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Juan Carlos Realphe

COLOMBIA - Finance

Juan Carlos Realphe

CEO, Zurich Colombia


Juan Carlos has a degree in Business Administration, and postgraduate certification in Insurance and Strategic Management. With more than 30 years of experience in the Insurance and Reinsurance industry, he started his professional career at Colseguros and later had the opportunity to work in companies such as Allianz, Mapfre and Willis. In 2019, Juan Carlos joined Zurich Colombia as CEO where he has been able to lead different initiatives toward digitalization and innovation. Prior to joining Zurich, Juan Carlos served as Country Manager to Lloyd’s Reinsurance.

“We are protecting people and companies. The difficult part is now, after the pandemic, where there are different types of risks and challenges.“

What is Zurich’s story in Colombia and what has been the company’ strategy since arrival?

Zurich arrived six years ago directly, which is different from our strategy in other countries. Usually, Zurich will acquire a company or a competitor in order to enter a market already within the top five spots when it comes to insurance rankings in that country. Today, we are in the middle of the rankings in Colombia, at 14th, in terms of the number of premiums. This is the first part of our journey here in Colombia. We have defined 2024 as a major milestone in the journey of Zurich Colombia: we want to have premiums that amount to COP1 billion by 2024. Today, we have about 60-70% of the portfolio represented among corporate clients, enterprises, and companies. The intention in 2024 is to become a company that is 50% corporate clients and 50% of personal insurance for houses, cars, and others. The insurance sector is not just about selling a policy; it is about protecting the dreams of the people. We are sending strong signals to the market that Zurich is an insurance company for personal alliance in Colombia, and not just for corporate clients.

Can you elaborate on the importance for businesses and individuals in finding a partner in insurance?

The insurance sector is important for people, the economy, and for the government. We build and deliver resilience, not just sell insurance. Insurance is a financial tool that allows people, companies, the government, and the economy to recover the same situation that they had before. It is the way to help people to continue with their plans, dreams, and projects. That is the importance of the insurance industry. We are building resilience for society. Because of the pandemic, people today have more interest and knowledge about insurance and the benefits that it can provide for their future and their lives. The pandemic has, overall, been a negative experience generally; however, one of the good things to come out of it is the greater awareness around the importance of insurance.

Zurich was the first insurance company to launch a 100% digital car insurance product in Colombia. How do you assume the position of being a leader in innovation, and how do you incorporate the technology and digital means within your market strategy?

In Zurich Colombia, 60% or more of its people are millennials. This allows us to think differently by bringing different kinds of services to the market in order to differentiate ourselves. The most important part of that is our team and the composition of our people. We wanted to offer something that is different from the traditional car insurance currently in the market. The answer came from the millennials. In cities today, many people have to commute to their workplaces. Here, the main insurable object is not the car, but the individual. We have developed a car insurance that is not assigned to a car but rather an individual. At the end of the day, it is a mobility solution that allows you to commute from your home to work in a car, scooter, bicycle, or public transport whereby you are 100% covered by your insurance no matter how you commute. It is a new concept. In addition, it is 100% digital and 100% modular. You can design your own insurance based on your necessities. This is a different concept in the market. ۬

How is Zurich contributing to making business, specifically rent, easier and safer in Colombia?

Rental insurance is a great example of this. When you have a problem and cannot pay the rent, the insurance company will pay the rent for you: that is rental insurance. During the pandemic, many people had problems that were not their fault but because of the global situation. We did not want the insurance functioning like normal insurance. The easy part is paying the rent and saying, “the rest is your problem.“ We decided not to do that and got together with our lawyers to help people reach an agreement with their landlords in order to keep their business as long as they can manage it. In many cases, we reached a solution, and today they are continuing their businesses. In the event where that was not possible, we paid the rent. At the end of the day, the important message is that the insurance must go further than just paying a claim; it needs to try and help its clients. The best situation is to create a positive and different experience around insurance. Rental insurance is a great example of this, though it is not the only one.€¨

How is Zurich contributing to the expansion of insurance penetration in Colombia?

Our car insurance program and our homeowners’ program all have the same intention and objective, which is to have a different product. They are different in that they are digital and modular. Most importantly, one can buy insurance with Zurich from anywhere; they don’t need to come down to the office or get an inspection of their cars. It is different now because the process of insurance must be easy for policyholders and easy for us. As long as you have an easy process, you can increase your penetration in the insurance industry. It is a lesson of the pandemic. You do not need to go to a specific place in order to get something. Insurance must be just as mobile and agile. €¨

What role does Zurich and insurance have in the economic reactivation, and how are you supporting Colombia with an eye to the future?

We are protecting people and companies. The difficult part is now, after the pandemic, where there are different types of risks and challenges. We have the products and programs for individuals, cars, companies, and governments. However, it will be important to anticipate new risks. Cyber risk, for example, is extremely important today. In this aspect, it will also be important to protect individuals because employees are working from home using personal devices. We must evolve to cover people in this new market and from these new risks. Climate change is another big issue. We need to develop different solutions to combat the new risks related to climate change. It is not just about having insurance to fight climate change, but creating behaviors as a company that show that we are committed to fighting climate change. Zurich wants to be a sustainable company.

What is your final message to the business community?

Colombia has had low insurance penetration historically, though 2020 was the first year that insurance penetration was the same as other countries in the region. Last year was the first year that we reached 3% in penetration. The insurance types that grew last year were life, health, and professional insurance. The challenge for us is to grow traditional lines of business—like car, homeowners, and SME insurance. This is our focus and the challenge that we are taking on. We want to create real resilience in the country and a brighter future together.



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