“We were among the first direct insurers in Germany to work with automotive partners”
From zero to full speed: Verti Germany’s partnership department – a success story. In June 2021, Verti Germany celebrated the 25th year since the foundation of the company in 1996. Just a few years later, in 2004, the idea to create a separate department for partnership co-operations became reality: Though the team consisted of no more than two people in the beginning, the branch grew constantly and the department was able to show first successes early on. What started with a bold plan, two desks and a lot of courage accounts for about 30 percent of the business 17 years later: The Partnership Business department of Verti Versicherung AG in Germany.
One of the two desks belonged to Ute Bade, who worked for the company as a specialist in key account management until her retirement in 2019. At the second desk, Uwe Hartmann, now director of the division, worked on building up the partnership business. Both outline the successful growth and reveal how this experience makes the company stronger for the future.
How did it come about that the insurance company, which was still very young at the time, set up a separate department for co-operations only a few years after its foundation?
Uwe Hartmann: This was done simply because the need was clear: Although numerous marketing measures were realized in the early 2000s, such as newspaper inserts or mailings that were common at the time, the company was very keen to grow. Therefore, further steps became necessary. That is why the decision was made in 2004: We are going beyond the previous marketing measures and will take the next step, which led towards partnerships.
Ute Bade: I also remember that there was a change in the market at that time, trending more towards co-operation partners. This was a challenge for us as a direct insurance company at first, because for many of the partners, working with direct insurers was very unusual.
Nevertheless, things soon started to gain momentum…
Ute Bade: The start was preceded by a phase in which we worked out the framework conditions. First, we needed a strategy, and market analyses had to be carried out… What helped me here was my previous experience from the insurance field service. This was very beneficial for the initial market assessment. I was also no stranger to approaching potential partners and making the first move in many respects.
Uwe Hartmann: The starting signal was finally given on 1 July 2004. In order to set things in motion, we were able to use some contacts of the management at that time and thus initiate the first co-operations, with a bank, for instance. Of course, numerous things require testing at this early stage. The results are relevant for planning the future: Which direction suits the company, what is profitable in the long run?
These considerations also led to other ideas at the beginning of 2005: How, for example, can we sell insurance in car dealerships? We had made some initial contacts in 2004, and were now able to take these initial ideas to the next level: What if the customer could not only buy the car, but the entire bundle of “vehicle-financing-&-insurance”?
This was one of the experiments of the first years, and it showed us that there was still room for improvement. Nevertheless, from this test we derived our current tipster model, which requires less effort, but is much better adapted to the demand and the situation of customers and car sellers. These first years taught us some essential things. It is precisely this mixture of powerful ideas, flexibility and experience from which we benefit today and in the development of future services.
What were the biggest hurdles?
Ute Bade: There was simply a lot that was completely new: a certain vision sparked numerous ideas, yet they had to be realized in real-life practice first. This involved a lot of convincing, but also helped us gain a lot of experience. What became apparent at the time was that a good network promised the best chances of success.
However, there was also a paradigm shift: digital processes and our uncomplicated solutions were helpful again in the tipster model we just mentioned – today, we still use an improved version of this model. Back then, we were among the first direct insurers to work with automotive partners.
Uwe Hartmann: There was one hurdle, for example, with the car partners: First, you had to convince the sales representatives of Verti. They then recommended Verti to their car dealers and car salesmen as a direct insurance for their customers. Finally, when buying a car, the customer would get the tip to use Verti as insurance and to contact us by phone.
The beginning was not easy, but it was worth it. The numbers speak for themselves: By now, the department creates about 30 percent of the annual turnover.
Ute Bade: Incidentally, another hurdle was to ensure that the interfaces functioned quickly and smoothly for our first brokers. Many things became more focused and reliant on technology, but it was precisely this that moved us forward and made us more fit for the future.
What do you see as further milestones in the field apart from the corresponding co-operations?
Uwe Hartmann: Clearly, our fields of activity come directly to mind here – entering the automotive and the brokerage business were of course major milestones for us.
Another important station was our first participation in the industry’s leading trade fair DKM in 2016.
In the same year, BiPro came as a digital interface as well – this was important in the sense that we were able to communicate digitally. The following year, in 2017, we set up our broker portal, and also in 2017 we insured our first larger fleet. Another milestone came not so long ago: in 2019, we opened our Business Contact Centre in Vaterstetten near Munich. This was essential: the partnership business is different, and in order to be there for our partners and their customers in the best possible way, we have to do things differently.
From your point of view, what has changed the most in terms of the market, the environment and the process of cooperation?
Ute Bade: What characterized the market in our early days was a strong competition: co-operations were in high demand, but partners often cooperated with either one or the other company. Therefore, insurers needed a convincing unique selling proposition, whether it was through technology, price, product – or service, which was particularly important to us: From the beginning, we offered personal contact, competence, reliability and quick decisions as our special features. Over the years, however, the technical situation also became increasingly important.
Uwe Hartmann: This was also noticeable from the feedback. While the friendly and competent service used to be praised in particular, today the need for technical support through apps, customer portals and digital self-service has increased significantly. These are, of course, central developments that we are pushing forward. Nevertheless, the people factor and our values such as reliability and trust remain decisive.
What is your outlook for the future in terms of challenges and growth opportunities?
Uwe Hartmann: Diversification is important and will continue to be so in order to remain independent – that is why we will need both channels, automotive and brokers, in the future. The same applies to our partners: by working with several, we are less dependent on individual ones.
Speaking of automotive: Electric cars and vehicles with modified drives in general are becoming an increasingly important factor. We therefore have to be close to the manufacturers in order to be able to offer suitable products in time.
Another significant topic is the field of bancassurance: the bank sells the insurance, according to the principle of digital self-service.
So there is no tendency for one of the three fields to overtake the others in the foreseeable future – they are all important for us to continue to grow and stay up to date.