An interview with Greg Nichelsen


Suncorp Group’s Executive Manager of Customer Data and Analytics speaks with FST Media about how insurers can analyse customer data from wearables to offer better services for their customers.

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

Nichelsen: I am only new to my role at Suncorp so apart from finding my feet my priorities are going to be driven by two key areas of focus. Key to my taking the role at Suncorp group was the progressive way in which it was approaching its data and analytics strategy so first will be to work out my role to play in that – how do I get behind the program in the best way possible and how do I help equip my team with everything they need to play a pivotal part in delivering on the new capabilities. The second will be to help my team build out the approaches that strategically use customer analytics to drive data-driven customer experiences. These are deeper, more relevant and timely conversations that are designed to add value to our customers interactions with us.

FST Media: What technology or innovation will be a game-changer in financial services over the next five years? 

Nichelsen: Technology is changing so rapidly and faster each year that it is hard to predict what is on the next horizon. In the data-driven customer space we live in, the expectations of having intuitive, simple and engaging experiences will continue to rise at the same time as we continue to have access to more and more data as almost every device we use in our day to day lives gives off data. As well as devices recording data we will see a big uptake in the ability of clever systems and devices to consume smart analytics and we will see more powerful apps and better data driven customer experience platforms. Being innovation in customer experience will continue to be a source of competitive difference but we will see customer experience and data analytics more tightly coupled than we do in some financial services companies today. 

FST Media: What are your thoughts on the rising prominence of digital disruptors like Google and Apple and their intelligent use of analytics functions? 

Nichelsen: I am fascinated by these companies as examples of great analytic work because the technical skills and the types of analytics they do is not dissimilar to what your teams are doing in your own organisations. For some organisations in Australia they are working on similarly rich and insightful data sets. What sets these organisations as leaders are that the analytics is tightly coupled with a strong culture around what they want to be. In Apple case for example, driven by customer centricity in such a way that data driven customer experience is natural to that culture. The second is a culture that recognises, celebrates and rewards analytics as a competitive advantage but also as something to be valued.  They focus on what matters, they allow their analytics team to innovatively find new strategic directions that transform the customer experience, they seek out data to drive the big agendas.

FST Media: How will insurers collate and analyse customer data from wearables to offer better services? 

Nichelsen: The wearable industry is still yet to find a maturity but if we look at insurance changes overseas or we look at equivalent changes in telematics throughout the world the insurance industry has a role to play in the wellbeing of the Australian population. For companies to be able to build device agnostic experiences that are engaging and fun while adding value back to its customers.

FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in the teams you have worked in? 

Nichelsen: I am lucky in that working at the intersection of analytics and customer I am is an area that by its nature rapidly changes. Customer expectations, customer norms are always changing and we need to be able to constantly evolve and innovate to keep up. Similarly, data is never static. We constantly find new sources of information, which allows us to challenge old assumptions and reuse old data sets and head in a different direction to test a different hypothesis and recommend a different strategy. 

I think people naturally attracted to these roles will always have an aspect of innovation to their work ethic. It generally just needs a leader who is prepared to give permission and reward for innovation to become part of the team culture.

FST Media: With respect to career development, what is the best advice you ever received? 

Nichelsen: One of the motivators for my career has always been to work with great leaders. I have learnt a lot from every one of them and bring pieces of each of their styles with me throughout my career. If I combined a couple together though I think it would sum up something I try to use is to have a strong engaging authentic set of principles that we stick to as a team. If I can always be consistent on those then I think then team always know where they stand with me, what my expectations will be in different situations and the knowledge I will have their backs.

FST Media: How do you define success? 

Nichelsen: When it comes to success, I like to keep it pretty simple. I like us to end the year better than what we started it. To have shifted the dial, to have moved our data driven customer experience agenda. I always encourage the team to be able to tell stories about what they have achieved but more importantly ensure the achievements we have ladder up to the overall achievements of the department and the group. If we cannot draw line of sight between our successes in analytics, the success in business outcomes and the success for our customers then we are not focussing on the correct agenda.

FST Media: What are the three most important traits for a leader? 

Nichelsen: I think it is important for a leader to be forward thinking to have a strong vision that the team can all stand behind and deliver on. A leader must be empathic so they will be able to tell compelling and engaging stories about what is possible and how we can achieve it. A leader must be realistic to recognise impediments, challenge them and set a direction that inspires change and innovation.

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

Nichelsen: I like to think that I think big so I hope I am remembered for having an impact in each of the organisations I have worked for. I want to be remembered for thinking through the organisational challenges, for pushing the boundaries of data driven customer experience, and for encouraging my teams to find a way and have a go.