The African insurance market in is turning into a hotbed of innovation. Life insurance, as a key example, grew by 13.7% from $39.465mn in 2016 to $44.899mn in 2017, with South Africa leading the way, with a market share of $71.7%.
Making up about 33% of the South African population, the country’s growing millennial market has led to rising demands for convenient and accessible products and services, which deliver real-time information. Mobile wallet solution M-Pesa has gained significant momentum, with further digital tools enabling companies to more effectively engage with customers, as well as give them the capability to target rural areas and cater towards a diverse demographic.
Part of the Old Mutual Group, Old Mutual iWYZE is a direct insurance provider, offering car, home and life insurance. Whilst the larger group works with brokers and partners, iWYZE listens to its customers and their needs to deliver an interactive customer experience, effectively driving growth across its products.
“We work closely with Old Mutual Insure, another member of the Old Mutual Group and they are our largest partner. We make use of their IT infrastructure and services to ensure that we deliver the best customer experience for our customers,” explains Head of IT Operations, Jan Marais.
Obtaining over 18 years’ experience across multiple countries, Marais’s goal is to make the business increasingly adaptable and robust, and has been a key figure in streamlining the development of new self-service technologies, moving the business forward in digital innovation.
When exploring the advantages of customer-self-service technology, tools such as phone calls, standard text messaging and even social and mobile based applications have revolutionised the way in which people communicate and interact.
However, whilst over 60% of the Sub-Saharan Africa population remains unbanked, iWYZE, as well as many other insurance companies, have turned to technology to address this untapped market. With a highly knowledgeable, skilled team, the company’s workforce has gained a solid understanding of the short-term insurance industry and what its customers want.
“The journey of how people would like to interact is what excites us and that's part and parcel of the foundation that we are building to enable that,” says Marais.
“When it comes to making sure that customers can interact with us through our digital channels, we need to understand their real risks at any time and should be able to get that information without any effort from the customer.
“We don't want an overbearing forms process, where individuals have to answer a plethora of questions for us to be able to identify and assess their risk. We want to be able to achieve that with as few questions as possible and for us to tap into existing databases to be able to pre-populate information, so that we can get a person's risk assessed without overbearing question sets.”
Ramping up its efforts to become a key player within the South African market, iWYZE underwent a market competitor analysis to look at how to bring new products to market, as well as embed the right policy administration systems to gain the trust of its customers.
“From a technology perspective, we had to put a lot of foundations in place to be able to give the business the opportunity to run at pace, to service our customers how they would like to be serviced. A big part of this is using technology and social media. Furthermore we've had a massive internal focus on the customer-centric service model to give our customers a world-class customer experience – this is cemented in how we engage our customers at each touchpoint throughout the customer journey,” says Marais.
Although cloud has become an increasingly versatile tool within the insurance industry to drive down costs, promote scalability and improve business processes, iWYZE’s main focus is to be cloud-ready.
“We have a cloud-based footprint, so for us to be able to be a cost-effective IT organisation, it's important to have a fine balance between re-using existing infrastructure of the larger business versus what we put in the cloud to be responsive to customers. It is a very fine balance because that is what dictates cost-effective IT and to make sure that we've got the security around that,” he adds.
“To be successful and agile in such a fast-paced and competitive industry, it's important for an organisation’s IT department to be close to and understand the business, the people, the processes and the products.
“Trust in the delivery of IT is something which takes a while to mature. One of the ways which has made us successful is running with a small business mentality within a large business.
“This has given us that agility, sharing services with the larger business, trying to streamline and bypass overbearing governance and also supporting the bigger business by running proof of concepts (POCs) for them to be able to make decisions quicker.”
High performance culture
Harnessing a strong policy administration system and partnering with TIA in Denmark, the business has sought to implement a service-oriented architecture, without compromising on the customer experience. As a result, its front-end system has remained agnostic from any of its systems in the background.
Additionally, Hallmark Salvage Specialists has been essential to its claims division, bringing on board a transparent and sophisticated operation to recoup costs incurred where required.
By adopting a high-performance culture, the business’ new inhouse IT department remains committed to visualising data to guarantee better, data-driven decision making. Bringing its outsourcing activities inhouse, iWYZE has developed an exceptional, bespoke IT infrastructure whilst taking advantage of the larger business' existing infrastructure, delivering world-class results.
“I think we've got a very strong brand, Old Mutual is one of the oldest brands in South Africa, and the brand is synonymous with trust,” concludes Marais.
“Technology is always something that can be replicated and duplicated. Building a brand that is so strong and then bringing it into modern times using technology is what will give us an edge over the competitors, for sure.”