PROTECTING MILLIONS OF WORKERS

Spain 2020 | FINANCE | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Vicente Aparicio, Managing Director of Asepeyo, on the labor force, digital transformation, and exoskeleton technology.

How has the evolution of the company been?

Asepeyo is the number-one mutual insurance company in Catalonia and the second nationally. Considering the country is emerging from a difficult period that began with the 2008 financial crisis, we are doing well. Furthermore, as mutuals, we never stop being business associations as we collaborate with companies that protect their workers with us. When companies encounter problems, as was the case in the financial crash, we too have problems. If companies have to reduce the number of workers, then the total volume of workers we insure or protect falls. We had 2.3 million workers, and that number fell to around 1.65 million. All the mutuals lost in proportion to their respective market share, which is noticeable. Since 2013, the economy in Spain has been recovering, and now we are back to pre-crisis income levels.

The volume of workers Asepeyo represents is growing; in 2018, it increased by 3.3%. What is your strategy to continue this growth?

The strategy is based on our service, as we have several limitations when it comes to increasing our activity. For example, we cannot legally carry out commercial activity by attracting companies. Therefore, if we want to be attractive, it must has to be based on our reputation and services. We seek to meet companies' requirements so that they know they can rest assured with us. What is more, we are always looking to improve our facilities, healthcare, and human capital because we see the potential in the person-to-person recommendation. If, unfortunately, a worker has an accident at work and comes to our facilities, he must leave satisfied with how we received and treated him.

This service differentiates Asepeyo from many others in the market, and a large part of this has to do with the professionalism of its employees. Companies in the health sector often complain it is difficult to retain talent in Spain. How does Asepeyo deal with this?

Currently, Spain and the healthcare system are experiencing difficulty in the retention of healthcare personnel. Doctors and nurses are seeking permission from professional associations to go abroad because European countries value professionals trained in Spain, further complicating matters. We can retain these personnel by providing resources, means, and growth capacity. Perhaps it is not about earning more but offering a habitat where they can develop. Not long ago, for example, an extremely talented physiotherapist came to work for us, not to earn more, but because here he can innovate, create, and put into practice ideas that do not have resources in public health sector. We are also public health, though we have a capacity for adaptation and availability that has enabled our professionals to carry out these innovations. These are the things we try to encourage.

What is your perspective on the importance of having strong spirit of innovation here and how fundamental is it for the future of all sectors?

It is not just Asepeyo, our competition is also doing it. On the health issue, we have put an MRI of three Teslas in Coslada, which few hospitals in Spain have, much to the delight of our traumatologists. Thus far, we have renovated 12 centers in 12 years. The center in Girona went from being 800sqm to 2,400sqm, and we have equipped it with everything. There is a 2,000sqm center where we will dedicate 1,000sqm to physiotherapy. It will have a gym so that all patients of the city can come to a single center with all the physiotherapists and a specialist. We are trying to strengthen health because it is not just our goal, but an obligation. In doing so, we put professionals in close proximity where they can share experiences and knowledge among themselves. Furthermore, we have collaborated with companies working in virtual reality. Every year there are more than 80,000 accidents, about 13% of which are traffic accidents. We acquired four driving simulators where people drive while our technician places obstacles in the way, which is significantly more effective in raising awareness in prevention. The key is to raise awareness because we have a minimum capacity to act in prevention. We tackle the issue from a social security point of view. Companies are delighted with this proposal because we give them a product that they have never had. Now, we are also looking to use drones for risk prevention.

What is Asepeyo's main objective for 2020?

We have several objectives. If we want to do things, we need to grow. However, we can only grow within the standards in place. The objective is to continue in our line of transformation, continue evolving in the healthcare sphere, and continue improving our facilities. We have to complete the digital transformation in which we are now at 30%. We have developed applications of all kinds, such as one for companies for injured workers to communicate with one another. Our strategic plan ends in 2020, by which time we hope to have finalized these processes and build a new plan that will be partly conditional on the current plan. We have many challenges, but improving an injured person's home and lifestyle is a priority. We can help 6,000 people a year, and EUR13 million can be distributed among all these people to help them with their problems when they have an accident at work. This is extremely important, and the truth is that we are advanced. We have sports activities that mean the world to them. In winter we take them skiing, in summer swimming, riding bicycles and horses, and even flying. At the hospital in Madrid, we have launched and adapted the exoskeleton that was created as an experiment by the US and Israeli army. We rented the exoskeleton and have it in the hospital where we are working to evolve it. A patient who was in a wheelchair for 30 years was able to walk using the exoskeleton, which means another life for that patient when he leaves the hospital. Furthermore, we connect the people that were injured. In Madrid, we recently gathered around 90 invalids with their caregivers and spent a whole day explaining new techniques and problem solving, for example through sexual therapy. We have even received invalids from other mutuals because this program does not exist elsewhere. Recently a group did the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, and I went with them. In this way, these people can create bonds and long-lasting relationships. Everyone should understand that this helps improve their quality of life significantly.