Ethias goes in search of nuggets of finance and insurance

The public insurance company is launching venture capital with a new fund: Ethias Ventures. Provided with 20 million euros, the vehicle aims to promote the growth of young Belgian nuggets in finance and insurance. And thereby fill a void.

Ethias Ventures, equipped with around 20 million euros for its debut, aims to be a key element of the insurance company’s growth strategy in the future. Born from a reflection of just over two years, the new investment fund intends to select and support young technological gold nuggets in the world of finance (fintech) and insurance (insurtech) in the flat country, and even among our neighbors, towards new horizons. One aid of around one million euros per case is planned, with the acquisition of both majority and minority shares.

“We aim for around four to five investments per year“, informs Joris Laenen, chief investment & life officer, met in Brussels. “The idea is to allow start-up companies that have already a product to showto move into the growth phase on the one hand, while in the process gaining access to complementary technological solutions to offer our customers (almost 1.2 million individuals to more than 46,000 professionals, editor’s note) d ‘on the other side’, engages Nicolas Dumazy, Chief Strategy & Data Officer and President of Ethias Ventures.

“It’s a win-win between supporting its growth for a start-up and opening us up to complementary technologies to offer our customers.”

Nicolas Dumazy

President of Ethias Ventures

To support vehicle activity, the third largest life and non-life insurance company on the Belgian market will be able to count on a team consisting of three innovation managers and a corporate finance specialist. In addition, Ethias Ventures will of course be able to rely onexpertise from the entire Ethias groupwhich, in addition to the core insurance business, includes the IT service provider NRBthe 100% digital insurance company Florathe consulting firm Ethia Servicesthe pension fund with several employers Ethia’s Pension Fundas well as 24/7 assistance service Ima Benelux.

Although no investments have been announced yet, some are 50 cases are already being analyzed internally, the team says. A number that will increase quickly: the insurance company indicates that it organizes a “pitch day” on 15 Februaryof which five projects will be selected for close discussion.

Background trend

Ethias is not the only player to have plunged into the “corporate venturing” niche.

Large structures make start-ups their new innovation center. A booming phenomenon, but not without risks.

Note, Ethias is not not the only actor to be engulfed in the niche of what is more commonly called “corporate venture“, in the jargon. Other large Belgian companies also have a venture capital department: Solvay (Solvay Ventures), Bekaert (Bekaert Venturing), UCB (UCB Ventures), AB InBev (ZX Ventures) or the global pipe giant Aliaksi (Aliaxis Ventures) are some examples. According to an initial survey on the topic by Roland Berger, 45% of Bel 20 companies had made this practice their daily practice in 2019.

“Until now, none of the funds that exist exclusively over fintechs and insurtechs had Belgium as their main area of ​​activity.”

Joris Laenen

Chief Investment & Life Officer

regarding support for fintechs and insurtechshowever, it should be noted thatnone of the funds existed until now on this theme alone had for main activity area Belgium“, says Joris Laenen. In order for the flat country to be the first playground, it is actually necessary to turn to players who cover fintech, of course, but not only. We are thinking here especially of Smartfin Capital, which was born approx. including the pioneer of the fintech scene Jürgen Ingels, and whose second vehicle is equipped with around 240 million euros from entrepreneurs such as Jonas Dhaenens (Combell), Jan Toye (ex-Palm), Jos Sluys (ex-Arinso), Jan De Clerck ( Domo Investment Group) and Marc Coucke (Alychlo).

Furthermore, the other initiatives that exist around the insurance and financial sectors are more dependent on more mature companies. We can cite here the Belgian investment fund Ergon Capital, born in the lap of GBL, which got its hands on one of the largest independent insurance brokers in Belgium, Allia, in November with the idea of ​​playing one in the current wave. consolidation in the market.

What is corporate venturing?

Traditionally, corporate venturing involved an established company taking an equity stake in a start-up. Originating in the 1950s, this practice had only one economic purpose.

In recent years, the majority of companies that embark on the adventure have chosen other forms of cooperation: purchase of products or services, collaboration on an innovation, allocation of benefits (offices, infrastructure, etc.). Then we witness the birth of a true partnership around a common strategic goal: to survive.

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