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When Zurich met Bremen

Five questions celebrating the day Movingdots and Swiss Re joined forces
Maria-Eleni Mageira
Digital Marketing & Communications Manager

On 22 December 2015, Swiss Re acquired Movingdots. Five years later, Marilena Mageira interviewed co-CEOs Andras Kelemen and Donato Genovese, to look back at this journey and discuss their experiences leading a company during COVID-19.

Swiss Re is one of the world's leading providers of reinsurance and insurance. Meanwhile, Movingdots is a small tech company. How do those worlds coexist?

A: "Quite well, I would say. We accept our differences, learn from each other and collaborate. The two worlds are complementary. Swiss Re has a global reach while Movingdots was only operating in Germany, where two of our larger telematics clients are located. Movingdots gives us another channel to offer fee-based solutions, in addition to Swiss Re's traditional reinsurance model. Movingdots also benefits from access to Swiss Re's technology expertise and from enterprise-level partnerships like the one between Microsoft and Swiss Re".

D: "When Swiss Re decided to acquire Akquinet SLS, later rebranded Movingdots, there was a specific requirement from senior management to keep the Bremen-based subsidiary as independent as possible from Swiss Re. This was designed to preserve its dynamism, agility and creativity in the face of the structures and processes typical of a big multinational company. However, to ensure that all controls were in place and that the company was developing as its parent desired, the CEOs were appointed from among the senior members of Swiss Re's Automotive & Mobility Solutions team in Zurich. This was the case for our predecessor, Sebastiaan Bongers, and now for Andras and me. However, although we are in Zurich, the team leads are based in Bremen and in most cases have been with Movingdots for many years. This ensures that Swiss Re remains closely in touch with local needs".

When many were claiming that the co-CEO management model had started going out of style, we saw companies like Netflix reviving it. Movingdots implemented the twin CEO approach in March 2020. How have you experienced that journey and how do you see it in the future?

A: "I haven't thought much about the model so far, probably because it played out nicely from the beginning. With Donato focusing on operations, finance and product, and me focusing on technology development, we complement each other with our skills and experiences. With the COVID-19 lockdowns, which started in the very week we signed the paperwork in Bremen, we immediately had to prepare for the big pivot that followed. Nevertheless, just as every cloud has a silver lining, this crisis has brought us and the local management team closer together".

D: "The journey so far has been smooth, as Andras and I have been working together for many years now. Budgets, revenue generation and operations are areas close to my heart. My academic background and previous work experience both point in that direction. Therefore, I feel I can give my best to Movingdots and Swiss Re by looking after those areas".

You have been part of the Automotive & Mobility team at Swiss Re since its beginning in January 2016. How have you seen it develop over the years and what are the team's biggest accomplishments?

D: "When the journey started, with the acquisition of Akquinet SLS on 22 December 2015 and the launch of the Automotive & Mobility Solutions team at Swiss Re on 1 January 2016, we were still a relatively small team on the Swiss Re side (six colleagues). We were responsible for kicking off the joint journey with our sister company and building the Swiss Re teams too. All up, the team is now just south of 100 colleagues, including internals and externals, concentrated in Bremen, Zurich, Milan and Beijing. We have leading capabilities in insurance telematics, ADAS risk scoring and electric vehicle insurance, and are ready to explore more of the mobility revolution happening around us. The strength of our teams helped us deliver the first complete end-to-end telematics service to a client in the Netherlands in 18 months, starting from scratch. We also launched a first-of-its-kind ADAS risk score with BMW in summer 2018. A few months later, we rebranded Akquinet SLS as Movingdots. Work has continued to improve the accuracy of Coloride and to expand the client base. No doubt Andras has something to add here".

A: "While our digital solutions were reaching market maturity, we were constantly professionalising our delivery methodology. Six agile development teams are currently collaborating on an industry-standard scaled agile framework. Ephemeral feature teams have been formed to deliver client releases or larger functional blocks. An architecture team has been established to enforce standards across the solution. On the technical side, each team practises continuous integration, testing and delivery. Our automated integration testing has been around for some time, but I am particularly proud that our load testing has recently been automated as well. Functional extensions and fixes reach production seamlessly, often several times a day, while our QA team updates the Coloride app for Android and iOS every two weeks. Last but not least, our analytics platform is collecting data from internal and external sources in data lakes, where data scientists can access it using Databricks".

As well as the team's accomplishments, we have to highlight another major success of yours. Although you are both sitting in Zurich, you are managing a remote team, which is in a different city, in a different country. What are the ingredients for this successful set-up?

A: "The main one is the professionalism that the entire team in Bremen is demonstrating during these exceptional times, which I believe drew us all together more than any other event could have".

D: "A successful set-up relies on solid foundations. On the one hand, technology is key to the needs of remote working. On the other, trust between teams and team members is vital. Luckily, as a tech company, Movingdots is digitally mature. Meanwhile, Swiss Re has made substantial investments over the years to enable Movingdots employees to work 100% remotely. On the second point, the professionalism that Andras just mentioned and team members' resilience have helped build very strong trust. Therefore, it all works well".

What thoughts and emotions come to mind when you think of the five-year journey since Swiss Re acquired Movingdots?

A: "It's hard to believe that it has been five years already, which means we've spent a substantial part of our careers together. We've all learnt and matured during that time. The two companies couldn't be more different: Swiss Re the giant reinsurer from Zurich and Movingdots the nimble SME in Bremen. Still, we successfully brought the best of two worlds together, learning from each other and creating a strong, unique set-up".

D: "It's been a memorable journey for me. After being part of the team that negotiated the deal with the former Movingdots owners, I gradually took over more responsibilities, working closely with former CEOs Sebastiaan Bongers and Thomas Henning, until being appointed co-CEO myself in March 2020 with Andras.

I don't like looking back too much on my achievements. I prefer focusing on the next challenge. But it's been a great experience so far".

Bonus: Share your favourite piece of leadership advice.

A: "I like the timeless concept and philosophy of Servant Leadership, which puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform at optimum levels".

D: "Leadership needs to be credible. Therefore, never expect from others what you wouldn't do yourself".

Andras Kelemen is currently co-CEO of Movingdots and CTO at Swiss Re - Automotive & Mobility Solutions in Zurich, having been responsible for the technical delivery of solutions like Swiss Re's first app based telematics solution, Coloride, for the last four years. Prior to that, he held several Solution Delivery leadership positions within Swiss Re's P&C Reinsurance IT department, creating UW and pricing applications for NatCat, Fire and Motor products. Andras holds a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Computer Vision from the ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Donato Genovese is currently co-CEO of Movingdots in Bremen and Lead Product Development and Business Operations at Swiss Re - Automotive & Mobility Solutions in Zurich. Prior to that, he worked in Swiss Re for Group Underwriting and Group Asset Management, having joined the company in 2008 through the graduates@swissre programme. Donato holds a Master of Science in Finance from Università Bocconi, Milano, Italy.

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