“A fresh look at our insurance business thanks to Vlerick students”

KBC management highly impressed with presentations during KBC Superpitch

After months of hard labour, the five finalists of KBC Superpitch, a marketing assignment for Vlerick Masters students, presented their cases to KBC’s senior management in the packed auditorium at KBC’s head office in Brussels. Under the guidance of Frank Goedertier, Professor of Marketing at Vlerick, and Sven Evens, Strategy & Innovation Manager at KBC Insurance, students from the Ghent, Brussels and Leuven campuses have been carefully shaping their ideas into a compact business case. KBC expected fresh insights – and that’s exactly what they got.

Digital and finance go hand in hand

“With this assignment, we are bringing together two of our focus areas, digital transformation and financial services, in a highly tangible way. Specifically, we asked our Masters students to explore the possibilities of the IoT (Internet of Things) in the insurance industry and to look at how KBC Insurance can find new business through the IoT”, explains Professor Frank Goedertier. “I am incredibly pleased with the way in which the students worked with us, with each other and with our Prime Foundation Partner KBC. The engagement from both the students and KBC was exemplary and it is great to see the theoretical topics we covered in the lessons coming to life.”

Hans Verstraete, the CEO of KBC Insurance, adds: “The world is changing incredibly fast and technological evolutions such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), Blockchain and IoT are forcing us to make far quicker changes than ten years ago, let’s say. KBC wants to continue to be the point of reference for banking and insurance. And to achieve this, we need a strong commitment to innovation. It is highly valuable to us to bring in insights from outside and that young people come and explain their projects to us. The students were very enthusiastic and I thought their ideas were really good. I am convinced that we can make further use of them at KBC.”

Fascinating process

“In recent months, we have collaborated very intensely with the Vlerick students. We started out with 150 ideas, made choices together and coached the students so that they could develop their business case optimally. For me this is a great example of action learning, learning by doing, for which Vlerick is so highly valued”, says Sven Evens, Strategy & Innovation Manager at KBC Insurance and Vlerick MBA alumnus (2017). “We began with an inspiration session at Vlerick and then gave our KBC colleagues feedback on it. You could see that the students successfully absorbed this and came up with good results. The pitches had been worked out very creatively and were of a high quality. It is great to be a part of that.”

“I’m glad you see it like that, Sven, because that was precisely the intention of this initiative”, Professor Frank Goedertier laughs. “Besides working on the content, we also tightened up the students’ presentation skills so that they could defend their case in a professional way for a high-level audience. We were able to rely on the active engagement of KBC’s senior management, which really gave our students a feeling for the business: that was hugely valuable for our lessons.”

Julia Young, a Masters Student in General Management, agrees. She is half Belgian, half American, and grew up in Belgium before moved to the States to study there. But she deliberately returned to Brussels to do a Masters at Vlerick. Why did she decide to do this? “I came to Brussels for a Masters Degree at Vlerick because it is a school where you apply what you have learnt in the lessons to the professional field in a hands-on and action-oriented way.”

Pierre-Antoine Hugon, a French national who is studying for a Masters in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, also looks back with satisfaction on the interesting journey that he has been on over the past few months. “It is a unique opportunity to be able to present our ideas to the KBC management. I am delighted that the partnership between Vlerick and KBC makes that possible.”

Five valuable business cases, two winners

“The five cases that were presented in Brussels during the KBC Superpitch on 25 January were extremely varied, but all were valuable. So it was very difficult to pick out just one winner”, explains jury member Hans Verstraete. “All the projects fitted well into KBC Insurance’s strategy. What is more, all the students defended their cases very well. In fact they are all winners: congratulations!”

KBC Superpitch

The professional jury ultimately chose KBC RE-Locate, an application that SMEs can use to find a temporary location for their business quickly and easily when in need. Together with his fellow students Charlotte Coene, Kaat D’Haen and Jarno Haemerlinck, the Masters student in General Management Thibaud Bekaert convincingly presented the winning case. He learnt a great deal from his interaction with his fellow students and with KBC. “It’s great to win, but being able to win alongside people who have a totally different background makes it even better. The interaction with a client, in this case KBC, was also extremely valuable for me. The feedback that we got from KBC made us dig deeper, go further, and develop the case right down to the last detail.”

“It is not only interesting for us to get a fresh look at our business from outside, but also to extract useful cases from it.” Hans Verstraete, CEO of KBC Insurance

However the large audience, including supporters from the three Vlerick campuses cheering on ‘their’ finalists, were also allowed to choose a winner. This time, Smart Livestock Risk Management was the victor. Along with her fellow students Maroussia de Selliers de Moranville, Yann-Willem Langlade and Jamie Nicholson, the Masters student in General Management Julia Young focused on a key target group for KBC: farmers. In their case, they found a way to engage in ‘smart farming’ and to create added value for both KBC Insurance and for the farmer based on the IoT. “We encourage KBC to focus on smart farming and to raise the partnership with farmers to a whole new level, creating a win-win situation for KBC and farmers alike.”

Useful cases

“I see a great deal of added value in these kinds of collaborations”, says Hans Verstraete. “It is not only interesting for us to get a fresh look at our business from outside, but also to extract useful cases from it that we can truly build on further, and that was certainly the case here.”

“As a bank and an insurer, we are used to looking at our business in a conventional way, but these kinds of initiatives prove that things can also be done differently”, says Daniel Falque, the CEO of KBC Business Unit Belgium. “With the help of Vlerick students, we look at everything in a different light. For me, the students’ curiosity and out-of-the-box thinking help us to transform opportunities into something different to what we are used to. And that enables us to widen the gap between us and our competitors. This combination of technical and digital skills with curiosity and an entrepreneurial spirit is something that can sometimes be missing within our four walls. This provides great added value for KBC and I hope for Vlerick too. That’s why I am a big fan of these kinds of initiatives”, Daniel Falque concludes.