Dec. 4, 2020

Juan Carlos Realphe


Juan Carlos Realphe

CEO Zurich, Colombia

“The insurance sector is due for a digital transformation. The pandemic and lockdowns have made the switch even more urgent.”


Juan Carlos Realphe has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance industry. He is currently CEO at Zurich Colombia, a position he has held since October 2019. Prior to joining Zurich, he was General Manager for Lloyd's Colombia. He also held different leadership roles at Willis Colombia and VP for Mapfre General Insurance for around eight years, where he joined as head of property. He started his career at Colseguros Insurance in Allianz Group, where he had various roles.

In what ways have Zurich's operations in Colombia adapted to the pandemic, and what opportunities came with 2020?

The industry has demonstrated it was prepared for remote work, though this is not enough. Customers expect more, and the time has come for us to step up. We must be able to make ourselves more present, closer, and tangible. We must also offer our clients and intermediaries new products, tools, and communication channels to make our business more efficient. It is not just about being digital, but also about the way we are seeing the future, which is already here. We have consolidated our value proposition for the corporate market and decided to step ahead and enter the retail and affinity markets with an innovative and digital value proposition. There are tools, services, and products that makes us different. We have to deliver new experiences and compete with the future.

To what extent has the pandemic made Colombians recognize the necessity of being protected and insured?

Insurance penetration in Colombia, as in the region, is too low, measuring 2.9% of GDP. The insurance gap is the result of several causes such as culture, per capita income, financial inclusion, education, and accessibility to products. It affects society, the economy, and government. Each time natural disasters occur, requests for insurance protection grow, though only for a short period of time. The current crisis could be different. Protection interest for life and health have shown a positive trend, though the big question is how it will evolve in the coming months. I hope people realize the necessity of being protected and insured.

This year has forced many businesses to accelerate a digital switch. How do you assess this digital development?

The insurance sector is due for a digital transformation. The pandemic and lockdowns have made the switch even more urgent. We have a big responsibility with our agents and agencies, as well as with clients, and we have to support and walk this digitization path with them in order to grow in knowledge, experience and capabilities together. This is the only way to be successful in this journey.

Zurich recently launched two digital products, Zurich Mov and Zurich Cree. What do these products provide for customers?

Zurich Mov is an automobile product, and Zurich Cree is a Pyme product. These products provide our intermediaries and customers with an end-to-end digital solution, from the quotation process to the claims payment. Furthermore, in the case of Zurich Mov, we are delivering innovation to the market. This is a mobility solution, designed for the individual more than for the vehicle. It means the product also covers the general liability and personal accidents when the insured commutes by bicycle, scooter, or public transport service. It can even include bicycles and/or scooters if needed. It is a real tailor-made, modular offering. Customers can purchase the insurance on a “first lose” basis for certain coverages. Other than that, and based on the Zurich principles, we are breaking paradigms. We decided not to cover the damages of the insured vehicle if the individual insured is driving under the effects of drugs or alcohol, though we do cover third-party damages. This is in line with our corporate social responsibility. We launched this product in May 2020, when no other insurance company had a similar offering for a motor product yet. We must be able to deliver digitization, innovation, new value propositions, and new experiences for customers and intermediaries. Zurich is spurring the Colombian insurance market to evolve.

What is the potential for the development of insurtech solutions in Colombia?

Insurtechs have been part of the answer, and it is clear we need to support them. We are an open-minded industry and recognize opportunities everywhere.

With the acceleration of digitalization, cybersecurity is becoming even-more important. What services does Zurich offer to protect against cyber threats?

Zurich has always led innovation in the sector. The company is recognized as a specialized insurer for financial lines and a product designer with own capacities for those lines of businesses. Cyber is no exception. In 2020, Zurich launched Zurich Cyber Solution, a risk management solution and a risk prevention tool. It is not just a new product, but a way to become closer to clients and support them through services with added value.

How do you assess the state of the insurance sector in Colombia, and what is Zurich's role within it?

Colombia is a technical and developed industry; it is known across the region for the high quality of its professionals, the presence of the main international players, and a large and professional domestic ecosystem. It is a competitive and solid market. The entire sector must work against the low insurance penetration by providing new solutions and products. The industry should also continue to work on digitalization and support intermediaries in this path, delivering innovation in products, solutions, and tools will sustain trusted relationships with customers. Zurich's role is contributing as a relevant actor within the market.

How important is Colombia to Zurich's portfolio?

This is one of my biggest challenges. Zurich Colombia was a greenfield operation that started five years ago. Today, the company requires a different size. Being a USD84-million (GWP) insurance company in 2020, we have two main objectives: becoming a USD250 million (GWP) insurance company in 2024 and being one of the top five companies in Colombia by preference for quality of services and confidence among our clients, brokers, and agents. Colombia is extremely important within Zurich's strategy for the region. We are the second-largest international insurance company in LatAm, and our plan is to consolidate and strengthen this position.