Qorus Innovation in Insurance Awards 2024

New Ireland Assurance Advisor Portal

Submitted by
19/04/2024 Insurance Innovation


New Ireland has disrupted the traditional insurance industry, transforming the business model by reimagining both workforce activity and the customer proposition through the adoption of digital technologies.

Innovation presentation

Executive Summary:

The challenge we set for ourselves was ambitious and required a complete transformation of our ways of working, how we operated and how we delivered change as an organisation. This presented many challenges which were overcome through strong leadership and a clear vision. Our key innovation, the Advisor Portal, was central to this transformation. Ultimately significant cultural change was delivered within our organisation and this has resulted in New Ireland becoming an agile, digitally focussed business that can react quickly to our customers changing needs and expectations.

Traditionally financial advisors, operating face-to-face with customers, were the basis of the Life Assurance industry in Ireland. This model is underpinned by paper and labour-intensive back-office functions, typically supported by disparate IT systems. This makes the end to end customer journeys from initial customer engagement and onward through the back office to completion long, with many human touchpoints. It’s expensive to deliver, isn’t scalable, is based on out-dated work-practices and is not customer-centric. Through the adoption of innovative technology, we set out to transform our operating model and core processes to a standardised automated approach, creating efficiencies in back-end systems and processes. This would also allowed us reallocate colleagues into roles and activities that really leveraged their expertise instead of spending time on labour-intensive administrative activities that could be done through technology. We also introduced technology at the front-end which frees up advisors to really focus on providing financial advice to customers.

We partnered with 3rd party fintechs, leading technology providers whose expertise complements our strengths, combining their experience in digital development with our subject matter expertise, compliance and regulatory knowledge, as well as our scale and customer base. This all required significant cultural change, both to become a digital business and for our delivery team had to adapt to partnering with 3rd party agile fintechs. We had to marry the cultures and approaches that such traditionally different organisations have. New Ireland needed to adapt to, and adopt new ways of working and of delivering change. This was a challenge for all parties but the outstanding results delivered by the team are testament to the learnings all organisations have taken on board and benefited from. The new customer proposition and digital business model delivered, with our new Advisor Portal at the centre is a gamechanger. It combines digital technologies and our colleague’s expertise. It enables us be a digital modern business, it completely transforms how our workforce service our clients, and the very insurance market in Ireland itself and what we have built is now being looked at in the UK and Australia as the model for businesses going forward.

Innovation Presentation:

Traditional customer engagements require significant colleague and customer effort. Research shows that more than a third of consumers would leave their provider if they didn’t offer more up to date technology, and that digital channels can enable more personalisation, create real-time tools to serve customers and for customers to self-serve, freeing up colleagues to focus on more worthwhile and beneficial activities. Digital channels also enable experimentation and real-time customer feedback to learn what works for customers (CX Academy CX Report).

To deliver on our ambition of delivering enhanced, efficient ways of working and really brilliant customer experiences for now and for the future, we explored different digital solutions, partnering with key 3rd party fintechs, leading technology providers whose expertise complements our strengths. Our new Advisor Portal then became the centre of significant change across our workforce both in how we organised ourselves to deliver change and also in how we re-organised the broader operations teams to service our customers digitally. The innovation has also facilitated large Broker partners in carrying our their own workforce transformations as they utilise our digital proposition to transform their business model.

Putting the customer experience and more efficient work practices at the core of our ambition resulted in a completely reimagined digital proposition, delivered through a network of key digital platforms and new technologies that we developed with our partners. Central to the new model is our Advisor Portal, the digital fulcrum around which a number of other ‘satellite’ digital platforms connect, allowing customers engage through different channels how and when they want and critically streamlining out back office functions which frees colleagues up to focus on more complex activities where their expertise is of most value. A suite of API connectors was constructed to form a single experience layer between all components, centralising the ownership and change governance for the connected journeys, and more importantly create seamless customer transitions as they moved through the end to end journey.

Uniqueness of the project

Advisor Portal was the driver of moving the business from a purely waterfall based approach to project delivery to a more agile way of working. Key to this was delivery of cultural change within an organisation that is part of a long standing, traditional, Tier 1 Bank and was historically slow to change. A clear vision and strong leadership that stayed the course was vitally important in the success of this transformation.

In the past delivering an innovation like Advisor Portal would have been an IT led change that would have led to a different result. Our aim here was to disrupt the traditional model and to fully leverage our colleague’s expertise.

We utilised a SaaS-based partnership approach with 3rd party fintechs and leading technology providers whose expertise complements our strengths, combining their experience in digital development with our subject matter expertise, compliance and regulatory knowledge, and our scale and customer base. Cross-organisational design and delivery teams from the business and delivery partner were established. Key was that the colleague and customer experience provided the central lens through which all decisions were taken, and the teams brought this approach to all engagements. This delivery approach is quite unique within a tier 1, risk adverse, traditional institution like Bank of Ireland Group (more on this in challenges).

We delivered a transformation programme of scale in a more agile manner than traditionally understood by the organisation, working harmoniously with agile fintechs, achieving the successful delivery of such a digital initiative whilst ensuring the appropriate governance was still maintained. The overall scope of the Programme, as articulated in the Business Case, and subsequently fleshed out in the PIDs, represented our constant north star to guide us to the desired outcome through the subsequent stages of delivery. In delivering against this scope, we were faced with the challenge of how to deliver large-scale innovative technology-driven change in partnership with third-party fintech provider in a risk-conscious environment, and to do so in a manner that would deliver tangible benefit quickly. We achieved this by adopting a hybrid delivery method whereby we initially delivered initial ‘foundation’ releases, with limited scope, via a more traditional waterfall-based approach.

Having achieved a very successful implementation of an MVP solution, with proven architecture, and with all requisite controls proven and in place, the Programme was then able to change up its approach to the rest of the implementation. Through the influence of our fintech partners – who use agile project management internally – and a desire by us to embrace agile project methodology, the outstanding phases of implementation were progressed in a more agile, iterative manner. The content of the overall requirements traceability matrices (RTMs) were reviewed and refined, and integrated with the fintech vendors’ own roadmap items to build project backlogs. Key online tools, such as Jira and Confluence, were introduced to support the teams in crafting Epics and User Stories.

The new cross organisational delivery teams incorporating not just IT resources, but business, operations, marketing, CX, UX, risk and compliance, represent a permanent change in how we will operate now and into the future to deliver faster change as customer expectations evolve.

Using the digital colleague and customer experience as our ‘North Star’, and using innovative technologies in partnership with third party fintechs using our transformed delivery model, we delivered seamless end to end digital journeys across all our channels.

The story does not end there. The significant benefits delivered by our new digital journeys enabled us to transform how we digitally service our customers. Efficiency savings as a result of new automation has enabled resources to be repurposed across our operations and administration departments with new purpose and focus on customer experience and ensuring positive outcomes. We can service our customers through a mixture of self-serve options with the ability to talk to an advisor if they need or want to. We also introduced chat bot capability to enable us to reach customers in different ways.

A key example of the success of our workforce transformation is the recent delivery of our customer portal, the next phase in our portal delivery, which we brought from design to delivery in just 6 months. Previously a project of this scale would have taken significantly longer, cost more and needed a lot more resources to accomplish,

Advisor Portal, the driver on our workforce transformation, has also been key to workforce transformation with some of our Broker Partners. Their adoption and belief in our new Digital Proposition has enabled them to also create efficiencies, move to a digital business model and free up their employees to focus on more customer-centred tasks.

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