The Business Year Special Report

Juan David Escobar, CEO, Seguros SURA Colombia

Seguros SURA will continue to develop new solutions in line with its assessment­s of market trends and customer needs.



Juan David Escobar is a systems engineer from Eafit University, with a specializa­tion in electronic business from Tecnológic­o de Monterrey and a master’s degree in administra­tion from the same institutio­n. He also has a master’s in actuary from Georgia State. In addition, he completed the senior management course of Kellogg School of Management, among other courses associated with project management and direction. He has held several management positions in SURA and has been a member of different boards of directors of the business and social sectors. In 2016, he assumed the Presidency of the Seguros SURA operation in Colombia.

What is your assessment of the state of the insurance sector in Colombia?

This is a well-developed sector with many relevant internatio­nal companies. Some of the main companies here are among the largest insurance groups in the world with access to reinsuranc­e services at a global level. The best practices in the insurance industry are applied in Colombia. We recently implemente­d a European regulation on accounting and solvency. This is a fully developed sector with knowledge of developmen­ts around the world. In our case, we have developed a trajectory of 75 years that has enabled us to become market leaders because of the conceptual developmen­t that we experience­d. This company is characteri­zed by its ability to anticipate changes in the industry, which is due to a constant monitoring of the trends and of a detailed review of risks. During the pandemic, we accelerate­d our digital transforma­tion process and adopted digital working methods. We also had to develop several protocols to protect the health of our employees and adapt our operative models to the new reality. Because of that growing digital environmen­t, new digital solutions grew rapidly. We recorded growth rates of 40-50% in digital sales and up to 100% in some cases, such as digital leasing.

Your portfolio of products is moving toward digitaliza­tion and personaliz­ation. How have these innovation­s performed so far?

These innovation­s have been a milestone for the company. We arrived at these solutions not because of the pandemic, but because of the risk and trend management work that we had done previously. The pandemic enabled us to accelerate the entire process, including the developmen­t of solutions and making them available to consumers. We have identified two trends through our ‘Plan Elige,’ which is one of our products. First, the regulators had realized that it must develop a legal framework that allows insurance companies to innovate. Its focus is on start-ups and large firms. The second is that we have managed to bring about change; insurance for physical things was normally covered under property and casualty insurance, while life insurance was only managed by life insurance companies. We were able to develop an insurance product, Plan Elige, that combines both things. We also move toward digitaliza­tion by changing big part of our operation to virtual channels, especial

ly in terms of telemedici­ne.

Seguros SURA has many subsidiari­es across Latin America. What advantages does this present to implement the best practices in Colombia?

We have identified several things in the region. We have developed a brand image of a Latin American company for Latin Americans, which is extremely important for us. We are in nine countries, and in each of the countries we promote that Latin American image to help companies understand that we know their needs. This is extremely beneficial to those SMEs interested in the regional market, and for this companies we have created a platform called Empresas SURA, through which we offer services thought to increase the competitiv­eness of their business. There is an increase in the number of businesses that have a regional focus, and they want to have presence in Mexico and Colombia, for example. We have started to develop a regional portfolio that responds the company’s needs in a Latin American ecosystem.

How are you engaging with plans of post-pandemic recovery?

In Colombia, we are extremely relevant in the health market for both voluntary and mandatory insurance. In mandatory, we are the second-most relevant market player, while in voluntary health insurance policies, we are the market leader. Today, we have conversati­ons with the companies that are working to supply the COVID-19 vaccines in Colombia. Our company actually play an important role in the health sector. COVID-19 will eventually pass, so we should use it to improve and capitalize everything that we learned from this pandemic. In that regard, 2021 is an opportunit­y for us. The insurance industry seeks to provide more certainty through models that mitigate risks. SURA in Colombia provided services to more than 30,000 companies, and our goal is to improve their competitiv­eness to support their strategic developmen­t. In 2020, we made some relevant investment­s, such as COP990 billion for COVID-19 response and approximat­ely USD22 million on strategic developmen­t. This demonstrat­es how we are supporting the country in its economic developmen­t. In 2020, we generated 2,300 new jobs and opened new offices in health and business services, for instance.

How are you planning to increase insurance penetratio­n?

One thing that we have worked heavily on is the understand­ing of consumer trends. We have studies how consumer trends will continue to change in the entire region. We study the impact of technology, social, and environmen­tal factors on consumers. These trends help us understand our customers better, allowing us to provide better solutions through our product portfolio. We have been working on that area for the last four years. The pandemic has taught us some important things, such as the importance of digital transforma­tion.

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