August 30, 2016 by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor
Insurance companies aiming to create value for their customers would be well advised to look beyond the “front end” of their customer-facing computer applications, implement their services before their competitors and recognize the importance of the “geeks” in their organizations, speakers suggested Tuesday at the fourth annual Insurance-Canada Executive Forum.
“To create a solid customer experience, it’s not about having a shiny front end,” said Joseph Cooper, a global technology executive and former executive vice president, global services and chief information officer at Manulife Financial.
“Surveys will show you that your best promoting customers will be the ones who experience your organization digitally in a very fluid and seamless manner,” Cooper said during a presentation at the Executive Forum, held at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto. “That puts pressure on having not only a very neat front end, but a very robust and flexible back end, and we all know being in this industry that has been the panacea for many years, but it is an absolute requirement.”
Cooper suggested there “may not be a lot of new ideas” among insurance technology executives, so it is important to ensure those ideas get put into practice quickly.
“When you look across the industry, across all the financial institutions and you look at customer experience, even outside of the industry, everyone is pretty much trying to do the same thing in this space,” Cooper said.
“We are trying to create a digital experience – a digital dialogue – a digital relationship with our customers and the key to it is the pace at which you do that, and how fast you can do it and the level of quality at which you do it,” Cooper added. “Speed, I can tell you is the Number 1 item. If you have great quality [but] you are there third, fourth or fifth, you are not going to be as effective at competing in the industry. If you are there first and you have a high-quality experience for your customers, that’s where the winning formula is.”
Cooper noted that 50% of Internet traffic is “driven” from mobile devices, while two thirds of Canadians own smartphones.
“You think your data management capabilities are important today? They are going to be absolutely critical in how you manage the data flow in and around your business in the future because of the vast volumes you are going to be having.”
Other speakers at the Executive Forum included Ben Isotta-Riches, chief information officer of Aviva Canada.
Isotta-Riches suggested that traditional insurance companies are “responding more slowly to the changing customer expectations and we are encumbered to some extent by legacy technology.”
He described the characteristics of firms which he described as “born digital.”
Such companies “are customer experience-centric, they are driving the consumer expectation across all sorts of industries, whether they are operating in insurance or not,” he said. “They are highly agile, they are responsive to change, their technology organizations are leading and evolving. these are organizations where their CEO is a software engineer in most cases.”
Isotta-Riches told attendees that six of the 12 richest people in the world are “geeks.” Those six are: Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; Oracle Corp. founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison; Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg; and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
“Geeks have suddenly reached a point where they have massive relevance,” he said. “Being able to produce innovative products is driven by diversity of people, cultures, and ideas.”