For some, being prepared for Oktoberfest means downloading an app that points you to the nearest restroom or helps you decipher Bavarian dialect. A novelty at this year’s event is an online casualty insurance with 50,000 euros ($63,500) in accident cover.
Munich insurer Die Bayerische is selling the one-day policy for 5.99 euros, less than the price of a liter (0.26 gallon) of beer at the two-week festival that has become synonymous with the Bavarian capital. The offer, which can be purchased on its app and covers injuries suffered under the influence of alcohol, is a “test to see how this is being accepted as a sales channel,” said spokesman Wolfgang Zdral.
Provinzial Rheinland, based in Dusseldorf, sold a similar warranty earlier in the year to visitors of Karneval, the pre-Lenten celebration in which revelers dress up in costume and parade through the streets of Cologne and Dusseldorf, charging 9.70 euros for a week. As the Internet and mobile phones displace traditional platforms for selling insurance in the U.S. and the U.K., German companies are only now waking up to the digital age.
Allianz SE (ALV), Europe’s biggest insurer, introduced an online car insurance last week named “Mein Auto digital+” that costs the same whether it’s bought over the Internet or through a broker, and can be managed on the insurer’s website, according to a statement by the company.
Photographer: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
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“The better we are on the Web, the more our customers will be happy,” said Markus Riess, who heads Allianz’s business in Germany.
The 124-year-old insurer has tried various ways to sell coverage through the Internet. It halted a first attempt with a unit named “Allianz 24” in 2009 after tied affiliated agents complained that using the Allianz brand would lure too many customers away from the traditional product. The company has since re-introduced the offer under the AllSecur brand.
The competitive landscape is changing. Twenty years ago almost all contracts in Germany were sold by insurance brokers. Today, only about half are sold through traditional channels, according to Allianz. One in two customers either buy their coverage directly online or seek information about it on the Internet before going to their broker, the insurer said.
Allianz is spending as much as 80 million euros over three years through 2016 on ways for its 8,600-strong German sales force to make more use of the Internet as new competitors surface in its home market, Europe’s third-biggest as measured by premium income.
Earlier in September, it revamped its website and product offering to facilitate Internet-based sales and offer customers its complete set of policies.
Alongside the Mein Auto digital+ product, Allianz also sells motor policies through its AllSecur arm, which competes with direct insurance offshoots such as Ergo Direkt, a unit of Munich Re’s primary insurance division, and HUK24, owned by HUK-Coburg. HUK is Germany’s biggest motor insurer by number of customers.
Dusseldorf-based startup SituatiVe, which offers policies including the Oktoberfest cover through a smartphone app, has sold more than 10,000 contracts since it began doing business two years ago, said founder Lennart Wulff.
“Our current top-selling product is a short-term insurance policy for additional drivers that aren’t covered by a customer’s existing policy,” Wulff said in a Sept. 24 interview.
Portals that offer tariff comparison over the Internet such as Check24 or Verivox are seeing an increase in policy sales.
Munich-based Check24 sold 700,000 motor insurance policies in the fiscal year ending in March 2014 compared with 620,000 a year ago, according to spokeswoman Eva Kollmann. Verivox, based in Heidelberg, sold motor policies in the “lower five-digit range” last year and aims to triple this with the help of a new comparison tool this year, spokesman Toralf Richter said.
Even as newcomers enter the market, Germans remain skeptical of online financial products. Only 12 percent of mobile phone users in Germany use apps offered by insurers, according to a survey by Steria Mummert Consulting AG, a Hamburg-based consulting company with a focus on information technology services.
Most insurance apps, including those from Allianz, merely provide general information, tariff calculators and emergency contacts. The same goes for purchases made on the Internet, where offers are typically limited to simple products such as motor and liability insurance. The majority of Germany’s 470 insurers don’t yet sell products through their own website.
Still, about 60 percent of insurance customers in Germany see the Internet as the most important way of interacting with their carrier, according to a 2012 study conducted by management consultancy Bain & Co. Inc. About 72 percent said that personal consulting is important to them.
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