The rise of the Insurtech industry
The last few years have seen the apparition of the Insurtechs: technology-led companies, usually startups, taking advantages of either new technologies or lowered regulatory obstacles to enter the insurance landscape. Entrepreneurs are not the only ones who saw this opportunity – investors have fueled this growth: investments from venture capitalists in this industry has increased from $400 million in 2014 to more than $1 billion in 2016. 
Usually, the arrival of a new entrant, or in this case, a whole fleet of them, raises the question “threat or opportunity?” for incumbents. While the Fintech experience demonstrated the importance of partnering with startups to embrace such an important shift , the insurers are still lagging banks in this area. In 2016, only 38% of insurers were working with startups and universities on digital initiatives versus 60% for banks. 
Despite these numbers, the situation does not look too bad for incumbents. A study from McKinsey reveals that 61% of these new entrants are actually focusing on enabling the insurance value chain instead of disrupting it.  A real opportunity for insurers that could impact them across the whole supply chain:
• Distribution and customer interaction: from online identity verification to accelerate the customer acquisition to a full digital portfolio of products
• Advanced analytics: from fraud detection using machine learning and big data to new pricing schemes based on IoT devices 
• Internal efficiency: from the automation of claims procedures to fully integrated processes across the organization
Helvetia and its 20.20 strategy
Helvetia, one of Switzerland’s leading insurance companies, knew it had to evolve or risk losing market share and came up with an answer: the 20.20 strategy , a comprehensive digitization solution covering the three main axes mentioned above. According to Helvetia Chief Executive Philipp Gmuer, «This strategy is making Helvetia more agile, innovative and customer-focused.” 
One of Helvetia’s initiatives was the creation of an InsurTech accelerator to support startups in the insurance industry and, more precisely, startups that fit in Helvetia’s core business. In addition, Helvetia launched a Venture Fund of CHF 55 million (approximately $55 million) to supplement that effort and will focus on European Insurtech startups in their early or late stage.
With their subsidiary “Smile direct”, Helvetia controls 22% of the online insurance market in Switzerland and keeps expanding into new territories through acquisitions or internal innovations (e.g. Helvetia was the first insurer in Europe to launch a chatbot to renew insurances).
On the longer term, and in addition to strengthening their core business, Helvetia aims at developing new “Ecosystems”. The Helvetia Innovation Lab at the university of St Gallen conducts research in the domains of Home, Mobility, and Health, where it became “apparent that business model innovations need to be studied and analyzed from an Ecosystem perspective.“  Their first ecosystem “Home” was launched in 2016 with the acquisition of the two leading mortgage brokers in Switzerland.
Helvetia’s CEO Philipp Gmuer concludes that the strategy 20.20 “is also creating the conditions needed for fully exploiting the opportunities offered by digitalization.” 
Acquisitions is not the end game
Despite these efforts, it is only the beginning of Helvetia’s journey. Like most incumbents, it will have to face the inertia of its organization and, by solely focusing on investments and synergies, might miss on a truly radical transformation.
After decades in a stable environment, creating the buy-in from its employee and fostering a culture of innovation is paramount for Helvetia. Buy-in not only means involving employees in the generation and implementation of new ideas but also think of new incentive schemes that will allow these ideas to mature. Helvetia must challenge and invest in its employees: if Helvetia wants to become more flexible and customer-centric, it will have to train employees and managers to give them the appropriate tools (design thinking, agile framework, etc.) to take on this challenge.
In order to go from playing catch-up to leading the way, Helvetia will have to win “the battle for technology talent”.  Indeed, with the explosion of tech startups in recent years and the Big Tech companies (Apple, Alphabet, etc.) that keep getting bigger, developers and other digital specialists have plenty of opportunities.
Are they going fast enough?
Technologies keep maturing and the Blockchain technology has gathered enough momentum to threaten again the insurance industry. Indeed, the emergence of smart contracts and the increased transparency on the blockchain could facilitate the development, already initiated, of Peer-to-Peer insurances , one of Insurtech least represented trends (figure 1).
Figure 1 
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 Martin Blake, Tek Yew Chia and Murray Raisbeck, „Insurtech: The innovation imperative continues“, KPMG, 2017, p. 2, https://assets.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2017/06/the-innovation-imperative-continues.pdf
 “Financial technology is proving less of a battleground than feared”, The Economist, May 6, 2017, https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21721505-relationship-between-banks-and-technology-companies-becoming-increasingly
 Roy Jubraj, Steven Watson and Simon Tottman, “The Rise of Insurtech”, Accenture (blog), 2017, p. 9, http://insuranceblog.accenture.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Accenture-Insurance-Insurtech-Report-2017.pdf
 Tanguy Catlin, Johannes-Tobias Lorenz, Björn Münstermann, Braad Olesen, and Valentino Ricciardi, “Insurtech – the threat that inspires”, McKinsey, Mar. 2017, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/insurtech-the-threat-that-inspires
 Michelle Canaan, John Lucker and Bram Spector, “Opting in: Using IoT connectivity to drive differentiation”, Deloitte, Jun. 2, 2016, https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/internet-of-things/innovation-in-insurance-iot.html
 “Strategy Helvetia 20.20”, Helvetia, Sep. 2017, https://www.helvetia.com/content/dam/os/corporate/web/de/home/%C3%BCber-uns/auf-einen-blick/strategie-2020/helvetia2020_strategy.pdf
 “Helvetia posts higher profit and is making good progress with the implementation of its strategy”, Helvetia press release, Sep. 4, 2017, https://www.helvetia.com/corporate/web/en/home/media-and-stories/overview/media-releases/2017/20170904.html
 University of St. Gallen, “Helvetia Innovation Lab”, https://item.unisg.ch/en/divisions/innovation-mgmt/research/helvetia-innovation-lab, accessed November 2017
 James Kaplan, Naufal Khan and Roger Roberts, “Winning the battle for technology talent”, McKinsey, May 2012, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/winning-the-battle-for-technology-talent
 Pauline Adam-Kalfon, Selsabila El Moutaouakil and Corentin Richard, “Blockchain, a catalyst for new approaches in insurance”, PwC, 2017, pp. 14-15, https://www.pwc.com.au/publications/pwc-blockchain.pdf