Innovation Gangnam Style. What Open Innovation Is Really About

Innovation Gangnam Style. What Open Innovation Is Really About

Written by Roger Peverelli and Reggy de Feniks - Founders The DIA Community on 18 Mar, 2021


When we discuss innovation in Asia, or the rise of ecosystem thinking, we immediately think of what takes place in China, Japan and Southeast Asia. When Roger visited Korea, just before we all had to stop traveling, he not only met a vibrant insurtech community but also experienced that ecosystem thinking is at the core of the large Korean corporations.

Now, a year later, he sat down with Richard Moon, the Head of Open Innovation Division at Hanwha Life, at DreamPlus in the famous Gangnam district, to discuss the importance of ecosystems and open innovation for the future of insurance.

When we met last year, I wasn’t only astonished by ‘Innovation Gangnam Style’, but also by the size and the diversity of all the activities of Hanwha. Hanwha is not just insurance; their businesses also range from chemicals to aerospace. Hanwha’s construction division is building the largest dome in the world, and even an entire city. And Hanwha also owns theme parks. So, can you tell me a bit more about what ties the group together.

“Hanwha Group is one of the well-known Korean conglomerates. Yes, our businesses span from manufacturing and energy to leisure and service, and the financial industry. We also have quite a range of leisure and service businesses, including golf club resorts, hotels and department stores.  Although they are different businesses, the opportunities for synergies are abundant. When we develop a solar farm, Hanwha Life is able to participate as a financial investor.  Also, when Hanwha Life would like to provide, for example, lifestyle services to our customers, we can work with our hotel or leisure services and create a more or less holistic lifestyle service.”

When we met in Seoul, you told me that during your career, you worked across different divisions within Hanwha …

“Yes. indeed. Whenever I introduce Hanwha Group, it reminds me of my whole career in Hanwha group. I started my career at Hanwha Corporation, which is manufacturing commercial explosives for construction. Then I worked for Hanwha Systems, which is information technology, integrated services. Since I joined Hanwha Life, I have worked in alternative investment and at overseas offices. I came back to Korea in 2011 and have been looking after open innovation since.”

Looking at your career I can imagine that cross-border thinking, thinking beyond the boundaries of insurance, is part of your DNA and it so much fits with Open Innovation …

“Probably, yes. I'm fortunate to be in a position which allows me to leverage a broad background, in manufacturing, IT services and the financial industry. If you have experience in different industries, it is much easier to communicate with companies who work in these verticals. Whenever we meet potential partners to develop collaboration ideas, we need unlimited imagination. My diverse experience made me possible to communicate with potential partners and relate their business to ours. Leveraging all my experience in several subsidiaries within Hanwha Group, as the Head of Hanwha’s Life Open Innovation Division, I want to develop new business by converging different technologies and ideas. My overarching vision is to innovate our insurance businesses to a lifestyle solution provider.”

Really like that broader perspective! I think it really taps into the customer needs of the future. Now, what we see is, that many companies are exploring Open Innovation, but also that they find it very difficult to make it part of the way of working. So, what are, in your view the success factors of Open Innovation?

“Firstly, you need a really strong internal commitment to innovation. If you don't have that kind of commitment, it is impossible to move forward. The second success factor is that you need to build up trust over a long time. The Hanwha Group's two core values are trust and loyalty. Whenever we make a business decision, we consider whether it would improve or harm the trust people have in us.
This level of trust is essential if you want to work with external partners. Here in Korea that s even more important. Other conglomerates, like Samsung and Hyundai Motors, not only have businesses like electronics and car manufacturing; Samsung is also active in life insurance and Hyundai is also in securities. So, a conglomerate is not only an attractive partner, but also a potential competitor to others. Having said that, we made it possible for all to work together under our DreamPlus initiative thanks to our group’s core values; trust and loyalty.”

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