The pace of change being felt by those working at the intersection of regulation, technology and client experience is intense. Consumers expect and demand from their financial institutions the same experience they get from Amazon, online banking and Netflix.

The technology is also changing rapidly, sometimes leaving decision-makers uncertain about when to pull the trigger, the question being whether to spring for the latest upgrades or wait instead for the next big thing.

Continuous improvement 

There is a real expectation, however, that companies will bring new tools and experiences to market quickly with an ongoing commitment to continuous iteration and improvement, says Kelley Oke, vice president of digital product strategy at Canada Life.

Oke was joined by Manulife’s head of underwriting and claims and chief underwriter, Karen Cutler, by Susan Silma, head of risk and regulatory business practices at Sun Life, and by the session’s moderator, Kelly Gustafson, senior business and innovation manager at Raymond James Canada in a panel about insurtech and changing business dynamics, held at Symposium 2021, hosted by Advocis in November.

More, whenever a new tool is released, they say it is never ‘one and done.’ 

A commitment to design thinking 

To succeed amidst all of this, Oke says there are three principles which can contribute to a company’s success. The first, she says is a commitment to design thinking, “which, at its core, is really about solving a problem, not just providing a solution. It’s rooted in having a really deep understanding of the advisor and client and the problems they’re facing.”

Next, she says continuous engagement with users will help a company shape what they’re building. Finally, she says a minimum viable approach to delivery is also necessary in today’s environment. That is, “working with advisors and clients to identify the minimum features and functionalities we need to give them to solve their problems. That means we don’t provide all the bells and whistles at the original launch,” she says.

Taking the external view 

Cutler, meanwhile points out that “insurance companies historically have been good at designing things for from the internal view out. What we have figured out, definitely, is we have to take that external view because we are not the day-to-day users of the things that we want,” Cutler says.

When working to identify the features and functions actually needed to solve the problem in question, Silma agrees that end user feedback is critical – so much so that she recommends formalizing a company’s feedback processes.

The importance of advisor feedback 

“I want to reiterate the importance of getting advisor feedback at various stages. Having a formalized feedback loop is really important. We're all moving so quickly to launch and move on to the next agile piece of work, it's critical to get that feedback. Formalizing the process is really helpful,” she says.

Once the launch of any tool or application occurs too, they say it is important to make sure appropriate support models are in place.

“Some advisors out there may need a little bit more support. We've got to be able to provide that and make sure we make that journey a little less painful,” Cutler says. “Once the launch happens, make sure the support model is there. Because things will happen that that we may not be prepared for.” The support function, she adds is another way to get feedback once a firm has gone live with something new.

The experience blueprint 

Oke adds that it is also important to think and map out the experience users will have when technology does go off the rails. “Do you have a great experience with the contact center? Do you have a great experience with the head office service? Because it's the overall experience that you're trying to create.” 

This experience blueprint, she adds, is what will really differentiate companies going forward.

As for other challenges the tech departments face, legacy systems are still a problem if you want to look at the past. Or, if you prefer challenges from the future, Oke says it is necessary to continuously monitor a number of signposts. “What else is happening on the technology front? What are those disruptors? What's happening in the competitive landscape? How are consumer behaviors changing? What about changing economic indicators? I think we have to think about all of those items and considerations in tandem and be really ready to pivot with contingency plans as we see major changes.” 

Consumers want hybrid service 

As of the moment, meanwhile, she says research shows that consumers in the present and near future want hybrid service where an advisor serves as the client’s guide, but in an environment where they can collaborate and also self-serve to an extent. Advisors, she says, can improve their engagement by embracing this trend and the new tools available. 

Clients also don’t want to see tools and solutions as separate and distinct; they want a seamless journey. “It's not about individual tools any longer. It's about how do those tools fit together for that endless experience,” she adds.

Making advisors comfortable 

“As long as we can deliver a way for our advisors to meet with their customers and their customer’s needs, then I think we're being successful,” Cutler says. She adds that the key is to make the technology seamless, no matter how complicated the products and processes may be, and make all of it less complicated for consumers. “The adviser understands how complicated we are,” she says. “Driving that digital adoption up even further, it's going to come down to making advisors comfortable.”