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‘Cyprus can make the shift to software development, advanced technology’ — Universal Life CEO

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“Cyprus has the capability to make the shift to a kind of Fourth Industrial Revolution orientation. A lot of emphasis in the past has been on things like accounting services, legal services, and that stems very much from the school system, the career  advisors, ones parents and the overall environment. In fact, Cyprus can refocus on technology, software development – advanced technology. I think Cyprus today has the capability to make that shift,” says Evan Gavas, CEO of insurer Universal Life, where he is implementing a
substantial digital transformation.

“We need to have jobs for those who, like myself, studied engineering or software development or
any branch of high tech. There might actually appear to be a relatively large portion graduates
who study engineering, but it’s a matter of what jobs are available after that. And so people will
tend to shift into other industries.

 

The problem is that we’ve not built an ecosystem here, per se. There’s just the start of that, when
it comes to software development. For example, the forex sector has actually become quite
large in Cyprus. And that requires a lot of technology related support. It has also attracted
technology companies from Israel and potentially Eastern Europe to come and set up, which are drawing resources, locally. So, you can see that there’s potential to build on that in my view.

Beyond technology is the need for innovation, Gavas points out, and how to encourage it.
“Diversity for me is a very important element in driving creativity – diversity of age, culture,
race and back- ground.

In this, Cyprus is at a disadvantage, because we Cypriots are somewhat homogenous in culture
and ethnic background, not to mention that senior executives in Cyprus tend to come from the same
age group. It’s important for businesses here to make the effort to create more diverse
workplaces.

On the other hand, I think one advantage we have is that we’re very much an open, knowledge-based
society. We are quite prolific in terms of higher education, we’ve got a lot of good universities.
And we have quite a large knowledge or services sector, which has been built up.

Digital transformation at Universal life is fundamental to Gavas’s strategy. “Insurance is a
business that depends on technology. Customers want to access their information online, to conduct
transactions on- line, and much more. One of the first things I did when I joined Universal Life
was to create an independent unit for digital transformation, so that they could work with to discover the best way forward.”

Gavas is not finding resistance to digital transformation, but he is finding that much knowhow
has to be shared.

“Cyprus insurers are still lagging in connecting the dots in digital transformation. We are
starting to use customer analytics, and we are providing digital services, but creating that
single customer focus which pulls together analysis of customer trends with immediate
realignment from sales and operations is still in the making.

Nonetheless, using technology increasingly to meet consumer expectations is an important goal for
Gavas.

Universal Life has been ranked as the most trusted and reliable insurance company in Cyprus in a
market survey carried out by RAI consultants among 600 consumers for eight consecutive years.

“Achieving this kind of reputation involves delivering on your promises by combining the work
of the front lines with strong operational delivery. It cannot be done without exceptional human
communication, but that must be empowered by technology tools to provide results. We have not yet
arrived at the perfect integration of technology into our business to assist our dedicated
human effort, but we are working to achieve it.”

Gavas notes that he still has to look abroad to find some of the talent needed to make a
full-scale digital transformation happen, but that the resources for talent are growing in Cyprus.
“While our education system is not producing enough software developers, the increase in technology
companies on the island, is gradually bringing in more skills. We only have a small ecosystem at
this point, but we are building a tech community here. If we can create the right incentives and
continue to attract talent at this rate, Cyprus may well become a technology hub.”

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