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“Openness to share and discuss ideas” – As an Innovation Analyst in Silicon Valley

Andrea Karaman, 28, loves striving for new horizons. As a Munich Re Graduate Trainee she is spending three months with the Munich Re inno-scout team in Silicon Valley, California. A journey towards the cutting edge.

Hi Andrea, please tell us more about yourself!

Hi! I started with the Munich Re International Graduate Trainee Programme in Munich in November, 2015. Normally, I am based in the central underwriting department of Munich Health, the company’s health business unit. My academic background is diverse with degrees in Finance, Business Administration, Chemistry, and Biology. During my studies I did several internships with Munich Re in Munich and China as well as in other healthcare companies. In my free time I like to spend my time outside preferably hiking in the mountains or, here in California, in the state parks. I also like to travel and to get to know new cultures, people, and cuisines.

When and why did you decide to join Munich Re’s Trainee Programme and to spend an international working period in Silicon Valley?

Andrea Karaman, Munich Re
Andrea Karaman, Munich Re Graduate Trainee

During my internships with Munich Re I was already impressed how many different sides a company can have! I was curious about how many other perspectives I might discover during the trainee programme. So continuing to work for Munich Re and applying for a position after I graduated last year was always an option. Munich Re offers so many different areas to work in and allows you to work together with colleagues having so diverse academic backgrounds.

Of course, also the programme itself contributed to my decision to join the Trainee Programme: Its different training modules, the interaction with the other German and international trainees, and the opportunity to get to know different lines of business. After having spent some time in several departments in Munich and with the reinsurance operations in China, my stay abroad with the inno-scout team in Silicon Valley now is another valuable experience for me. I am getting to know the company even better and learn about the challenges the business units currently face. There are so many insights I am going to take from here back to Munich.

Can you outline the tasks and responsibilities of an Innovation Analyst at Munich Re?

Munich Re’s business units are affected by different kinds of innovation. Whenever we find a company that provides innovative solutions for the challenges a specific business unit faces we get in touch and try to develop a business case. Our goal is to establish co-operations with the companies. We mainly work with companies located in the San Francisco Bay Area. We also attend conferences and events to watch new trends and developments.

What projects are you currently involved in?

I am from the health department, thus I am currently engaged with several healthcare companies covering topics like employee benefits or digital health. Together with my colleagues in Munich I develop potential business cases about how we could work together with start-ups and how we or our clients can integrate their solutions into our business.

Which are the most promising and innovative insurance opportunities in the tech sector?

We see that the number of insurtech start-ups is increasing. Polls reveal that customers claim not having had a positive customer experience with their insurers. As a consequence, these new start-ups often focus on higher customer engagement and provide more differentiated or behaviour-based products. Lots of them are still at a very early stage, so we can’t say at this point which ones have the most promising models. In the end, being able to attract customers and staying profitable is key. We are curious how the new business models will develop and which other insurtech ideas will arise.

Modern technology can enhance insurance products. Do you have an example?

As a reinsurance company having business in so many different areas and markets, innovative solutions can have various impacts. For example, sensors might prevent equipment breakdowns and, thus, have the potential to reduce claims due to downtimes in large factories. Tracking behaviour with telematics solutions makes it possible to offer insurance policies targeted to your driving style or the usage of wearables potentially decreases some health related costs in the future. Innovation creates also the demand for new insurance solutions like cyber security or home sharing.

How would you describe the working culture in Silicon Valley?

Robot in Silicon Valley

The working culture in Silicon Valley differs a lot from the working culture in in a large corporation. Everything goes faster here. Sometimes I go into the office without having any meetings scheduled and at the end of the day, I had several spontaneous meetings with start-ups. Working in a large corporate means that most things are scheduled quite ahead. The environment here is highly interactive. It is very easy to engage with other companies and learn from each other. The openness to share and discuss ideas and thoughts might be the biggest difference compared to the large corporate world.

What is your favourite place in Silicon Valley?

The place I definitely like most in Silicon Valley is the Plug and Play Tech Center in which our office is located. The Munich Re team has a small cubical in a big open space in between start-ups and other partners. In total there are over 350 start-ups working in the building. It is very easy to engage with them during the various events or on the lovely patio. There are several accelerator programs in which start-ups present their products and ideas ranging from more insurance relevant business like smart-home or mobility technologies to less relevant ideas like 3D pizza printers or plates that analyse the nutrition facts of your meals. Overall, the Plug and Play team managed to create an incredible ecosystem bringing together start-ups, corporation partners, and investors. Besides work, I like to visit the various state parks close to the Pacific Coast and enjoy hiking and watching the lively waves of the ocean.

Andrea, thank you for the interview!