If 2021 was about us building some of our foundations, 2022 will be where we really bring things to life for our customers.
The life insurance sector has no doubt faced a difficult few years, with rapidly declining policy ownership rates, strained budgets (both consumer and corporate) from multiple years of pandemic pressure, and the stubborn persistence of legacy systems and processes.
Yet, opportunities still abound for the life sector, with innovators – from traditional brick-and-mortar institutions to the digital-savvy insurtechs – creating agile, innovation-friendly ecosystems primed to deliver products and services with massive consumer appeal.
In the lead up to our Future of Insurance 2022 event, we speak with featured keynote presenter Peter Histon, Chief Technology Officer, Resolution Life Australasia, on the challenges (and opportunities) born from Resolution’s acquisition of AMP’s life business, inspiring innovation during crisis, and building a digitally infused life business that can appeal to the next generation of consumers.
FST Media: Digital is everything today. However, without a keen eye and willingness to embrace the new, digital transformation ambitions can often ring hollow. How does Resolution Life nurture a culture that inspires digital-first and innovative thinking?
Histon: As an in-force specialist, we are solely focused on our existing customers. Our strategy is to transform from a legacy insurer into a data-driven, digital business that finds new ways to help our customers and grow our business.
Our core competitive advantage will be in becoming a contemporary life insurance business, finding new ways for our customers to have a valued relationship with us using technology. Digital technology has the potential to disrupt the life insurance industry, and particularly those companies with legacy or outdated systems.
The digital era is an opportunity to rebuild trust – new technologies and new approaches that enable us to respond to our customers more efficiently and effectively, meeting the ever-changing needs of our customers.
We have a cloud-only technology strategy and have moved multiple policy administration systems to public cloud. This, coupled with our investment in low code technology and automation, has enabled rapid iterative delivery and faster customer outcomes.
In November 2020, we restructured our entire business to an Enterprise Agile operating model. Our Resolution Life way of working, however, enables our teams to deliver speed to market outcomes which encourages prioritisation and adapting more rapidly to the changing environment.
We ensure we’re living and breathing our innovative culture and empowering our people to share their ideas through events like our hackathon, where team members submit their ideas (either big or small) that inspire customer-focused innovation and digital opportunities.
With a significant focus on investing in our people to uplift a new digital, data and analytics capability, as well as bringing in new external capability, we are truly focused on improving customer touchpoints: digital portals with more self-service capability, improved claims management, and customer correspondence.
FST Media: As digital transformation agendas progress at breakneck pace, what have you noticed as the biggest roadblock in progressing life insurers’ digital objectives? And how is Resolution Life seeking to overcome this hurdle?
Histon: Our biggest challenge is the large number of legacy systems and products.
Whilst we have a long proud history, servicing our customers since the 1800s, as Resolution Life we have the opportunity to invest in foundational technology capabilities.
Over the past 18 months, we have implemented our cloud and cyber foundations (did I mention we are cloud-only?!), which include: a new API management platform – supporting automation; a new low code platform – supporting our digital channels; a new cloud-based data platform – supporting our reporting; advanced analytics and AI workloads; and, numerous other internal capabilities that support our people (General Ledger, HR Platform etc.).
All of this investment ultimately means we can find new ways to support our customers.
FST Media: Life insurance policy ownership in Australia has seen a marked decline over the last decade (with figures from KPMG revealing a 10 per cent year-on-year drop recorded in 2021).
How can digital serve to enliven the industry and make life insurance relevant to a new generation of customers?
Histon: As an in-force business, we have a dedicated focus on delivering for our existing customers. Our strategy is to become a data-driven, digital business delivering on our customer commitments and meeting the needs of our customers, particularly through significant investment in digital solutions and offerings.
To meet the ever-changing needs and expectations of customers, we all need to uplift our digital, self-service capabilities and product and service offerings, so that customers can interact with us how and when they choose and have the tools and information they need.
FST Media: Take us through Resolution Life’s technology roadmap. In this next (hopefully light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel) phase of Covid, what are some of your key priorities?
Histon: If 2021 was about us building some of our foundations, 2022 will be where we really bring things to life for our customers.
In 2022, we’ll deliver a new Claims Management System that we’ve built from the ground up.
It will use AI at multiple points of the claims process to ensure we’re delivering the best possible experience for our customers. The foundations we’ve built through base infrastructure, data platforms, digital portals and APIs has really set us up to deliver even more customer value, enabling straight-through processing and new online channels.
We’ll also be delivering the ability to perform more and more transactions online.
We commenced our multi-year transformation in the middle of 2020 – right in the peak period of adapting to lockdowns and remote working. This was a significant risk we decided to accept in starting this program of initiatives.
We’ve found that Covid has increased online adoption but, more than that, our work-from-home environment has helped us become more comfortable working with partners across the globe. We’re working with partners in Europe, the United States and other locations to ensure we’re leveraging the best capabilities possible.
FST Media: Your move to Resolution Life in 2020 came as a result of the acquisition of AMP’s life insurance business (where you served more than a decade across a number of senior tech roles).
What have been some of the challenges, and perhaps opportunities, arising from the integration of these two businesses?
Histon: Our move to Resolution Life was our opportunity to really reimagine what we wanted to be as a business – taking the things from our culture that made us great at AMP, and really enhancing the aspects of our culture that we wanted to redefine. Moving to Enterprise Agile is an example of a key cultural lever we wanted to focus upon. Standing up our own infrastructure has allowed us the freedom to deliver significant benefits in technology.
The decisions we’ve made to move to public cloud and having a cloud-only strategy means we can be laser-focused on digital and automation, as well as simplifying our technology landscape for the future.
One of the challenges with any big migration is data quality, particularly when it involves products that have been around for decades across multiple systems.
We have leveraged the opportunity as we separate to invest in a new data platform. The platform has inbuilt data quality rules as well as other features, such as data lineage, and has been built to support our reporting as well as advanced analytics workloads. In addition to rolling out the technology, we reviewed and uplifted data governance processes, and more than 500 of our employees completed data literacy training.
It’s great to be working for a global organisation that is so focused on delivering for its customers – and making the investment in technology and capability build to do so.
FST Media: Insurtechs are rapidly redefining the insurance service model, delivering streamlined, personalised and cost-efficient services, often through clever use of AI and machine learning technologies.
What lessons can traditional life insurers take from emerging players in delivering next-gen services? And further, how do you see AI shaping the future of life insurance?
Histon: We see AI as a key disrupter and opportunity for the life insurance industry. We’ve spoken about what we’re doing in claims by enabling a more efficient and effective way to support our customers through their claims process. We’ve also partnered with an AI start-up in the US to help deliver some of our outcomes in this space to ensure we’re keeping up with the ever-moving goalpost of the technology and digital environment.
Beyond claims, we believe there are significant opportunities across other domains, such as pricing and actuarial.
Insurtechs will enhance the value chain, allowing for speed to market, reduced operating costs and better use of data.
I don’t see insurtechs disrupting the market; instead, finding more ways for incumbents and insurtechs to work together is the real opportunity.
FST Media: As tech becomes increasingly business-critical, the quality of leadership behind this tech function has been elevated as a business imperative.
So, what defines your leadership style, and how do you seek to get the most from both your human and technology resources?
Histon: I would define my leadership style as open, collaborative and approachable, with a passion for developing people, particularly developing technology, data and analytics skills and capability in all of our employees, providing them with future career opportunities.
The shift to Enterprise Agile really suits my leadership style.
The agile ‘ceremonies’ we have in place enable me to connect directly with crews and teams on a regular basis, contribute to their work, provide input and feedback, and help them through their roadblocks. We have a very flat organisational structure that encourages and facilitates empowerment, learning and innovation.
At Resolution Life, we are building a culture that fosters learning and growing, providing our employees with new skills and access to multiple learning platforms, so that they can choose when and how they want to develop. As someone that is passionate about personal learning and development, this culture gives me the opportunity to share that passion across the business, and support others in building skills they can use in their future careers.
Peter Histon will be a featured keynote speaker at our upcoming Future of Insurance, Sydney 2022 event, exploring innovations in AI, automation and cloud-native platforms at the coalface of today’s life insurance businesses.
Secure your place at our first in-person event for 2022!