Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what attracted you to join AXA?
I joined AXA in early 2014 and became the second member of the AXA Lab. Before AXA, I contributed to the launch of a start-up in a global financial organisation in Barcelona, worked in San Francisco as Business Strategy Analyst and won two awards for innovative start-up projects. I am very excited to be part of the AXA Lab team: given the pace of change in new digital technologies, it’s a really fantastic time to be working in the insurance industry. Keeping up-to-date with emerging trends and new business models has never been so exhilarating.
Could you explain more about the AXA Lab and its purpose?
In 2013, AXA created a digital innovation sourcing unit in Silicon Valley, the AXA Lab, to help accelerate the business transformation of the AXA group. The Lab has four key missions:
- Build stronger connections with tech players from Silicon Valley
We’re working with the main tech players out here (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Google…) to get closer to their product roadmaps, their teams and identify areas where we can work together and collaborate to benefit our organization and also AXA’s 102 million customers.
- Detect trends and identify potential partnerships with start-ups
The idea is to detect the latest trends, report on these, identify interesting start-ups which are not yet ‘on the radar’ and see if there are things out here that we can benefit from in order to enhance our marketing capabilities and help to evolve our product mix – in areas such as life and savings, connected homes, cars and health.
- Foster digital culture and innovation within AXA Group
A crucial part of an organisation being good at innovation is having a culture that encourages it. One of our roles is to support AXA Global learning and development teams to design curriculums that will accelerate digital awareness in the workforce. We also host small groups of AXA senior executives in San Francisco.
- Initiate pilots with the most promising start-ups
We have some budget to co-finance new initiatives with local AXA teams which can be replicated across geographical locations. Our role is to make sure that pilots have the potential to be scalable and replicable. Four pilots are currently in progress and two are in discussion phase.
What is working in the AXA Lab like?
We like to think of it as ‘a garage mind-set in a corporate body’. The culture is open and hands-on with lots of sharing of ideas and learning. We’re very adaptable and the pace is fast as we’re keen to ‘get there first’! Every day brings a new challenge. We focus on great results here rather than processes and we value collaboration over competition. In a mobile world, your competitors are the apps installed next to yours so we’re passionate about partnering with ambitious start-ups and, together, providing the very best digital experiences to customers.
How do you work with other tech companies in Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley is a fantastic place for technological innovation and idea creation. It’s full of entrepreneurial and digital talents, has a well-established investment infrastructure and excellent universities. Networking is supremely important and I try to get out and meet as many start-ups and people as I can. I attend several tech events per month from the most important ones (e.g. Facebook developer conference, Twitter Flight and Finovate) to informal meet-ups in Silicon Valley. To date, we have 450 contacts amongst local players in Silicon Valley and we’re constantly positioning ourselves to create as many business opportunities as we can.
As we work in the same office space as the investment team of AXA Strategic Ventures we can also contribute to the local technological ecosystem. It allows us to position ourselves not only as a potential client, partner or mentor, but also as a potential investor. We recently worked on a strategic partnership with Endeavour, which was signed in New York a few weeks ago.
How do you share what you learn with AXA’s other regional offices?
Another important part of our role here is hosting AXA senior executives in San Francisco. Over the last 18 months, we’ve welcomed more than 270 people on learning trips, meeting a range of different companies These expeditions have been crucial to boost the digital awareness amongst employees and have resulted in the signing of various new partnerships.
The Lab is only one “speedboat” amongst a large number of other innovative entities within the AXA Group who we work closely with, such as the Data Innovation Lab, AXA Tech Advanced Engineering Lab, or AGD France Incubator. We are now starting to benchmark ourselves against iconic brands such as Google, Nike, Coca-Cola and Facebook rather than our industry competitors. It’s a real privilege for me to be part of such an exciting journey of innovation for AXA.