Hello Eve! Could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us how you ended up running BlaBlaCar's insurance business?
Like many people, I hadn't planned to work in insurance, but it came quite organically over the course of my career.
Freshly graduated from ESSEC Business School, I started working in financial services. After a first experience in asset management, I joined Société Générale where I was in charge of developing new life insurance offers. I quickly decided to integrate the Innovation & Digital Transformation branch of the group to develop new business models around banking and insurance. And I loved it.
At the beginning of 2019, BlaBlaCar was looking for someone to take over the development of the insurance business. I had only done 2 rideshares in my life, but I liked the prospect of exploring how insurance could diversify the business and boost user experience. So I went for it.
Could you explain BlaBlaCar's insurance vision? What have been the major chapters, what are the key steps to come?
BlaBlaCar is the platform that facilitates your trip, door-to-door. BlaBlaCar Insurance is the brick that allows you to do it with peace of mind.
But this didn’t happen overnight. In hindsight, I guess you could say, we are entering the 4th chapter of insurance at BlaBlaCar:
Chapter 1: "Inclusive ridesharing insurance" (2014)
Underwritten by BlaBlaCar on behalf of its members, the coverage was carried by AXA Assistance and acted as a substitute cover protecting our members during their trips. Remember that, back in the day, sharing a car with a stranger for trips lasting more than 2 hours on average could seem absurd and/or unconscious. Offering usage-based insurance and guaranteeing a sound arrival at your target destination was key to mass-market adoption.
Chapter 2: "Optional insurance" (2015)
The years went by and BlaBlaCar established itself as a mainstream travel solution. The time had come to make insurance not only an acquisition tool, but rather a lever for improving the customer experience. Whether it be for car or bus rides, our members were able to underwrite additional guarantees in one click as they booked their journey. These guarantees sort of made it possible to configure the peace of mind with which you wanted to travel.
3rd Chapter: "Protecting beyond the use of the platform" (2018)
Up until that point, all our guarantees were limited to a carpool or bus ride. But in 2015, BlaBlaCar launched its own car insurance. Fully digital, extremely competitive in terms of pricing - especially for young drivers, ridesharing-friendly, deductible-free, etc. For the first time, members could be protected all year-round, regardless of whether they were sharing their ride or not.
4th Chapter: "Intermodality" (2019)
In 2019, BlaBlaCar pivoted to become a MaaS, or Mobility-As-A-Service. In other words, BlaBlaCar no longer simply connected you with a driver going in the same direction as you. It enabled you to book all the services you’ll need to reach your destination. The implications for insurance are obviously significant and constitute the next big step for mobility insurance: building the protection that will allow you to arrive at your destination with peace of mind, regardless of the means of transport you use.
Over the course of these chapters, what major changes have you seen in your members' expectations?
Two main evolutions come to mind.
The first one, partly linked to the pandemic, is the fact that we tend not to travel as far as we used to, avoiding air travel in favor of trains, buses and cars. Stemming from a deep ecological awakening, the data we have seems to indicate a real behavioral shift. In 2021, 85% of French people who went on vacation stayed in France, 10 points more than normal. And it seems like the younger generations will keep us on this path. Indeed, studies indicate that 3 out of 4 young people agree with the idea that leisure flights should remain exceptional. In any case, this is a great opportunity for BlaBlaCar to seduce people who are rediscovering these means of transport, and in which insurance has a crucial role to play.
This is why we are conducting a strategic reflection on the pains linked to each mode of transport. For example, while a carpooler’s main concern will be whether the driver will turn up, our bus passengers tend to worry more about losing their luggage. As for train travelers, the key apprehension will concern delays at the station. For these cases, we are thinking about different service packages that would make waiting less painful for our members, such as a streaming package to watch a movie or a snacking budget. The opportunities are endless and operationally complex to roll out, but I find it interesting to see that insurance is becoming a crucial differentiation lever. We are no longer just guaranteeing compensation to customers, but their entire service experience.
The second underlying trend we see is our need for flexibility and simplicity. Partly due to the the systemic unpredictability generated by the COVID-crisis, being able to modify one's plans last minute has become increasingly important over the recent years. And this is made even worse by this constant quest for simplicity of ours. On-demand travel services, digital grocery stores delivering us under 10 minutes, etc., our lives are rythmed by services that keep lowering our tolerance threshold. In the field of mobility, this translates into expecting to be taken care of from my point of departure to my point of arrival.
The mobility insurance of tomorrow is therefore intermodal and rich in services. What does BlaBlaCar need to build it, concretely?
The first challenge is to capitalize on the knowledge we have of our customers to offer products and services that are even more relevant to our members.
Whether it's the frequency of travel, the mode of transportation, the taste for chatting, the distances covered, etc., we have vast amounts of aggregated data that would allow us to adapt the protection we offer on any given trip. This is not easy because, as mentioned, coverage expectations vary considerably depending on the means of transport, but we are running an in-depth study to define the offers and products of tomorrow. Imagine being able to offer the same user two completely different types of coverage, depending on whether he or she is going on vacation in the Alps by train or driving to the beach when summertime comes.
The second major challenge will be its operational implementation and ensuring responsiveness in line with market expectations - from subscription to claims management. When the time comes, we’ll need to be able to instantly generate a personalized quote and produce the bespoke legal documentation, as well as ensure express payout times for complex products.
What does BlaBlaCar expect from its partners in terms of insurance?
First of all, for all the reasons mentioned, an ability to process data and a willingness to iterate quickly to learn continuously.
Then, a real desire to simplify the offers. And that's the most complicated part of insurance: absorbing all the complexity of a product behind the scenes to enable a simple and seamless experience for the end beneficiary.
What do you think is the trend to watch over the next few years?
Price sensitivity. BlaBlaCar members are by nature already concerned about saving money, but with the current inflation, this will only become more pronounced, and this goes far beyond insurance and mobility.
In April 2020, we saw MAIF give back a part of the unused car-insurance premiums to their beneficiaries. The context is obviously very different today, but digging into these usage-based approaches sounds interesting to me and could be well received by the market.
The last content that inspired you? It could be a book, a podcast, a movie, etc.
I don't have any specific content that comes to mind, but simply the fact that many academic institutions have chosen to dedicate their graduation speeches to the ecological transition (Agro Paris Tech, Polytechnique, HEC, etc.).
This is indicative of the awareness on the rise. Education necessarily has a key role to play in this ecological awakening, and it's great to see that it is taking on the matter.
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