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Fostering Relationships

In Focus
NAME:Michael Müller
LOCATION:Basel, Switzerland
After completing the first stage of the ‘Simply Safe’ strategic vision, Baloise CEO Michael Müller is continuing to innovate and push forward with more customer-centric improvements.

Multibillion-dollar businesses with powerful brands dominate the global financial services ecosystem, so being an easily recognized company in this industry brings many benefits. With this in mind, Swiss insurance company Baloise has recently undergone a rebranding effort to unite the organization.

“It’s giving a signal for the future about how we want to work and how it’s important to work together as one group, symbolized by our new and unifying ‘Baloise’ single brand,” CEO Michael Müller tells The CEO Magazine. “Bringing everything together on the group level was a major step forward for us.”

“Bringing everything together on the group level was a major step forward for us.

Beyond the strategic level, updating the brand was a great deal of work operationally. In the Swiss market, Müller and his team orchestrated the different distribution channels to establish an omnichannel view, so the customer has the choice of where they want to interact with Baloise.

“The customer is in the driver’s seat and our role is to bring this viewpoint to the organization, so everyone understands that it’s the customer making the decision,” he says.

Strategic Vision

Launched in October 2016, the ‘Simply Safe’ strategy achieved great success for Baloise over its five-year plan. Following on from this initial phase, ‘Simply Safe: Season 2’ is currently in action until 2025.

“It’s a natural evolution. The DNA remains the same as before – it all starts with engaged employees,” Müller reveals. “Simply Safe answers the question of how to have growth in the mature markets we are in, and that also leads to benefits for our shareholders and to the cash that we can generate for them.”

The current market environment may pose challenges for many companies, especially the inflationary environment. However, rising inflation has also led to increasing interest rates, which are positive for insurers. Higher interest rates, for example, enable higher reinvestment rates for assets over time. By embracing a long-term strategy with Simply Safe, Baloise is well-placed to adapt its strategy whenever it is necessary.

Another important focus for the company is effectively managing talent. Education and training are undertaken in a very structured way to make sure that staff have the right skills for the future.

“For us as an insurance company, it’s quite an asset to also have people with more than 12 years’ experience, because it’s also a business where you need a lot of experience,” Müller says.

Long-standing Relationships

For Müller, there is immense value in maintaining strong relationships with partners that have worked with the firm for a long time.

“I’m convinced that it’s always a long journey, and it has to grow over time, and it has to be a win–win situation for all the parties, including the customer, which is the most important one,” he points out.

If partnerships are to be successful, they can’t remain the same over the years and must move with the times and respond to the different needs of each business, according to Müller. “The strongest partnerships are where we are doing business in both directions.”

“The strongest partnerships are where we are doing business in both directions.

The importance of diversification is also clearly seen by Müller, as he believes that new ideas can come from partners. Incorporating these concepts into Baloise can support the business as it works toward creating a better product for its customers.

When working with major business partners that use the same or a similar business model, he sees the outcome as an ideal situation for all parties involved.

“We are one of the big players, especially in Switzerland, and we have partnerships with multinational financial services firms like UBS Group, which is a really big player and is even better because then we can join forces to achieve important common goals,” he concludes.

Unique Position

In such a competitive industry, Müller and his team have worked hard to ensure the firm is able to offer a truly unique service to customers.

“In the end, the core of our strategy is about the employees, so they can make a difference for our customers. The customer can feel whether they are engaged employees or not. I think that’s really the difference we can make,” Müller says.

This culture also allows for colleagues to easily communicate with each other, even between branches in different countries, and share expertise.

“It’s a very personal position we have,” he acknowledges.

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