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COVID-19 pandemic

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Beata Kozłowska – Chyła, CEO of PZU„From the operational perspective, one of the main challenges for the PZU Group in 2021 will be to build profitability in an environment of low interest rates and maintain a high level of adaptability to opportunities and threats that will appear in the economic environment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Endeavors and investments in the digital transformation area will certainly be of fundamental significance in the fight for the client’s attention and retention.”
Beata Kozłowska-Chyła, PhD Hab., President of the PZU Management Board

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[GRI 102-15, GRI 103-2, GRI 103-3]

Crisis Management Team 

The activities undertaken by the PZU Group in response to the COVID-19 threat were coordinated by the Crisis Management Team comprised of representatives of the Management Boards of PZU and PZU Życie. It was established on 25 February 2020, even before the first COVID-19 case was detected in Poland and still before the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO). Its main assignment was to ensure business continuity while applying the strictest security measures and regulatory restrictions imposed to prevent the dissemination of the disease. The frequency of meetings of the Crisis Management Team was set in response to the evolution of the pandemic. In March 2020, when the situation required the taking of frequent and swift actions, the Team met almost every day. Some decisions were forwarded as recommendations to PZU Group subsidiaries. As a result, despite the challenging situation, there were no major disruptions in any PZU Group companies associated with the continuity of operations or the provision of services.

The Crisis Management Team has decision-making power in two key aspects: organizational/legal and technical. In the exercise of its powers in the former area, procedures were adopted to enable remote work. Necessary amendments were also made to the business continuity procedures. In parallel, new regulations were devised to manage the risk of infection, based on registers of identified cases and other sources.

In the technical aspect, the Team’s powers concerned the following two areas:

  • health – ensuring the supply of additional disinfectants and protective equipment, and guaranteeing safety in all premises;
  • IT – expansion of hardware to increase the VPN limit, purchase of licenses for the use of online communicators and for software to support remote work, increasing the phone data transmission limits, equipping employees with notebooks and desktops for remote work, increasing the bandwidth of internet lines.

The Crisis Management Team also initiated various information and education activities targeted at employees. They were carried out online, using the internal newsletter or during specially organized webinars.

Outcomes of activities in the employee area

  • Remote and rotational work

The option to render remote or rotational work was introduced as early as in March 2020. It required both formal/procedural changes and the provision of necessary technological tools. Similar solutions aimed at enabling staff to work remotely were also applied in the Bank Pekao Group and the Alior Bank Group.

  • Online training

The scope of online training was extended, which allowed for continuation of professional and personal development.

  • Access to information

The electronic newsletter “PZU Alert” and information provided on the intranet enabled employees to maintain a high level of awareness about the evolution of the pandemic and the related restrictions.

  • Psychological support

A free helpline was set up for employees in need of psychological assistance. Moreover, employees were encouraged to attend webinars on the methods of dealing with the new situation.

Outcomes of activities in the client area

  • Accessibility of customer service outlets

During the subsequent waves of the pandemic, the accessibility of insurance, banking and medical facilities was maintained, while adhering to all legal limitations and sanitary restrictions associated with the spread of COVID-19. The facilities were provided with surface and hand disinfectants, masks and protective plexiglass at direct service workstations. The sales and service processes were adapted to the new requirements to ensure business continuity and, at the same time, safe customer service.

  • Facilities for claims handling

As part of the claims handling process, the option of remote inspection of apartments and vehicles via a smartphone was introduced along with the calculation of damage based on photographs and telephone calls. The Door to Door service was also launched, enabling the collection of a damaged vehicle from the client, its subsequent repair and delivery to the specified address.

  • Support for clients and business partners

Assistance was provided to clients in a difficult financial standing due to the pandemic – they were offered an option to defer the deadline for remitting a premium, spread payments over installments and even have their premium waived by PZU.
In respect of business partners and contractors, a policy of the payment of receivables within a maximum of three days was adopted.

  • Support for agents

PZU equipped its agencies with protective screens at direct service workstations, 7 thousand liters of disinfectant, 55 thousand facemasks and 168 thousand disposable gloves. Agents also obtained support in the remote sales area through the mojePZU portal.

  • Extending the magnitude of remote medical services

In April 2020, PZU Zdrowie opened its own Telemedicine Center. By the end of the year, it completed 40.5 thousand remote consultations. PZU Zdrowie also launched a program for individuals who suspect that they have caught the COVID-19 or already have a confirmed positive result of a COVID-19 test and are in home isolation. The aim of the program is to provide PZU Zdrowie’s patients with the comfort of treatment at home, the sense of safety and, if necessary, with quick help from specialists.

Outcomes of activities in the social area

      • Direct support:
        • Nearly PLN 20 million was earmarked by PZU and PZU Życie to counter the effects of the pandemic. This money was used to purchase, among other things, medical equipment for hospitals, personal protection equipment for healthcare workers, the police and the border guard.
        • Infectious disease hospitals also received nearly one thousand modern bands which remotely monitor the patients’ life parameters. The value of these devices was PLN 1 million.
        • 200 cars were funded for medical services to transport test samples from people quarantining at home. PZU’s initiative means not only help for the ill with COVID-19 but also support for small and medium enterprises, from which the insurer rents cars and the revenues of which dropped by several dozen percent during the pandemic.
        • PLN 143 thousand in financial support from the prevention fund was provided to the National Institute of Public Health – State Hygiene Department to outfit it with a diagnostic line to do lab tests on the presence of COVID-19 making it possible to shorten the waiting time for test results.
        • The PZU Group’s banks also pursued various initiatives in support of the fight against the pandemic. As part of one of the joint initiatives, employees of PZU, PZU Życie, Bank Pekao, Alior Bank and LINK4 organized a fundraiser. The companies added one Polish zloty to each Polish zloty raised by the employees. In total, nearly PLN 400 thousand was collected, with which 1,775 barrier tents were purchased.

    • Information activities:
      • Assistance lines were set up for senior citizens and medical personnel.
      • Contents published on the PZU Group’s YouTube channel in support of the #zostanwdomu (#stayathome) campaign were viewed by nearly 5 million users.
      • The information campaign encouraging remote contact with PZU reached over 6 million people.
      • The Academic Council of TUW PZUW prepared a recommendation on “how to deal with patients suspected of being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus for entities performing medical activities”, based on consultations with representatives of 30 hospitals and 5 associations specializing in the area of hospital infection control. The document was sent to all medical facilities which provide stationary and 24/7 health services.

Impact of the pandemic on the PZU Group’s business in the short and medium term [IIRC] 

The curtailment of business in a variety of industries coupled with the parallel forced transition to remote work and the mobility of consumers reduced to an absolute minimum have obviously changed the way many enterprises are run. In the insurance sector, digital transformation and the deployment of advanced technologies in products and services have definitely gained additional momentum. Remote forms of contact during the sales process, inspection and claims handling became popular quite rapidly. Many of these forms of work or communication will become permanent standards of PZU’s corporate culture. The situation caused originally by isolation and, currently, adhering to the principles of social distancing in the return to the “new normal” may also accelerate the transfer of clients from traditional to remote channels. Changes in clients’ habits, which would normally take several years, may in the current circumstances occur much faster. According to some market observers, technological progress may have accelerated by as much as a decade.

Digitization is and will continue to be of key significance for the development of the PZU Group in the new reality that has been shaped by the pandemic. The focal component of this change is the mojePZU platform, which will ultimately integrate all our products focused on the client. This will require continued digitization of sales processes and further development of remote communication methods with the clients. This modern self-service solution offers a single location for access to the PZU Group’s products and services and helps in the handling of numerous matters without the need to visit a branch or call a hotline. It is accessible from any location and at any time on personal computers and through the mobile app. At the end of 2020, the mojePZU portal served as a tool for as many as 1.6 million users. The digitization trend was also in progress in the PZU Group’s banks. The digitization of processes and the use of remote channels for communication between employees and clients have significantly accelerated also in these companies.

In the new reality, solutions based on artificial intelligence have been very successful. The artificial intelligence algorithms implemented by PZU are able to analyze photos documenting a loss, but also name a specific part of a vehicle, assess the extent of the damage and classify a part for repair or replacement. Artificial intelligence needs only 30 seconds to carry out such analysis. Moreover, the solution makes it possible to select 90% of the documentation that fulfills the requirements needed to preserve high quality of claims handling in PZU. Artificial intelligence will forward the remaining claims requiring additional expertise directly to PZU employees. By 2020, artificial intelligence solutions were applied to over 150 thousand cases.

The outbreak of the pandemic also confirmed the need to invest in robotization. In 2020, 24 business processes at PZU and PZU Życie, including 12 in the areas of foreign, subrogation and corporate claims handling, were already handled by robots. Robotization brings cost savings, robots also provide PZU with a competitive edge in the fight for the provision of better client experience.

Along with the growing trust of clients in remotely provided services, the expectations for this form of service provision have also increased. As a result, this has translated into a heavier network traffic and a greater concern for cybersecurity. In response to these concerns, in 2020 a cybersecurity audit for small and medium-sized enterprises was launched. It enables the conduct of a free and automated cybersecurity test and generation of a report with information on website vulnerabilities to cyber attacks and key cyber threats. The report also contains recommendations on possible actions to attenuate the identified threats. This not only improves the security of business clients, but also supports PZU’s sales of policies providing insurance cover against cyber risks.