An Interview with Eric Boissier



FST Media: What are your IT priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?

Boissier: There are several, but I can name two; the first is security and data protection. We are facing new regulation and a quick evolution of the customer’s demands and expectations. Addressing this is something which is of highest priority and is having a significant impact on our projects and our way of delivering, constructing and building solutions.

On the business side, digitalisation is the subject. Our online portals and mobile channels are at the heart of AXA and AXA Assistance strategy, with several major initiatives at all levels of the group.

FST Media: What emerging trend or innovation is having a significant impact on the assistance industry?

Boissier: The Internet of Things will be a game-changer in many industries including ours. When we think about a connected car, connected appliances, or wearable devices, it is obvious that it will have a big impact on the way we are currently delivering our services in insurance and assistance. We will have to reinvent our offers and processes to leverage this coming change, eventually delivering a totally new range of products and services.

FST Media: How has AXA Assistance’s partnership with iJET International delivered value to the business and how will you measure success?

Boissier: This corporate mobility offer is really a strategic product for us. With iJET, we built something which is unique, by combining our medical response capacities with their security offers. With those two pillars we are delivering an essential service for all companies caring for their employees, from SMEs to MNCs, in over 200 countries all around the world.

The need for information while abroad, the capacity to be alerted in real-time, having the right data to be able to make the proper decision is key when you want to protect your team members.

For example, we have mobile applications which push out alerts, such as tsunami warnings or brewing political situations, wherever the client may be travelling. It also tells you where the nearest hospital or embassy is. It is a real, tangible tool you can use on a day-to-day basis.

This partnership success is easy to measure; the high level of satisfaction of our customers is constant proof we are addressing their needs, for their day-to-day concerns or when crisis’ arise.

FST Media: What have been the results of deploying a region enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to align all countries to a global platform?

Boissier: This is positive essentially on an internal basis. This project has brought us better quality of data, improved reporting, quicker consolidation of our inputs from various offices, and alignment of our financial processes.

FST Media: How has the One Stop Concierge Service platform strengthened AXA Assistance’s digital offering?

Boissier: This is a new product platform for AXA Assistance, where we worked with SalesForce to support our concierge activity. It is based on two key principles; customer centricity and multi-channel access.

This is our capacity to interact with our customers through alternate channels such as SMS and social media. The added value for customers is that they do not have to be bound to any specific device to receive the service they require.

It is no longer about the customer adapting, but about us adapting in as many ways as we can to make the whole experience easy and simple. In this sense, it is a real game-changer because existing platforms have not been at this level of customer centricity before.

FST Media: How do you leverage big data, analytics and business intelligence to increase productivity and what are the security concerns around data?

Boissier: Analytics is an everyday tool we use in product construction, pricing or operations. On the other hand, aside from specific niches, big data is today more of a buzzword than a reality. I think we need specific education so that people can grasp what it really means. It will take time because it is not intuitive and different from what is taught in school.

Considering this, automated learning is probably the way to go. With tools like IBM Watson or Google DeepMind, big data really takes its full meaning, yet this has to be transformed into real services for companies.

Regarding data security, this is a pillar of AXA’s Group strategy. Data is a core asset of an insurance company; it is at the heart of our decision making processes, product definition, etc. It is our main asset which we must protect, but also as a responsible corporation we have a duty of protecting the data of our partners and customers, in that, if I am a customer of AXA, I am expecting AXA to protect my personal information.

I personally believe in data security as a duty, as a core asset and also as a product, because today security is no longer something that people do because they must; there is a market demand for it.

FST Media: How will telematics shape the next five years of IT investment in the insurance industry?

Boissier: Digitalisation, interconnection is everywhere, this is not an innovation, it is a must have. However, there is still work to do on the evolution of the legacy systems to be aligned with the new challenges of this connected world.
What is expected is not just delivering new products, but also updating traditional ones on a new level. This transformation is a journey, which usually takes years. One of the biggest impacts on this is the changes of the organisation and platforms to a digital enabled architecture.

FST Media: How are you driving the ethos of Agile – adaptability, flexibility, spend – beyond the IT department?

Boissier: It must go beyond the IT department and this is where the real challenge is. You cannot simply be agile on your own. Being agile is about the whole organisation being agile. When you implement Agile methodologies for development, you must take the business on side with you. You need them to be agile too. All stakeholders must be involved including sometimes your customers, and in that sense it is a corporate culture more than anything else.
The path to Agility is a journey, a kind of evangelisation where I see the CIO and the IT family acting as a role-model, a change enabler.

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

Boissier: You have to build an environment valuating innovation and initiatives. For this, I follow 3 simple principles:
First, sharing information; you cannot expect people to contribute if they do not have as much information as you can give them. More information means more ideas and smarter decisions. Sharing information also promotes trust; you are showing your team that you consider them as full contributors in the company. It is a virtuous circle.

Second, breaking silos; I like to always involve people from different areas in the action and activity around our projects. I think it is important to know what is happening in all other departments. It helps to identify interdependence, but also because outsiders can generate great ideas, and bring another perspective.

Lastly, never discard someone’s proposition; always take the time to consider it; seriously. It is just building trust and confidence.

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for, what is yours?

Boissier: I am not old enough to think about my legacy, but if any, I would like to be remembered as someone who was involved in the business, connecting IT to the rest of the company. We are not delivering IT for the sake of IT, we are delivering IT to support our business, to make our company and colleagues succeed. This is important; we sometimes forget that in the IT family.

If you would like to hear more from Eric Boissier, register to  attend FST Media’s 2nd Annual Technology & Innovation – The Future of Security in Financial Services, Singapore conference to be held at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on the 13th of November. Don’t miss out on this important industry event.  See the agenda here.