4 min read

Transforming Horizon Scanning at Ageas started with Gilke Eeckhoudt in 2019

In a business landscape where foresight is as crucial as execution, Trensition stands at the forefront of empowering organizations with strategic intelligence.

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December 15, 2023
4 min read

We had the privilege of interviewing Gilke Eeckhoudt in 2020. At that time, she was the Strategy and Corporate Affairs Director for the international insurer Ageas. Today, she holds the position of Chief Development & Sustainability Officer at the company. Gilke's professional journey from her previous role to her current one speaks to her exceptional strategic abilities and her adeptness in navigating complex market challenges. In our interview, we explored Ageas's innovative Horizon Scanning approaches, which leverage our TrendTracker platform. We focused on their forward-thinking "Think 2030" initiative and their willingness to embrace uncertainty as a strategic asset.

We are bringing attention to this interview once again because it highlights the visionary idea put forth in 2019 to partner with an AI-powered strategic intelligence startup for strategic foresight or long-term thinking. This conversation provides valuable insight into how Ageas aims to incorporate long-term thinking into the core of their company and how they effectively use a combination of AI and human intelligence to navigate the constantly evolving insurance industry. This approach allows Ageas to shape its strategy and direction for the future actively.

It's a compelling story of transformation, a startup/corporate collaboration, and foresight, highlighting the significant impact of our AI-powered trend research and strategic intelligence tools in driving business success. Gilke's experiences offer invaluable lessons and inspiration for C-suite executives, strategists, and innovators aiming to stay ahead in a competitive global market.

What was your role within Ageas?

As Strategy and Corporate Affairs Director at international insurer Ageas, I challenged and influenced the Group's current and future decision-making by analyzing trends, key business drivers, and changing industry dynamics. I led a group-wide think tank "Think 2030", to research and analyze different scenarios over a long-term horizon.

Why is Ageas thinking about the future in 2030, and how important is this to the company?

Our industry is facing enormous change in the coming decade. It is not a case of whether our world will change but, more importantly, when and how. Anticipating that change and helping Ageas prepare to be future-proof is central to my role.

Read: Pushing Boundaries in Insurance: The Ageas Group Way

What is, according to you, of key importance in this exercise?

Delivering a quantitative approach based on huge volumes of data and use cases sourced through artificial intelligence was magic. With so many possibilities, probabilities, and grey zones to consider, this exercise clarified the current and potential impact of trends and the speed of adoption. I can now share intelligence with the entire organization - not just as a "nice to have," but as an essential guide for prioritizing, flagging alerts, and knowing what to (not) look at.

Since you started leading the Think 2030 exercise, what have you changed and why?

By combining human input and AI, we can more confidently question and validate our own assumptions based on real scale. The new process allows us to dig much deeper than previously possible and across a broader spectrum. As a result, we have a much richer, multifaceted view of the world, helping steer our priorities and influence our decision-making.

What are your key takeaways for other organizations trying to do the same? What are the main points of attention?

Be open to anything and everything, and use what you learn to drive the right debates at the right times. None of us can predict the future, so don't make that the goal, but embrace the combination of human and AI to make the uncertain future less uncertain. Use this as an opportunity to explore different possible routes and to listen to different points of view.

This will ultimately lead to more adaptability of your people and better decision-making for the long-term future. Strategy is everyone's job, and every individual inside the organization contributes to the future success of the business.

If you could describe Trensition in three words, what would they be?


How did you meet Trensition?

We met Trensition via imec.istart, a Flemish business acceleration program to support tech start-ups with coaching, facilities, and funding. Our Belgian subsidiary AG is part of imec.istart's partner network. It was the right time and right place.

Read: Trensition's Moonshot Thinking: Making the Future Less Uncertain

What is Trensition adding that is valuable to you?

The Trensition results help us filter and cross-check our internal assumptions, adding necessary scale and proof points to the exercise. It is hard to filter out the most impactful trends based on our thinking due to a natural cognitive bias. Our collaboration results in a more dynamic, quantitative, and practical process, including tangible steps to translate all the learnings into actual actions for our businesses.

Why did you work with a start-up instead of the typical strategy consultants?

We were not looking for consultants, but searching for the new and the unexplored, and then we met Trensition. That's not to say we don't digest reports from prominent strategy consultants as part of our source material. But with Trensition, there is a mutual interest in learning together, an entrepreneurial spirit to create on the go, a passion for discovering new insights, and a willingness to adapt and adjust to Ageas's specific position and audience. So, no cookie-cutter approach.

How do you perceive the collaboration with Trensition?

As precisely that: a genuine collaboration that helps us to go further with partners who are not afraid to challenge us and to be challenged in return. We benefit greatly from an outside view, yet we're all on the same team. It is an exciting process of co-creation, which is very much solutions and results-driven. As a Group that counts "working in partnership" as one of its core strengths, we know just how important that is.

Would you recommend their services to other organizations and why?

Absolutely. We all need to be challenged in the right way, which is an important role that Trensition plays. They don't replace human creativity and the analytic work that happens naturally inside the company, but they augment and objectify our thinking and ability to define actions and the next steps. We gained a more confident picture of Ageas's preparedness for the future – where to act and when. Their enthusiasm and hands-on style of working make the process exciting and productive.

Disclaimer: This interview was conducted on February 27, 2020. Please note that some aspects of the discussion, particularly those related to specific roles and market conditions, may have evolved since the time of the interview. Additionally, the content has undergone light editing for clarity and coherence.

Strategic Intelligence