The entrepreneurial journey for JDC Group Co-Founder and CEO, Sebastian Grabmaier, began with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After a swift rise through the managerial ladder at Allianz, a new CEO role at a small subsidiary of Deutsche Bank created the timely opening for Sebastian to lead a management buyout of the company from Deutsche Bank Group.
In 2004, as a result of this deal, JDC Group was founded, creating a platform to launch state-of-the-art financial advice and intelligent financial technology for consultants and clients. “I started as CEO, but when I bought my first share in the company, I became an entrepreneur as well as a manager,” Sebastian explains.
“When we launched, it was important for me to become the owner of the business, because not only would I have the interests of the customers in my mind, but also the interests of the stakeholders. It creates a deeper and more personal connection with the business.
“My shareholders are my partners as well as my co-investors. This builds clarity and focuses on outcomes that are important for both.”
Today, JDC Group is a leading digitisation service provider in the insurance and funds industry in German-speaking countries, with over 16,000 connected sales partners servicing more than 1.3 million customers, and a portfolio of more than €4.5 billion – with €1.5 billion in product sales each year.
“There are simply times when customers need a personal interaction, not a digitised one.”
JDC Group has two business arms: its Advisory Segment, which provides pension and investment advisory services; and its Advisortech Segment, offering leading-edge consulting and administration technology.
By operating both business units, Sebastian has successfully blended ‘people’ and ‘technology’ to create a service offer that, while innovative and digitised, still retains the people factor. “You need the spark when you buy an insurance product,” Sebastian suggests. “The customer needs expert support to identify a need and this can’t be digitised. There are simply times when a customer needs a personal interaction, not a digitised one.
“What’s more, complex arrangements such as pension planning require specialist advisers. So, while digital tools are a helpful support for intermediaries and create efficiencies, there are still important advisory jobs that can’t be done by purely automated systems.”
JDC Group is at the forefront of innovation in the market, developing proprietary technology-based tools to support its sales activities: award-winning app allesmeins and robo-adviser easyROBI are both examples of technology offered to JDC Group clients and consultants through its subsidiary, Jung, DMS & Cie.
“Digitisation is being driven by the customer,” explains Sebastian. “They want the same level of service from their financial services provider as they’ve become used to from their other ecommerce providers. Because we’re customer-centric, we need to respond.
“We, at JDC, build the best systems because customers tell us what they need for it to be the best,” says Sebastian. “In the end, it’s about people. It’s about the customers and their needs, and our employees and their capabilities. The success of technology is dependent on those who use it and those who work with it. It’s simple really.”
“The success of technology is dependent on those who use it and those who work with it.”
Bringing together diverse roles across a number of different fields inside the organisation has the potential to create a challenge for Sebastian, but it’s one he thrives on. Empowerment is crucial to Sebastian’s leadership style.
“I’m surrounded by specialists in the industry with the IT, process and sales teams who all have different backgrounds,” he suggests. “While this makes the organisation interesting, there is synchronicity; we’re all working towards the same goal. “I believe in entrepreneurial leadership. I give my team autonomy, I trust them and believe in their ability,” he explains.
“I do give challenging goals, but I leave them to work how they wish. They know I’m here for direction if needed. I tell our directors and sub-directors that they are the entrepreneurs for their part of the business. It’s their decisions, their strategies and their freedom to do what they think is best for the company and the customer. This brings out their entrepreneurial spirit.”
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