation is not limited to the media industry, and there are diverse and well-known examples that demonstrate this: Amazon had just such an effect on the book trade, Facebook and Google transformed the advertising market and Uber revolutionized taxi services. This was reiterated in the subsequent podium discussion by CEOs Susanne Ruoff, Die Post, Urs Schaeppi, Swisscom, Marcel Stalder, EY and Philipp Gmür, Helvetia. They all emphasized the disruptive power of digitisation within their industries.

Disruptive factors where you don’t expect them

Philipp Gmür highlighted the fact that disruptive factors often emerge where you don’t expect them: “That’s why Helvetia had to review its own business models right at the point of entry and open up new possibilities for itself to initiate interaction with customers.” Today the market places are more diverse for insurance companies too, and the value creation chains are more integral. Hence opportunities are increasingly opening up beyond the traditional customer visits by insurance advisors. Providers can sell a consumer good online and supply a guarantee with it too as part of the package. “This sort of guarantee is ultimately nothing more than an insurance policy, even if the buyer does not perceive it as such.”

Staying agile and daring to be bold

For a company like Helvetia, agility is one of the essential factors in being well-equipped for the digital transformation, Gmür went on to explain. Also, it is increasingly important to act across hierarchy levels and adopt an “outside-in” perspective. In addition, employees should or indeed must be allowed to try out new things and fail in doing so. “Admittedly this does not apply for all business activities, and particularly not for the pension products with a long-term outlook, but when it comes to developing new business models and improving customer interaction in particular, you need to be bold sometimes”, says the Helvetia CEO with conviction. The “hybrid” customer has various needs, he went on to say; sometimes he might be looking for online services provided, sometimes personal contact with the advisor. Dealing with the challenges of digitisation also means a cultural change in an otherwise somewhat slow-moving industry.

Digital vs. physical: both one and the other

Susanne Ruoff of Die Post had a similar viewpoint: she therefore didn’t see Die Post acting only digitally in future. Rather, she believes both aspects will prevail; for Die Post, physical transport will continue to play a role in future too. In line with the transformation in purchasing behaviour – the keyword here is “e-commerce” – Die Post needs to expand these sorts of services in certain areas, and it needs to start now.

Managers as role-models

Overall, the discussion revealed strikingly that digitisation is leading to upheaval in all the relevant industries. Here, it’s not just about technical innovations, but also how these are dealt with. For companies, the challenge also emerges of how they can adapt their own culture to the new circumstances. Urs Schaeppi of Swisscom believes it is managers who have a responsibility here: they have to proceed by setting a good example.

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