An Interview with Dan Taylor, General Manager, Innovation, TAL


“In a post-Royal Commission environment, our aspirations to do more for our customers are even bigger, bolder, and better. It’s our role in the innovation function to drive change and growth through our business, and that is more important now than ever.”

FST Media: Tell us a little about your priorities for 2019. How is TAL’s digital program adapting to the demands of tomorrow’s customer?

Taylor: We are all looking for ways to drive more intuitive, simple, and engaging digital experiences for our customers. But that can be hard to deliver in practice.

That’s why TAL has recently adopted a ‘continuous delivery’ way of working, which enables us to better focus on our business priorities and respond more quickly to change.

From an innovation perspective, this also means we are more able to experiment with new solutions and stay relevant in a fast-moving digital environment.

FST Media: Steve Jobs – himself taking a leaf from Henry Ford – once (in)famously declared: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research.”

Despite the increasing popularity of the co-design development philosophy, can we necessarily rely on customers to know what they want from a service? Should insurers instead look to pioneer unique digital solutions that will win over the crowd and set them apart from their competition?

Taylor: That maxim is often misinterpreted to mean that you don’t need to do customer research. That’s not true, it’s about doing customer research in the right way – and yes that is often bringing an idea to life so that customers can understand what you’re talking about, but it’s also about properly understanding customer needs, attitudes, and behaviours.

At TAL, we absolutely embrace a customer-led design and innovation approach.

We include primary customer research at every stage of the innovation process, whether that is upfront ethnography, prototype testing, or small-scale pilots. In this way, we make sure both that we’re solving the right problem for our customers, and that we’re solving it in the right way. We use this approach on everything we do, from our flagship digital offer like Cover Builder through to our claims app or chatbots.

FST Media: As we transition into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), how should insurers’ digital strategies evolve to successfully leverage 4IR technologies (e.g. automation, blockchain, artificial intelligence, IoT, biotechnology etc.)?

Taylor: There is a lot of hype about some of these technologies, and it’s easy to get seduced by the latest technology fads. But we need to be careful that we focus on the right ones and fully understand their impact and the value they bring.

At TAL, we are focused on practical innovation that will make a real difference to customers, so that our customers understand and value their cover and have confidence that we’ll be there when they need us most. One such technology where we see real customer benefit is Artificial Intelligence (AI), where we have been at the leading edge of applications to streamline our processes, such as underwriting, and of developing better experiences for customers. For example, TAL’s new support service for claimants uses an independent messaging tool to help customers return to health by creating a network for them to share and exchange experiences, insights, and advice with former claimants.

FST Media: The road to transformation is rarely smooth and sometimes takes you down the wrong path entirely. What defines a successful digital transformation for insurers today? 

Taylor: Digital transformations are never easy, and that is particularly true in the current context where we also face the challenges of legacy systems, the changing compliance landscape, such as IFRS 17 or CPS 234, and our ongoing business delivery needs.

At the same time, there is a massive opportunity from new digital technologies to transform the customer experience and, ultimately, that’s what success looks like – a great customer experience.

FST Media: Compliance can often be seen as a barrier to innovation. How can regulation be used to inspire innovative thinking, rather than stifle it – particularly at the customer level? 

Taylor: Similar to the hurdles presented by legacy systems in insurance, regulation is also a key feature of the industry that can present both challenges and opportunities.

An example of how TAL has embraced this opportunity is through our industry-first ‘WunderWriter’ tool, which employs a machine learning algorithm to audit our underwriting cases to give us confidence in the consistency of underwriting outcomes for customers and deliver productivity improvements in our quality assurance processes.

FST Media: As an innovation leader, you’ve shown a deft hand at coordinating individuals of all stripes. What lessons can you impart to other digital leaders to get the best out of their staff as well as their digital assets?

Taylor: In a post-Royal Commission environment, our aspirations to do more for our customers are even bigger, bolder, and better. It’s our role in the innovation function to drive change and growth through our business, and that is more important now than ever.

Within this context, it’s particularly important that we stay true to our ambition and enable all of our employees to join in. One way we do this at TAL is through our annual company-wide Innovation Challenge. TAL’s annual Innovation Challenge drives innovation from within by empowering employees to put forward ideas to help TAL solve customer problems and make a real difference. The Challenge has led to launches such as our Claims App and SpotChecker, our free skin-checking program. ⬤


Dan Taylor will be a featured keynote presenter at the 2019 Future of Insurance conference in Sydney on the 7 March. Places are limited! Register now to secure your spot.