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Reinsurer Swiss Re to increase headcount at Bengaluru tech centre by a third

Reinsurer Swiss Re to increase headcount at Bengaluru tech centre by a third
Amit Kalra, managing director and head of global services at Bengaluru, Swiss Re

Zurich-headquartered reinsurance major Swiss Re will increase its Bengaluru technology centre's headcount to 1,500 by 2021 with an addition of up to 400 people, a top company official told TechCircle. With this, the centre will account for 10% of the company’s overall headcount.

The 155-year company's global business solutions’ centre was established in 2001 as an operations centre, which has now turned into a microcosm of the Swiss Re Group and its functions, said Amit Kalra, managing director and head of global services, Bengaluru, Swiss Re.

"We have all the specialised functions cutting across the entire value chain. Increasingly, we are driving data science, analytics and innovation from here. We run specialised functions and have expanded in scope with more ownership for our products and solutions with our Bengaluru centre employees," Kalra said.

The functions carried out at the centre include actuarial, underwriting, risk management, finance, technical accounting, claims and technology, he said, adding that the centre has now evolved to leverage the benefits of cross-functions that are present at the Bengaluru office.

According to him, when it comes to technology, the firm likes to keep the core intellectual property within its global capability centres. (A global capability centre is an insourced, employee-based alternative to the traditional outsourced information technology services.) "As we build our data science capability connected with the business domain, I see strong potential in the Bengaluru centre. The ability to leverage structured and unstructured data to understand risk will be key for the sector," Kalra said.

The $34 billion firm provides reinsurance, insurance in property, casualty and health, and works through brokers and reinsurance underwriters to develop reinsurance programmes for its clients. The Swiss Re Group already has such facilities globally in Zurich, London, New York and Bratislava (capital of Slovakia). 

Increasingly, the financial industry is facing the threat of disruption from nimble startups such as those in the payments space. Kalra said that innovations have been happening in some areas of the sector. However, he added that since the sector is one of the highly regulated ones, it will see traditional and new players cooperating rather than competing with each other.

"We see a lot more areas where innovations can still happen and will not be at a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) level. The areas include how can we better understand the risk like cyber risk or autonomous driving and how it will impact motor vehicle insurance or liability insurance. The entire value chains could be disrupted soon," Kalra said.

In 2016, the company had partnered with Barclays Rise and the Alchemist Accelerator, to select Bengaluru to launch its first corporate accelerator, which the company has now turned into an open innovation programme, where it works with insure-tech startups all year round rather than in batches.

"We are looking at global business problems and trying to solve those by working with the technology ecosystem of India and we have worked with around 12 startups. We have also managed to launch an insurance product while working with the startup," Kalra said.

The startups that worked with Swiss Re for its earlier accelerator programme include Arya.ai, eKincare, GOQii and Niki.ai.

Many large companies are increasingly setting up their own innovation and technology centres like Swiss Re. Other large global financial services firms like Goldman Sachs, Standard Chartered, Societe Generale have such centres in India.

A fortnight ago, TechCircle had reported that Dubai-based Mashreq Bank will increase its India research and development (R&D) headcount by two-thirds by the end of this year to 1,000 employees.   

Earlier this month, a Nasscom-Zinnov report said that global capability centres run by large multinationals in India generated $28.3 billion in value for the financial year ended March 2019, up from $19.4 billion for 2014-15.

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