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Michel Bürki wants to simplify access to the world of insurance

Even as a student, Michel Bürki grappled enthusiastically with the development of new digital business models. For a year, he has been working in the department “Digital Ventures” at Helvetia, where he is in charge of the internal start-up “Flink”. In the article, the 26-year-old talks about how he wants to combine proven structures with innovative ideas to simplify access to the world of insurance.

18 May 2016, text: Michel Bürki, photos: Helvetia

Michel Bürki reports in the “Aeschbacher” TV studio.
Michel Bürki presents the first marketable version of the start-up “Flink” at the Helvetia Innovation Pitch in the “Aeschbacher” TV studio.

It was a stroke of luck that I ended up in the “Digital Ventures” department at Helvetia after my studies. For one thing, I got to work with a young team and significantly shape the structure of the area. For another, I could thematically build on what I had already learned about business innovation during my studies by developing new digital business models.

Since that time, we have experimented with several promising business models. One of them is Flink, and I was appointed its captain in September 2016. The principle behind Flink is simple: we want interaction with banking and insurance to feel like a conversation between friends. It should be uncomplicated, spontaneous and enjoyable. We are convinced that everyone would like to address their finances, but they are often lacking the necessary expertise. Through Flink, we want to redesign and simplify access to the world of insurance for consumers.

A jury decides on the project budget

My team and I appeared before an internal jury consisting of members of the Group Executive Board and presented the first market-ready version of the online platform at the end of March 2017. During the so-called “Helvetia Innovation Pitch”, our goal was to get additional budget to develop Flink. In contrast to typical projects, we need to apply for additional financing for our new business models on a regular basis. But a good performance on the stage alone isn’t enough. During the pitch, we need to impress with sales potential, initial minor successes and good feedback from customers.

Afterwards, we had to answer questions from the jury and over 100 employees from Helvetia who had been invited and put our business idea to the test. In the end, we managed to convince the jury to provide further financing for Flink – we now have enough financing for another year. As the captain of Flink, I was naturally very pleased. But back to the beginning: why do we organise internal events where project budgets are distributed?

Change drives me

The new technological opportunities and the resulting change in customer expectations make it necessary for companies to demonstrate more and more innovative ability. That is the only way they will manage to be successful in the future. Helvetia has recognised these challenges and firmly anchored the topic of innovation in its strategy. Innovation concerns not only processes and structures but also the culture of Helvetia. And that is precisely what I enjoy so much about my job: I am in an environment that wants to change, and I have the chance to shape a good deal on my own.

As you can imagine, shaping this transformation in a company with over 150 years of history and almost 7,000 employees is not a sure-fire success. In the Digital Ventures department, we are trying to support this actively by developing new business models, which are called speed boats. They are small companies or projects that can act with much greater agility on the market than the “mother ship” and generate new sources of income. Flink is one of these speed boats. In this process, we work differently to the core business on purpose.

Old-town apartment with a start-up feeling

Our rooms are a symbol of this: instead of sitting in classic office spaces, we are located in a four-room apartment that resembles a loft. We were able to furnish and design the rooms ourselves. In addition, as so-called cultural change agents, we support the digital transformation of our mother ship by remaining in constant communication with the parties responsible for the traditional business models. Only by combining the best of both worlds can we remain successful. I am proud to be an active part of the change at Helvetia.

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