CEO Portugal Steven Braekeveldt discusses some of the key moments of the year for Portugal.
In 2021 Ageas in Portugal took important steps towards creating an even more customer-centric organisation, constructing at the same time the perfect platform for the launch of the new strategic plan Impact24. The changes made enable Ageas to connect and serve customers based on a much clearer view of the whole customer experience vs the siloed perspective of Life, Non-Life and Health. Many employees transitioned into new positions and over the course of the year every aspect of the process was reviewed and reorganised, while continuing to deliver business as usual to customers. This new multi-aspect view of the customer journey allows us to quickly see where we can add value and helps ensure a consistent and high-level experience for the customer. Regardless of where their interaction with Ageas starts and ends. Think of it as a wide angled lens focused squarely on the customer.
Ageas Portugal Group also delivered a strong business performance in 2021 with sales growing faster than the market average across all business lines. Brand awareness continued to improve with a 5% uptick year on year, with the Portuguese market viewing the Ageas brand as distinct in the insurance sector; innovative, creative, and energetic in approach.
With respect to products, Ageas Portugal Group made a deliberate strategic shift away from savings products that are very capital intensive towards capital light products. This means that sales through the bank channel were refocused on unit-linked products. Consequently, a range of new pension and life products have been developed and rolled out to the customer.
Several initiatives taken in 2021 reinforced our reputation as an innovator. For some budding entrepreneurs, this was the year Ageas helped turn dreams into reality by supporting a range of innovative start-ups internally and externally. Employees were invited to present their ideas for start-ups attracting around 50 different proposals. From a short list of ten we are now financing two of these. For example, "Mind INside" seeks a solution to the growing problem of mental health, and "Go IN – Inhabit the inland", supports the migration of people and businesses to Portugal’s inland. And working with an Italian accelerator, H-FARM, who analyse potential start-ups across Europe, we have chosen to implement five projects, two of which are in the healthcare space. Through an innovation hub with Nova SBE we have also invited students from vastly diverse backgrounds including engineering and architecture to collaborate with us on new products.
Covid continued to have an impact throwing up new obstacles. Our Telemedicine offering allowed people to speak to a doctor on their mobile phone rather than risking a hospital visit and it has proven to be an enormous success in the past year achieving an NPS score of 4.8 out of 5. This is something we will continue to build in the coming years. And in Motor, while early lockdowns during Covid initially meant lower claims ratios, the opposite was the case as the country opened up, with a high frequency of traffic accidents as the public took to the road to avoid public transport. For an insurer like Ageas these swings and roundabouts require us to stay agile and ready to adapt. We set up a steering committee to consider Covid in 2024, as we believe that we will likely see an impact on our employees as well as our customers for some time to come. We will continue to focus heavily on initiatives that support mental health, well-being, and psychological support.
As we reflect on the final year of Connect21 we are particularly proud of the way we have delivered on Beyond Insurance, despite the distraction of a global pandemic, which required us to reprioritise so many things. We saw strong progress in Telemedicine which now has 48,000 users, and increased use of the clinical platforms available through Médis. We also took the lead on a major nationwide Colon Cancer preventative initiative.
If we look to the future and the roll-out of Impact24 we are looking at every aspect of the plan as a priority, and we are well placed to contribute our learnings to the Group in areas such as Health. As an integrated player in the overall health sector, Médis has extensive experience to share on how to integrate services into the wider healthcare arena.
Sustainability will also be critical as we move forward. We completed a detailed sustainability plan that in the coming year will be embedded into every department. The Fundação Ageas, in line with many other foundations around the world, is refocusing towards more social philanthropy, away from pure charitable activities, and also investing in social start-ups that align with our business.
2021 was a year of change. It was a year in which Covid continued to make itself known. But it was also the year we adapted and strengthened our approach to the customer that will allow us to deliver on our long-term sustainable growth strategy.