'Innovative technologies are increasingly at the heart of the business'

Vijai Ramcharan -
​​​​​​​Innovation Architect

Techie at heart

'As an 11 year-old in the 1980s, my older brother took me on a trip to the V&D store, where there was a Commodore computer. My brother showed me how to write a simple computer program. At the end, your name appeared on the screen in a form of animation. It was amazing. The feeling of creating something was really cool.’

‘You could say that I’ve been a techie at heart from a young age. As an Innovation Architect at NN, I now work on technical innovations consistent with a business in transformation. We use state-of-the-art tools to create our applications, the kind that start-ups also use. These tools include AWS Lambda, Serverless computing, Node.js, GraphQL, TypeScript, React, React Native.’

Future business models

‘‘NN has long been a traditional insurance company. But our world is changing rapidly and we need to change with it. Us techies were made for this changing world. Because we can’t live in a rigid environment. That’s why we’re constantly working on innovating our products at NN. We call this the Horizon 1 projects (from the McKinsey Three Horizons Model). But with our innovation team, we’re focussing much more on Horizon 3 projects: future business models that mean we stay relevant for our customers. In some models you’d scarcely recognise the financial services provider. A typical example of a Horizon 3 project is Brickler. This is a new online platform in the Dutch residential market in which we combine our knowledge of the residential sector with our digital expertise and smart algorithms.’

‘In between, you’ve got the Horizon 2 projects. These are existing insurance products with advanced technology such as the Internet of Things. I think Bundelz is a great example of this. Bundelz is a pre-paid motor insurance policy. Our customers play a premium based on the actual number of kilometres they drive. A dongle placed in your vehicle counts the kilometres.’

Tech company in the making

‘NN is transforming into a tech company where innovative technologies and software development are increasingly at the heart of the business, Our team has been up and running for a year now. We’re trying to empathise with the business as best we can, which means that we are constantly listening and helping. Google says: Focus on the user and all else will follow. I really believe in this kind of mindset. If you don’t have this mindset as a techie, you won’t get anywhere as a business. So, if you’re good at empathising it’s easier to work together and achieve together. That inspires me hugely. After all, we want to do the work that really matters. It’s the kind of work that means we’re not only helping our customers, but also the person behind the customer. The great thing is that you can be yourself while doing it.’

My family is the driving force in my life

‘My wife Sharmila and I have been together for 20 years. Four years ago, we became parents to our son Jayce. I’m so proud of him. My family is the driving force in my life. We love life, enjoy great food and travelling to far-flung destinations, such as Asia or the Caribbean. We discover the local culture in these places, which helps to broaden our horizons and question how we think about things.  That’s something I’d like to give my son. My health is also very important to me, so I love to work out. We’ve set up a home gym with a cross trainer, home trainer, dumbbells and a pull-up bar. It’s how I keep fit.’

‘NN really focuses on the person behind the employee. Home and work life essentially overlap. In fact, I’d say that my roles as innovation architect, father and husband enhance one another. The people I work with are more like family to me than colleagues. I can talk about my personal life in the same way as I can read an article about engineering at home. If I can also do that in an environment that puts the customer first and in which I can truly reflect on the future of our business, you can say that NN feels like home to me.’


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