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Why one financial services giant is actively trying to foster innovation and disruption [Sponsored]

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MMI Holdings is one of South Africa’s largest financial services players. Formed out of a merger between Metropolitan and Momentum, two of South Africa’s most respected insurance players, the JSE-listed company has a market cap of more than R50-billion and a growing portfolio of brands under its belt. It’d be pretty understandable then if it decided to rest on it laurels.

But MMI is profoundly aware of how quickly established players in any market can be disrupted. After all, the companies within its portfolio have a history of being pretty disruptive themselves, driving competition in the in the insurance, wellness, and rewards spaces. It’s also spearheaded efforts to bring affordable insurance products to new markets on the African continent.

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It also encourages entrepreneurial style innovation from employees within the company with a programme called MMI Ignite, which gives them the platform to innovate from within. If the right internal opportunities arise, MMI can spin these out to ensure that it does not lose the entrepreneurial spirit. The idea is to ensure that, over time, the whole business has an invigorating entrepreneurial flair.

As part of its bid to continue in its own disruption and to anticipate potential disruption from upstarts, MMI set up a team to build disruptive and innovative strategies.

The team is headed by MMI’s head of disruptive innovation strategy Jaco Oosthuizen, who has a history of innovation at the company, having also run its wellness and rewards programme.

As Oosthuizen told Ventureburn in a recent interview, “MMI identified a potential threat from disruptive technologies and business models to its long term sustainability and that of the industry in 2014 and decided to create a strategy to mitigate this risk”.

The company then appointed Accenture to assist with the development of this strategy to “future proof” MMI. “A critical component of this strategy,” says Oosthuizen, “is investments in horizon 2 and 3 businesses that could potentially become the future leaders in the financial wellness space”.

As part of that future proofing and desire to foster innovation, MMI has thrown its weight behind the Startupbootcamp Insurance Accelerator Programme.

The accelerator programme is open to startups from all over the world, with the only caveat being that they focus on different areas within insurance, including consumer, re-insurance, back-office efficiency and new risk models.

The insurance programme comprises Fast Track days, an Insurance Hackathon and an Insurance Lounge. Fast Track days are sessions that take place over a six-month period where ten startups in various venues across 12 countries are given five minutes to pitch their insurance related business idea to a panel of judges.

At the 48-hour Insurance Hackathon, the insurance industry will challenge talent to come up with innovative and practical solutions to some of the questions they face as sector. The Insurance Lounge will provide later-stage startups an opportunity to engage with executives and present their innovation idea to the Startupbootcamp investors.

The ten successful startups sourced from the 12 countries will then go into a three-month accelerator programme where they will be provided with resources necessary to birth their startup idea.

“We believe that technology can play a major role in revolutionising the insurance industry and we want to be part of this revolution,” Oosthuizen told Ventureburn.

For that reason, he says, MMI decided to become investors in the programme and not only sponsors. “This means that we will have a small equity stake in each of the start-up companies (around 30 over three years),” he says.

From there, MMI will selectively decide whether to increase this stake as it sees how the potential of these companies evolve.

“This is just the first of many potential opportunities that we identified to enable MMI’s vision to make people, businesses and communities financially well,” Oosthuizen says.

Launched in 2015, Startupbootcamp Insurance is the leading Insurance accelerator, and the only program of its kind to attract such wide industry support. Based in London, its partners include: Admiral, Allianz, ERGO, Lloyds Banking Group, Metropolitan, MMI Holdings, Momentum, PWC, Route 66 Ventures, Unipol Ideas, as well as an extensive mentor and alumni network from more than 30 countries across the globe. The award-winning accelerator offers Insurance startups access to world class industry expertise during an intensive three month program. At the end of the program, startups pitch at Demo Day to more than 250 investors.

Startups selected for the accelerator get access to a number of benefits, including:

  • Extensive mentorship from 400+ entrepreneurs, investors, and partners
  • Access to top markets in London, Europe, Asia-Pacific
  • 3+ months free office space
  • €15K in cash per team
  • €450K+ in partner services
  • Exposure to 200+ Angels & VCs
  • Invitation to SBC global alumni network

More information on the Startupbootcamp Insurance London Accelerator programme can be found on the website.

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