Interview with our new CEO
Ensur Group is ambitious. Very ambitious. And that includes a strong commitment to serving their customers even better in the future. To do this, besides remaining focused on their unique DNA, they have opted for a new organisation and the appointment of a CEO. The team is also further focusing on international expansion and has been reinforced in order to develop new services. Why? Because the group wants to grow: from a team of 50 consultants today to a team of 100 within 3 years. Are you intrigued to find out what makes Ensur Group unique? Read more in this interview with their new CEO.
Reinold Vanhevel, new CEO of Ensur: “Passion, expertise and focus on the delivery of a complete service for both insurers and brokers”
Congratulations on your new role as CEO, Reinold. Does your appointment mean that Ensur is planning a radical change of course?
Reinold Vanhevel: No, that's not how we see it. Since our start in 2014, we have built up a successful track record. We started with 1 brand (Ensur), 1 business line (Business Consulting) and 5 experienced insurance consultants in Belgium. Seven years later, as a group, we have 2 brands (Ensur and thewave) and we offer our services through 4 business lines. Our team consists of around 50 employees and we are now also active in the Netherlands. But that's only the beginning of the story. Our ambition is to grow significantly in the coming years. Within the next three years, we aim to grow into a company with 100 consultants. Achieving this will call for an efficient and scalable organisation with the ability to take effective action. It soon became clear that to do this, we would need someone to act as leader and it's my privilege to take that responsibility.
How do you intend to realise these ambitions for growth?
Reinold Vanhevel: This will depend on 3 crucial aspects. First and foremost, we are expanding and reinforcing our services in order to more effectively support our customers, while maintaining our focus on major transformation projects. At the same time, we also want to be active outside Belgium and the Netherlands and support international insurance groups in addition to local players. Finally, we are strengthening our internal organisation.
Today already, we are regarded as a reference in the field of Insurance Business Consulting. With Niki Serruys at the helm, we are confident that we can further strengthen our position within this segment. Patricia Goddet, who joined us earlier this year, leads the new Risk & Compliance business line. And with our brand called thewave, over the past 2 years we have made a name for ourselves in the Technology Consulting & Digital segment. The combination of extensive knowledge of insurance together with technology has proven to be a successful formula for assisting our customers with their digital transformations, and with Kris Claessens we have the right person on board to further expand in this area. Also, our co-founders Moustapha Kharbouch, Peter Knaepkens and Stephan Podevyn remain actively involved at key positions (Finance, Marketing and HR) in the internal organisation as well as in realising the project management work for our customers.
from left to right: Kris Claessens, Reinold Vanhevel, Patricia Goddet and Niki Serruys
4 business lines
First of all, let's take a closer look at your services. How do you see the expansion in concrete terms?
Reinold Vanhevel: Essentially, you can divide our services into 4 business lines: Business Consulting, Risk & Compliance, Technology Consulting and Digital. Both R&C and Digital are relatively new business lines, but two areas that we clearly want to focus on in the coming years in order to expand our range of services. But we also see the expansion in a broader sense. The enhanced focus within our organisation on individual business lines and services will allow us to attract and develop even more expertise, allowing us to respond even more quickly to existing and new challenges in the market. It's also the complementarity between our services that will enable expansion and a total service. We not only consider our customers’ challenges from a business perspective, but we also think along with them about the technical solution and take into account the risk and compliance framework that has to be respected. Finally, we're also expanding more actively towards brokers – a very interesting target group – who have to deal with the same challenges as insurers, including the current wave of consolidation.
What trends and challenges do you see ahead for insurers and brokers?
Reinold Vanhevel: There are quite a few. The overall trends at the macro level that insurers have to take into account are nothing new: customers who want everything to work like Amazon or Spotify, data that's spread across different systems and is therefore difficult to exploit commercially, regulations that are becoming increasingly strict and extensive, core processes that often still contain numerous inefficiencies, pressure on costs leading to consolidations and the sale of portfolios, etc. However, the way in which insurers have to find ways of responding to this is much more interesting, and that's where we differentiate ourselves from the average consultant. For example, consider the increasingly demanding customers. As a group, we think about how we can make this concrete, not only through a process but also through the technology, the user experience. Another example is the wave of consolidation within the insurance sector, which is increasingly being felt now also in Belgium, coming from the wider European context. Merger and acquisition deals often have a huge impact on existing organisations, products, processes and systems. As a team, we have a lot of knowledge in this area and we therefore often act as an accelerator in such processes.
So, there are plenty of challenges ahead. How can you provide answers with Ensur?
Reinold Vanhevel: It's not realistic for insurers and brokers to bring in all the necessary expertise and capacity to meet these challenges. With Ensur, thanks to our strong knowledge of the sector and our specialized services, we offer insurers and brokers the necessary overall support and total service they are looking for. For instance, in the field of Business Consulting, we translate strategic objectives into operational implementation roadmaps. We draw up business processes and organisations that help our customers to optimally deal with disruptive technologies and market changes. In the context of acquisitions, we assist clients in devising models to integrate their business and processes. But we don't just think along with them about the best possible solutions, we also help to implement them into practice. We really roll up our sleeves and work out that implementation together with the customer.
At what point would you like to be involved in a merger or acquisition project?
Reinold Vanhevel: As early as possible. We're not so much going to get involved in the valuation of the portfolios, but we can, for example, offer added value by providing insights into the exact composition of the portfolios and into solutions for how the integration can best be handled in the new organisation at the level of the systems. In addition, we provide input on the impact in terms of costs, possible migration strategies, the organisation of services in the transitional phase, etc.
So, a lot of projects involve the services of different business lines?
Reinold Vanhevel: Absolutely. This is the total service I was talking about earlier and where business processes, risk & compliance and digital systems all go hand in hand. We have many specialists in all these domains, so we can easily deploy them in concert. In other words, we aren't the least bit daunted by large projects. On the contrary, this will become a clear focus going forward. I'll give you an example. More and more regulations are issued at the European level, that apply (often directly) to Belgian insurers as well as brokers. Think of GDPR, AML/CTF, IDD and more recently the whole area of Sustainable Finance. When this happens, it's important to correctly understand and translate those European rules to the Belgian context and into our customer's business. It is not self-evident for insurers and brokers to continuously monitor these developments. That's why we offer them a regulatory watch, so we can stay on top of all of that for them. In addition, we can pragmatically convert these new rules into a concrete implementation, without the customer losing business value. There, we not only consider the organisation of business processes and systems, but we also look at technology and UX design, for instance.
“Thanks to our strong knowledge of the sector and specialized services, we offer insurers and brokers the necessary overall support and total service they are looking for.” Reinold Vanhevel Chief Executive Officer Ensur
That focus on technology and UX design falls under the activities of your second brand, thewave?
Reinold Vanhevel: Correct. thewave was founded a few years ago in response to our clients' growing demand for IT-related consultancy and as an incubator for digital solutions for the insurance industry. As a brand, thewave covers 2 business lines: Technology Consulting covers the technological side of major transformations. Here, we help our customers with the functional analysis of the solutions they want to implement, the optimisation of their architecture, and the management of IT projects. We also provide advice on Data & Analytics. This includes analysing, visualising and exploiting data, and of course migrating it from one system to another.
The other business line is called Digital, and is basically our laboratory, where we develop innovative tailor-made solutions for the insurance sector in co-creation with partners from inside and outside the sector. And all of this is, of course, based on new technologies. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and APIs are the keywords here. We have already been able to achieve some great things in this area, such as a prototype of the self-learning chatbot Sara, and a customer portal, for example.
Within Digital we also focus on UX design: rethinking and improving the user experience. It's a completely different way of looking at a problem or business process. We apply the familiar methods such as design thinking and lean start-up, but once again, we are able to incorporate our in-depth knowledge of the value chain of insurance.
The five founders of Ensur Group: Peter Knaepkens, Moustapha Kharbouch, Stephan Podevyn, Reinold Vanhevel and Niki Serruys.
We speak your language
Do you consider yourself an external consultant?
Reinold Vanhevel: We are of course a separate company, but during a project we are really an integrated part of the organisation we are working with. The customer's problems are our problems. We continuously consult with each other and think critically and actively about the best way to achieve the end goals that have been set by the customer. That is the Ensur DNA and what customers expect from us. By fully integrating with our customers, we are often indistinguishable from internal employees and we succeed more easily in mobilising an entire organisation to achieving that goal. Our people often get the comment: "Oh, we didn't realise you were external." We consider that a compliment.
How important is the fact that you have such an in-depth knowledge of the insurance industry?
Reinold Vanhevel: That is of course one of our crucial assets and it's actually a must. We have a great deal of expertise in this market, in terms of products, regulations and risk & compliance as well as technology and digital solutions. We understand better than anyone the kind of business challenges insurers and brokers have to deal with, and we can translate these into solutions and help customers with the entire implementation process. I am convinced that our positioning in the insurance industry is unique. Even more, it's our team that makes the difference for our customers. We have a great group of professionals which – I truly believe – is unrivalled on the Belgian market. All our employees have a thorough knowledge of the processes, products and systems in the insurance sector – not just theoretical, but based on direct experience. Our senior employees also have extensive experience in project management. But it's more than that. We have always upheld a number of values that set us apart: a genuine passion for insurance, relevant expertise, a solution-oriented mindset, and last but not least, a relentless focus on delivering results. The spirit of an entrepreneur, you might say. Well, every one of our colleagues incorporates those values and that entrepreneurial spirit. That's something we focus on specifically in our recruitment, coaching and training.
As you can see: I couldn't be more enthusiastic. The best is yet to come!