In a recent interview conducted by the Leading Brands of Spain Forum (Foro de Marcas Renombras Españolas), Eva Piera, General Manager of External Relations and Communication for MAPFRE, shares her thoughts on the importance of the brand and having responsible leadership and firm values and principles to face the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
Here is the full interview:
Since October 2017, Eva Piera has been General Manager of External Relations and Communication for MAPFRE, a position from which she directs the group’s strategy in the areas of Corporate Communications and HR, Brand and Reputation and Institutional Relations, reporting directly to the Chairman and CEO of MAPFRE.
She has a degree in Economics and Business Studies from the Complutense University of Madrid and a Master’s in International Economics from the University of Paris-X Nanterre. She had previously held important positions in companies in the finance sector, such as Socièté Générale and BBVA, where she was Global Director of Institutional Relations before joining MAPFRE.
She has also developed part of her career in the public sector of the Community of Madrid, where as Deputy Minister of the Economy, she was responsible for economic promotion policies in the region.
MAPFRE is the leading insurance company in Spain, and in Latin America it has consolidated itself as the largest multinational insurance company in the region. How important is the brand in MAPFRE’s strategy and how has it helped to consolidate the company in the markets where it operates?
The brand is a strategic asset in our company. It is not only our business card to the customer — what is behind our products and services in all the countries where we operate —, but it also reflects the values and identity of our company. Therefore, we can say that the brand is undoubtedly an asset that has contributed to the global consolidation of the group in the various regions where we operate, projecting solvency and confidence to our 26 million customers worldwide.
Having a solid, committed and well-managed brand is especially relevant in MAPFRE’s growth and transformation strategy, since in the complex environment in which we operate, where consumers make their decisions in more connected, informed, participative and demanding processes, product differentiation through the brand becomes increasingly important.
Consequently, at MAPFRE we not only have an excellent commercial value proposal for our customers, who also recognize us as a solvent, reliable, sustainable and innovative company, but we are also perceived as a responsible corporate citizen committed to generating long-term value for all our stakeholders. Customers are increasingly taking this strong social component of MAPFRE into account when making their consumer decisions, and we are certain that this is fundamental to the strength of the business.
Finally, we must stress the importance of proper brand management, and our aim is to maintain consistency at all times between everything that MAPFRE actually does and what we project through our campaigns and our communication channels. This reinforces the trust that is the fundamental attribute of the financial and insurance business.
MAPFRE has more than 34,000 employees and has received important recognition for its employer brand in different countries. How does employer branding work in such different markets?
MAPFRE is an appealing employer for many reasons. A lot of people know about the solid values that have been built up over our 80-year history, but we also try to project the exciting agenda of growth and transformation that MAPFRE is developing. Although the insurance sector has to work to make our business appealing to young professionals, at MAPFRE we have the advantage of being a global and innovative company with a leading position in many markets, which allows employees enormous mobility, both functional and international. We must also highlight the great diversity of our staff, both generational and cultural (employees from 5 generations and 84 different nationalities) and the continuous progress made in terms of gender equality (40.1% of management positions are already held by women). At the same time, MAPFRE is a group that offers something that has not been so common in recent years, namely stability and job security (97% of our employees have a permanent contract). MAPFRE is also committed to training, internal promotion, professional development and work-life balance policies, in order to offer employees a very enticing professional and personal trajectory.
Many young professionals and new generations find other important factors in MAPFRE’s scale of values: our social footprint, our commitment to sustainability and our vocation for solidarity. Young people perceive this commitment both through MAPFRE and through the enormous social work carried out by Fundación MAPFRE in some thirty countries.
For all these reasons, MAPFRE is a company where employees feel an immense sense of belonging, and it always appears in the rankings of the most attractive companies to work for.
We live in a world in constant transformation, and digitalization is one of the main factors contributing to these constant changes. How does the company deal with this scenario and what other elements do you consider important in this respect, besides being on the cutting edge of digitalization?
Digitalization is of enormous importance in a sector such as insurance, which requires handling a lot of information, having agile processes that allow for their simplification, assessing risks correctly and offering clients a service as quickly as possible and at a reasonable price.
We are moving towards an eminently digitalized business, which requires management to be connected to very sophisticated tools based on robotization, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, blockchain, etc. We are now starting to apply these tools in some processes. MAPFRE undoubtedly aspires to be a leading player in this increasingly digital and connected world, and, for this reason, it has been immersed in a strong process of digital transformation for years.
Nevertheless, we must not forget that this world needs to be run by and for people. Automation will take care of lower value-added tasks, but insurance will always need the human talent and knowledge accumulated over years of risk and contingency management. There will always be people taking care of people and solving their problems.
That is why at MAPFRE we are convinced that people must always be placed at the center of digitalization and transformation.
One of the most relevant strategic initiatives at MAPFRE is the so-called “Digital Challenge”, which is aimed at ensuring one of the most critical issues in a large organization such as ours: accelerating cultural change and equipping all employees with the training, tools and working environment that will enable us to adapt solidly to the new digital and technological context that is transforming the businesses and habits of society as a whole. The digital and technological capabilities developed by MAPFRE over the years have meant, for example, that just a few days after people started talking about the need for people to stay at home due to COVID-19, MAPFRE deployed its contingency plans and soon managed to get 95% of its employees across the globe to work remotely from their homes, while also guaranteeing essential services to its customers.
Which markets currently have the greatest weight in MAPFRE’s business and which are the markets of the future?
MAPFRE is present on all five continents, and we serve customers in nearly 100 countries. Our three main markets are Spain, Brazil and the United States, which represent almost 60% of the premiums issued and the areas where we have more potential for growth. Countries such as Mexico, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Peru and Puerto Rico are also important markets for MAPFRE.
In emerging and developing countries, we undoubtedly have capacity and room for growth due to the current low insurance penetration. Although in these cases, it is not only a matter of market expansion but also of having public policies that would allow for a greater development of insurance in the economy and in society.
Growth opportunities will also come from the transformation and digitalization that is widening the traditional barriers of a business that has an increasing presence in everyday consumer issues, not only through new value proposals in more traditional insurance such as home, car or health, but also by addressing the changing needs of consumers, which are driving the creation of new products and services and opening new horizons for the industry.
MAPFRE’s international presence is important, and the current crisis generated by COVID-19 is having a major impact worldwide. How is the company dealing with this situation in the different markets? What actions are you taking?
MAPFRE has followed the evolution of the pandemic very closely from the outset and reacted quickly to the complex situation that has arisen.
As soon as contingency plans were activated to protect the health of employees and partners and to continue providing essential services to customers worldwide (with more than 30,000 employees worldwide working remotely from their homes, even before containment measures were decreed in many countries), we decided that MAPFRE’s values should encompass solidarity, cooperation and help for those most affected by the crisis; we are aware that we are not only talking about an obvious health emergency, but that it will also have a strong impact on economic activity and employment.
In Spain, MAPFRE and Fundación MAPFRE got down to work several weeks ago to attend to the health emergency in hospitals and residences through the donation of health material; promoting support measures for SMEs and self-employed workers, customers and suppliers, who were not going to be able to invoice during the confinement period; furthering the research into a vaccine (donating 5 million euros to the Spanish National Research Council); assisting the most vulnerable groups in society (allocating 10 million euros to actions aimed at caring for the elderly and those who are losing their jobs due to this crisis).
In addition, MAPFRE has contributed 5.7 million euros to a pioneering initiative at the international level, a sector-specific fund of 37 million euros in Spain made up of more than one hundred insurance companies, which provides collective life and hospitalization insurance for healthcare personnel who are on the front line of the fight against COVID-19.
In total, our group has mobilized more than 80 million euros in a comprehensive plan of measures, both those mentioned in Spain and in various solidarity projects in 27 other countries — mainly in Latin America —, to help alleviate the effects of the pandemic.
What lessons is the company learning from this crisis and what are the most immediate challenges you will have to face due to this situation?
The main lesson we are learning from this sudden crisis is that society was not really prepared for this in any country, not only because of the immense health emergency, but also because we are still overwhelmed by the number of deaths, infections and families affected by this pandemic and the dramatic circumstances. However, we have also discovered the feeling of unity that is generated when a society appeals to its best values: solidarity, commitment and collaboration. When everyone — citizens, companies and administrations — come together and bring out the best in each other around a common goal, society is able to overcome situations as adverse as the one we are currently experiencing.
On the other hand, at MAPFRE we have been very proud of the strength of our company; of the good governance and speed of decision making in a sudden crisis; of the enormous commitment shown by employees and collaborators to continue working remotely and serving our customers; of the extraordinary digital capabilities deployed; and, above all, of proving once again MAPFRE and Fundación MAPFRE’s sense of social responsibility and commitment to solidarity, giving priority over the past weeks to a significant range of support measures where they were most needed.
Several challenges lie ahead of us: Firstly, the health front, which is still fighting the battle to control the spread of this pandemic and which must expedite the research that will finally provide us with an effective vaccine against this virus. Secondly, a deep global recession is coming, caused by the paralysis of the economic engine in almost all the countries of the world, which will cause many people to become unemployed and many SMEs and self-employed people to close down their businesses. We will need to draw up an agenda for economic and social reconstruction that is capable of overcoming such an adverse global situation. And thirdly, this pandemic and the crisis that has arisen has revealed many structural weaknesses, realities and contradictions in society. There will be a return to normalcy, but one that is very different from the one we knew, and the world will undoubtedly change.
At MAPFRE, we do not have the specific answers, but we do know that the best framework for a company to face these challenges is responsible leadership, firm values and principles, sustainable decision-making, the search for social as well as economic dividends, cooperation and solidarity so as not to leave anyone behind. Our company, our brand, MAPFRE, is convinced that we will be able to move forward with this mission and these values.