"We are in the process of implementing AI tools to assist our lawyers"

Diego Gomez Palacio Borboa, legal, strategy and M&A director at Bupa Mexico, discuses the group’s recent M&A moves in the country and the major challenges for a corporate legal department, such as risk mitigation.

Posted mercredi, octobre 12 2022
"We are in the process of implementing AI tools to assist our lawyers"

Diego Gomez Palacio Borboa

Leaders League: Tell us about your role at Bupa

Diego Gomez Palacio Borboa: I am the the legal, strategy and M&A director at Bupa Mexico, which includes the insurance business and the health administration business developed by Vitamedica, one of the biggest networks of medical providers in the country, now also part of Bupa. This means I am responsible for all legal matters within the business unit as well as for seeking and landing opportunities for semi-organic and inorganic growth, such as partnerships and acquisitions in the healthcare industry (insurance and provision). Successfully developing such an important and demanding role is possible thanks to the support of my amazing team, a group of eight talented individuals (90% of whom are women) who make things happen through their dedication and passion.

What were the biggest challenges during the pandemic and how has the situation changed today?

The Covid pandemic changed the way we lived and did business. Overnight, we had to modify the way we worked and interacted with our peers, customers, providers, and regulators. We had to move quickly to ensure our employees and customers were safe and knew exactly what to do and how to get assistance. In light of this, we sent every team home, except for the legal team, which had to work from the office to ensure all regulatory or legal communications were taken care of. We also launched an external communication campaign to provide reassurance to our customers about their insurance coverage as it related to Covid 19.  We constantly scanned the legal horizon for new regulations related to the pandemic and acted swiftly to implement them (for example, the mandatory sanitary measures in the workplace and the reform of the labor law regarding home office).

In times of uncertainty such as these, we find opportunities to change the way we serve our customers. During the pandemic, we launched tele-health services, developing Bupa en Casa (Bupa at home) a service to provide medical home care, delivery of medication and ambulance services, among others. We also launched our Bupa Mexico App, which uses AI to determine vital signs via facial recognition and has features to make finding medical providers in the area easier.

In terms of financial challenges, while the average cost of a Covid infection for other insurers in Mexico was around US$20k, Bupa’s average cost was above US$60k. This fact shows that our coverage is broader than most insurance companies, providing our customers with support and financial certainty while using our insurance.

Looking back at all these challenges, I am now convinced not only of our resilience and ability to adapt to the unexpected, but also of the fact that every challenge is an opportunity  to improve for the benefit of our customers.

What have been the main recent developments in M&A for Bupa in Mexico and what projects do you have in the pipeline?

At the beginning of 2021 Bupa acquired Vitamedica, a health administrator with one of the largest medical networks in Mexico - over 12,000 providers nationwide. Presently, Bupa has entered into an agreement for a new M&A deal which will be announced shortly and is actively seeking M&A opportunities, both in the health-insurance and health-provision industries. Mexico is a priority market for Bupa, and we view M&A as an opportunity to accelerate our growth and to provide more and better services to our customers.

Creativity in the legal practice is essential, in order to find optimal solutions to complex issues

What are the main challenges for a corporate legal department  in a sector such as health insurance?

The legal area of a regulated industry like health insurance always faces challenges such as timely regulatory filing and reporting, keeping a tidy corporate governance practice and reviewing contracts carefully to mitigate legal risks and protect the company, however, I would say the most important thing for a legal team in the health insurance sector is to be creative and always remain customer centric. Creativity in the legal practice is essential, in order to find optimal solutions to complex issues. A lawyer must be trained to think outside the box while appropriately managing legal risks. This will allow lawyers to become true partners to the business and add value. At Bupa, our vocation is to help people live longer, healthier, happier lives and make the world a better place. Our work and decisions in the health sector impact the lives of our customers, which is why it is so important to remain customer centric. By doing so, we have empathy, and learn to listen, learn and improve.

What role do technology and innovation play in the legal area of the company?

Technology and innovation are part of our DNA. Bupa views digital transformation as a must. Prior to the pandemic we introduced electronic contract signatures and since Covid have set a goal of becoming 100% paperless.

We have also developed contract management systems and are in the process of implementing AI tools to assist our lawyers with regulatory scanning. Although tech is an important part of innovation, you don’t always need technology to create value, reduce waste or increase efficiency, therefore, we also work tirelessly to improve internal processes, train our team, and find better ways to do our job.

What is your relationship with external legal advisors and what aspects do you value most when working with them?

We are proud to have long-standing relationships with many of our external legal advisors. Such relationships are based on trust and trust is built on results. We value our external advisors being proactive by sharing relevant topics, identifying risks, and also value flexibility and adaptability, not only in rates and billing but also in processes, and finally, we value integrity and external advisors taking the time to understand our specific business needs and work as an extension of the in-house team.