An Interview with John Shew


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

Shew: When I joined RHB Insurance, the legacy systems were too old to support today’s business growth rate.  The business decision is to change the legacy systems. However, the focus is not about what system to replace, but the design of the entire technology architecture platform, in order to support business in the long-term.

While working on our Target Operating Model (TOM), and target state architecture, my priorities are very much on a quick-win strategy on our current system, which I believe can still tap into the current market by enhancing the current Point of Sale (PoS) system. For example, mobility, multiple browsers, and the internet.

FST Media: What will be the most significant challenge facing the insurance industry in the year ahead?

Shew: In the property and casualty insurance industry, the significant challenge is that the market will see the opening up of a fixed tariff rate. There may no longer be a tariff rate and there will be a price war to attract more customers. There is likely to be more flexible premium for the consumer. Insurers are facing new business competition and there will be a price war.

The life insurance business model will extend to the internet for more direct business, there will be more focus on Internet selling than traditional selling.

We will see product innovation, more personalised products, cross-selling of products, along with more internet business. 

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

Shew: As more people go online, personalised products will become the focus. Technology will venture onto new platforms, new delivery channels, personal cloud and one stop deliveries. Support in order for product fulfillment, Business Process Management and workflow will become drivers for automation.

FST Media: How do you leverage mobile technology and analytics to provide a richer and more transparent experience for the customer?

Shew: Having our own mobile technology is not good enough, RHB Insurance should have more partners in order to advertise and sell products. We need to explore other sources of data and partner with them in order to understand the customer in 360 degrees and develop personalised products. For example, nowadays we do not just give insurance mobile solutions but we partner with others, like hospital and car insurance.

The benefit of this is people will search for these things from their mobile phones, using Google and the internet and when they do that we have enough information or data to analyse the personal life of the customer and what they use.

The same concept applies for social media, if we partner with social media we will be able to know what other interests a customer may have. Then we can target and cross-sell products to them.

FST Media: As digital insurance emerges, what role does it play in acquiring and retaining the growing Gen Y customer base?

Shew: Technology today makes products and services more available and transparent.  Being in insurance we have to be more safety-conscious for our customers. We have been living in a world where agencies around us constantly sell us products, whether we want them or not.  Gen Y will live in a world where they acquire whatever they need from the internet or Google. Because of the vast information available to them from the internet, they can search for any information they need and this helps them to become safety conscious on their own, without the need for agents.

This means they will start acquiring products online, in terms of availability and suitability.   This is what we need to work hard for in preparing for the future.

FST Media: How are you leveraging big data and analytics to meet customer demand and generate value?

Shew: Our target is to align people, process and technology into our architecture.  With that, we are pro-actively studying the needs from the market and we aim to be the technology leader in the market.

As the market becomes de-tariff, a customer’s premium can become flexible.  So we need to know how a customer behaves in order to give them a special rate for their premium. We need to use data and analytics to study our consumer behavior in order to give them various rates. We have to figure out what kind of marketing strategies suit each individual, rather than a mass market which only depends on sales.  Big data analytics could help us study a customer’s behavior and enable us to provide them with a lower premium if they fit into the underwriting guideline. 

FST Media: What is RHB Insurance doing to simplify IT systems to increase efficiency and responsiveness to business and cater to meet changing organisation and market needs?

Shew: We are building the system towards Service Orientated Architecture, and we have also built a strong business analyst team to understand and consolidate all our business rules; those are the rules that can be consolidated and pre-defined in our system, in order to process the transaction faster. Our target is to align people, process and technology into one architecture.  We are pro-actively studying the needs from the market and we aim to be the technology leader in the market.

FST Media: What information sources do you consider invaluable for your job, and why?

Shew: I welcome all sorts of information sources. I believe, being in IT, we need to know everything that happens in politics, marketing and industry change, regulatory change, and so on.  We need to know what is going on so we are well prepared for any upcoming requests from our business.

FST Media: If you were not working in financial services, what would you be doing?

Shew: if I was not working in financial services, I would be working to build a social media network.  I would like to be involved in community where everything is shared.

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

Shew: I do not have any particular legacy that I wish to be remembered for. I am happy with everything I have done so far.  However, I believe I am still learning and achieving new targets.