Transformation. It’s a word that has become synonymous with the financial services industry in recent years. The influence of new technology has shaken up the fintech world and encouraged companies worldwide to seek fresh ways to differentiate their offerings and stand out from rivals.
As one of the leading insurers globally, AXA is used to embracing change. A major force in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), having been in the region for over 68 years, AXA in the Gulf covers the UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar markets. AXA’s strategic ambition is to be a true partner to its customers throughout every stage of their life journey and empower them to live better lives. Siddhaarth Iyer, Head of Digital, and Yannick Janssen, Head of Technology and Innovation, are both key components of AXA Gulf’s digital journey and believe in operating with a collaborative approach. “People from every line of our business come together to voice their opinions of the digital path we should take,” explains Iyer. “It’s important we work together to figure out what is changing the digital world and how we can leverage that to grow AXA Gulf.”
With change a consistent theme in both men’s mantra, Janssen adds that establishing a mindset to drive transformation is vital. “It’s important that we lead by example,” he affirms. “We should always be looking for new ways to drive change.” With customer-centricity a key pillar of AXA’s transformation, the company has created a mobile-first approach. “With the number of devices constantly increasing, there’s a clear shift in the amount of people using our application,” adds Iyer. “There’s currently a 60/40 split in traffic with 60% using our services from a mobile device and 40% from a desktop. In the future, I believe that we’ll eventually just focus on mobile because people won’t want to access applications from anywhere else. The aim is to become an omnichannel player and in order to achieve that, you need to be available both online and offline. But, it is important to be aware of how all of our audience engages with us and ensure we’re there for everyone.”
With a mobile-first approach considered by some in the fintech space as the largest disrupter in the industry, Iyer believes that the use of data is even more influential. “I believe that the way in which data is consumed is going to transform people’s approach to systems,” he explains. “The biggest disruptor in the market is going to be data and how we use it. It will define our mobile-first approach.” Janssen affirms that extracting more ways to harness data is the key. “We must look at how to get more data than the customer gives you,” says Janssen. “How do you track customer behaviour and provide them with a value-added service that they really want? It’s this behaviour and analysis which is going to make all the difference.”
At the heart of AXA Gulf’s transformation drive is its employees, which Iyer refers to as ‘digital champions’. Iyer believes their mentality and willingness to embrace change has been a major factor behind his company’s success. “The way they have embraced digitalisation has been amazing. We call them digital champions because they’re the ones who will drive change throughout the organisation,” he affirms. “All of our employees are onboard and eager to adapt their way of working to become more efficient. I believe it’s important to be challenged from a digital standpoint and I’ve seen that cultural shift and drive to embrace technology. It’s extremely important to us.”
In a bid to accelerate operations, AXA Gulf believes in forming strategic and sustainable partnerships to assist in its transformation drive. “As a large company, we’re dependant on our partners to help deliver high quality solutions for us. We can’t do it ourselves,” says Iyer. “A good partner must have speed, agility and be adaptable. These three core values are essential and contribute to long-term success.” Janssen adds that forming the right partnerships is essential to success. “I believe that the next step is to ensure that all our partners recognise that AXA is centered around technology,” adds Janssen. “I want to ensure we’re developing the right technology partnerships to help us drive this transformation.”
As AXA Gulf’s transformation journey continues to gather momentum, Iyer recognises that although his company’s shift to digitalisation has been challenging at times, it has been a significant learning curve and he instructs other leaders in the industry to take the ‘leap of faith’. “There's never a right time to do it. Whether you succeed or fail, you’ll learn along the way,” he explains. “We’ve had our own set of failures and learnt lessons. It’s important that you always question why you’re implementing something. And if you’ve always answered that question, then you always have the justification to do it.”
“Change is led by individuals. I believe that in order to succeed, it’s important to have an open mindset to lead that change,” affirms Janssen. “You need to be the best you can be to drive a transformation journey such as this.” Looking to the future, Iyer and Janssen both have a clear vision for AXA Gulf over the next few years. “We have to be focused around finding new ways to increase sales - that’s the ultimate aim,” says Iyer. “It’s important to see how we can generate more value and offer other services to the customers we already have. If we have a customer signed up to motor insurance, then they might be interested in our health segment. It’s up to us to ensure our solutions are streamlined and simple to use for our customers.”