AXA Poland: The coming digital transformation in Poland’s insurance sector

Olivier Schemberg, Head of IT (CIO) at AXA Poland, discusses the people-led strategy that is defining its digital transformation success

As an insurance provider with global reach, the digital transformation of AXA Group positively benefits its customers at every stage of their lives. The company’s decentralised model for particular countries and territories has enabled it to maximise its relevance and competitivity wherever it hangs its cap. AXA Poland is no exception and, as part of AXA’s International and New Markets (INM) group, comprised of over 25 countries in emerging and high growth markets, it benefits from shared best practices that serve as accelerators in greenfield projects. In tandem with the augmentation of tried and true practices from elsewhere in the group, and strategically applied Agile and Scrum methodologies, AXA Poland’s digital transformation has been influenced significantly by a focus on catering to the Polish market. “Since the 1990s, there has been an acceleration of the economy in Poland, and so it’s quite an active adopter of digitalisation,” says Olivier Schemberg, Head of IT (CIO) at AXA Poland, highlighting the prevalence of mobile first as a leading digital option for the company’s customers. “We have observed that, as its banking industry is already quite digitalised, Poland is one of Europe’s faster adopters of new payment methods, such as contactless credit cards and phone-based payments. In fact, whatever the age category, mobile is first in Poland.”

While this focus on the market and customers is crucial for defining the appropriate strategy for AXA Poland’s digital transformation, Schemberg places pivotal importance on both methodology and change management. Without establishing a potent and efficient basis of operations, he says, the transformation’s potential success is limited. “A few years back, we were moving forward with technology – there was clear progress also from methodologies like Agile – but we were missing one big element: how to reskill at the same time and pace our people. In fact, with technology accelerating, we had to question why we were not changing how our people operate,” says Schemberg. “One of our key challenges now is reinvesting in our people, IT education and skilling people differently.” In recognising the importance of doing so, AXA Poland is reaping the benefits of a transformation where its staff can take full advantage of the new solutions. “Because of these changes there is much more empowerment on the business side, and this is where many companies today are lagging behind.”

Schemberg notes that this is not solely a strategic issue: the global shortfall in data specialists and associated experts is no less apparent in Poland. “If you look at the Polish market, we’re lacking between 50,000 and 85,000 IT specialists, and the universities cannot produce this volume at the rate that is needed.” In addition to addressing this challenge by providing specialised training, AXA Poland has begun training non-IT people in Java programming. AXA Poland has also partnered with Indian IT outsourcing specialist Hexaware. “Looking at the big lack of IT professionals in Poland, Hexaware decided to create a new model of nearshoring in Warsaw, blending the Indian team and Polish team to fit local customer needs,” says Schemberg. “One model doesn’t fit all, so it is important to partner with a company that has the capacity to adapt its model of execution, such as with Hexaware reinventing the near shoring concept.”

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