An Interview with David Hackett, Executive General Manager, Insurance, NAB


FST Media: What are your business and digital priorities for the next 6 months?  

Hackett: Position the business to deliver superior products and service, at an affordable price, all with the objective of becoming Australia’s leading life insurance company.

FST Media: What are your business and digital priorities for the next 6 months?  

Hackett: My priorities over the next 6 months are focussed on four key areas.

  • Establishing the new MLC Life Insurance business.
  • Employing more than 1000 people to begin the multi-year program of technology transition and transformation.
  • Improving the quality of data and analytics used in the business to win market share.
  • Position the business to deliver superior products and service, at an affordable price, all with the objective of becoming Australia’s leading life insurance company.


FST Media: What role can banks play in helping drive Australia’s competitiveness of innovation in the fintech sector?  

Hackett: While fintech has the potential to disrupt the banking sector, the banks are embracing the challenge and seeing the opportunities to disrupt from within.  At NAB, we have established an innovation hub in NAB Labs and setup a dedicated $50 million innovation fund in NAB Ventures. Banking globally is undergoing significant transformation and our focus on customer-led innovation will ensure NAB is able to embrace these changes to deliver innovative solutions for our customers.


FST Media: What key things can be gained from bridging the knowledge gap between customers and banks?

Hackett: On one hand, customers know more about themselves than they ever have. They have access to their own medical records, up to date information on their health via wearables, health and wellbeing apps, and even the advent of genome sequencing. 

The key question for customers is who they choose to share the information with and what benefits are available to them for sharing their information.  With MLC On Track, our customers can opt in to wearing a device and sharing information about their activity, sleep and heart rate, entitling them to reduced life insurance premiums should they achieve sustained good results.

On the other hand, customers can be unclear about their own financial condition and needs.  Financial institutions and advisors can help customers to understand their financial situation and needs and in many cases fulfil those needs through many channels.  While face to face interactions will always play a role, many customers prefer to receive help, guidance and advice through alternative means, such as online, call centre, click to chat etc.  By helping customers build their knowledge in ways and at times that suit them, customers can make more informed financial decisions.


FST Media: What technology or innovation is proving to be the single biggest game changer for the finance industry?

Hackett: When I think about innovation & technology in insurance, I think about the impacts of digitisation and the evolution of the internet as the two biggest game changers, and we are only just beginning to see the potential.

On digitisation there are four key themes – miniaturisation, improved PC power, improved broadband coverage and reducing technology costs.  These themes play into a raft of areas that are relevant to life insurance.  For example, miniaturisation means that diseases which previously were life threatening can now be treated due to miniaturised devices. Cancers that required invasive surgical procedures can now be treated with miniaturized radiation devices.  These themes mean that wearable technology, automated underwriting, big data,genome sequencing and machine learning are all areas of digitisation relevant to life insurance.

In terms of the evolution of the internet, MIT Technology review is now indicating that by 2020 there is expected to be more “Internet of Things” devices than PCs and smart phones combined. Just have a think about that – it’s huge!  I think for insurance, this can be transformational.  Physicians can use sensors in patient’s homes to improve management of chronic disease, rather than needing to have physical appointments.  In General Insurance, it could mean usage based insurance based on real time driving data.

In Life Insurance, it could mean real time health based premiums based on activity and real time monitoring of factors which determine biological age for example blood pressure, cholesterol, metabolism, liver and kidney function, cardiovascular and respiratory health.  Better data equals more personalised coverage and should support greater financial inclusion.


FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?

Hackett: We encourage innovation in every part of the MLC life insurance business by ensuring when we are designing, developing and piloting initiatives where the focus is on customer insights and learning, rather than purely based on financial benefits. Also allowing all our employees to have their ideas, feedback and voice heard, alongside ownership and personal connection is critical for growing a culture of innovation; our wearables program was an example of this where a new idea was born, we put our employees in our customer shoes and let them experiment with an internal pilot program, this brought a new idea to the market far more quickly than we’d have been able to in the past. 


FST Media: What specific insight does NAB bring to the Australian financial services industry?

Hackett: We have a deep passion for our customers.  They drive everything we do so we need to make sure we keep listening to them.


FST Media: How do you engage with the challenges of digital disruption?

Hackett: Innovation is change that unlocks new value. Embrace it, foster a culture of innovation whilst collaborating with external partners, this is essential – try to lead the pack.


FST Media: Where do you look for emerging technology trends?

Hackett: In addition to fintech, I keep an eye on Silicon Valley, social media, medical, and health and wellness industries.


FST Media: How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Hackett: My mantra is to look after myself and my family first. If I can’t look after myself, how can I look after others?  I stay fit and active, eat well, and try to get enough sleep at regular times. I am committed to supporting my family in many ways, one of the most important things to support family and loved ones with is time, a scarce and precious resource. My approach to work is that it is very flexible and can be done from anywhere.  We have a national business, so I can work flexibly from many different desks or locations each day.  Also, in my role, I’m generally always on, so while I try to get home for dinner with the family as often as possible, and get to sporting matches on weekends, I work episodically at nights and weekends as needed to piece my work & my family of 7 schedules together.