An Interview with Sim Preston


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

Preston: We will continue strengthening our technology and operations leadership by improving the structure and depth of expertise of our teams, modernising our technology platforms, providing operational support to our local markets to improve business efficiency, and supporting employee and agent productivity through the implementation of ‘iPoS’.

‘iPoS,’ which stands for interactive Point of Sales, is an industry-leading electronic sales tool for doing insurance business on a tablet.

‘iPoS’ features a full range of functionality for our advisers including needs analysis, quotation, application, auto-underwriting, electronic signature and premium payment.

Where regulations allow, the entire sales process can be completed on the tablet in a fast and paperless process. ‘iPoS’ also offers training and marketing materials for our advisers and their clients.

We believe ‘iPoS’ provides a significant competitive advantage to AIA’s advisers and bank partners. Since launching in Taiwan in 2011, we have now implemented ‘iPoS’ in nine AIA markets. More markets are in the pipeline for launch next year – as is a suite of additional ‘iPoS 2.0’ features that will redefine the customer experience and help our advisers in their daily customer sales and servicing activities.

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

Preston: ‘iPoS’ is definitely one of the game changers for AIA, and is redefining the insurance industry’s sales and service model in Asia. We believe consumers will increasingly demand a paperless, interactive, one-visit buying experience on a tablet from the whole insurance industry.

I see four such trends affecting the industry in the next few years:

Consumer expectations: Individuals will expect the industry to become much easier to do business with. Insurers will need to adopt modern technologies rather than continue to rely heavily on paper. They will need to be accessible to the consumer however and whenever they choose, whether online, on the phone or face-to-face.

Health and wellness: People will work with insurers to lead healthier lives and cut the costs of cover. AIA Vitality, a science based wellness programme, is our innovative response to this important trend.

Social behaviours: As social media becomes integral to many consumers’ lives, they will expect their service providers to integrate their propositions in a seamless way. This will have profound implications for how insurers interact with their clients.

Mobile device adoption: Consumers will want to link their personal technologies to their insurers’ technology infrastructure using wearable accelerometers to record physical exercise or GPS-tracking telematics to measure driving style and speed.

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

Preston: AIA has a long and impressive record of business innovation spanning 94 years in Asia Pacific. The choice of words is important. Innovation should always have a business result in mind rather than enhance technology for its own sake. In my team we always start any innovation discussion by asking ‘What is the business problem we are trying to solve?’ Only after having answered that question do we evaluate alternative ways to address the problem. The answer includes a combination of technology, process and people so innovation has to span all three.

Successful innovation requires a blend of creative and structured processes to facilitate a safe environment for risk taking. I would suggest: take the customer’s perspective. At AIA we are far more focused on innovation that improves the customer experience, and that makes people more likely to do business with us, than we are on innovation to cut costs. Customer-oriented innovations often deliver positive knock-on efficiency benefits.

Create the right conditions – we are giving people at all levels the freedom and funding to propose ideas and take those forward. This needs to happen at all levels, and pushed deep down into the organisation.

FST Media: AIA has been rolling out the iPoS in Asia, how has it delivered value to the business and how will you measure success?

Preston: We measure the success of ‘iPoS’ in a number of ways: customer experience, advisor productivity and efficiency improvement.

The cost savings are obvious as ‘iPoS’ allows straight-through processing and reduces paper, printing, scanning, archiving, postage and much of the manual work.

Advisers using ‘iPoS’ are more productive by meeting more customers as the whole sales process can be completed in one visit. ‘iPoS’ is their mobile briefcase. They no longer need to go back to their branch office to pick up sales material or to produce amended forms.

In terms of customer experience, buying insurance interactively on a tablet is totally different from filling out a paper form.

The needs assessment and application process is dynamic, rather than constrained by a fixed process.

This interview first appeared in FST Media’s annual magazine The Who’s Who of Financial Services Asia Pacific, which launched at the Technology & Innovation – the Future of Banking & Financial Services conference in Melbourne on 4th June, 2014.