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May 2021

Combining adviser relationships with technology

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Apr 2021

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The merger of Singlife and Aviva Singapore is a story of transformation that involves digital, culture and smart thinking. We spoke to Aviva Singlife’s Mr Walter de Oude to get the inside track on what such transformation really involves.
By Paul McNamara
The logic behind the merger of Aviva Singapore and Singlife is hard to miss: Bring the industry experience of one party with the digitally-focused capabilities of the other. Increasing depth of market penetration without cannibalising each other’s customer base seems to be the name of the game.
The resultant entity – Aviva Singlife - is 25% owned by Aviva, private equity house TPG, Sumitomo Life and pre-existing Singlife shareholders.
To understand the transformation story better we caught up with Aviva Singlife deputy chairman Walter de Oude to talk about the metamorphosis. “Singlife is incredibly fortunate in that our origins were digital first in nature,” he said.
“We built Singlife’s capability framework from the ground up, assuming that we never needed to worry about paper ever. We never needed to worry about anything other than having digital touch points with customers. That was inculcated in both our architecture and our business processes, which are two different things. There are two pieces here: If you want to build something digital, you can go off and just build something digital; but you also have to create a digital culture in the organisation where people believe that a more digital approach is actually superior and more efficient,” he said.
“Part of our overall strategy is to take the digital capabilities of the existing Singlife business and merge those with the deep product and strong advisory capabilities of Aviva. And if we can get the best out of both worlds, we can massively improve the customer experience for both advised face-to-face relationships as well as pure digital engagement with us, and we can compete much more sustainably as the market continues to mature,” said Mr de Oude.
Looking for synergies
Fleshing out the transformation strategy with targets and deliverables involves looking at where the businesses are complementary rather than competitive. The ‘secret sauce’, according to Mr de Oude, is not so secret.
“Where the greatest synergy happens is appreciating the benefits that digital brings to an advisory process - and at the same time having an appreciation for the benefits that advice and more products have to a digital framework - so that these two parts of the business can come together in a complementary and holistic way,” he said.
Prioritising what is most important is also crucial. “First and foremost, business must continue,” said Mr de Oude. “We have to continue to provide benefits and services to our advisers and our customers to the best of our ability to generate results. But as we continue, we have to also spend time and effort on improving the overall process and engagement with customers. And engagement is where everything is concentrated.
“Prioritisation has to happen in making sure that the sales engines work and that customers get the services they need. Secondary to that is to look at each advisory process and service and each customer engagement and see how can we optimise these things in a digital way or how can we expand the ecosystem of digital services such that customers can have a more engaged relationship with us, either directly or through their advisers.”
Focus on potential
Progress does not depend on setting arbitrary deadlines. “It is more about creating empowerment within the organisation to help direct the firm to what its potential can be,” said Mr de Oude.
“We empower the team to go and build what they think is right and then decide whether we need to keep spending more. Are we going in the right direction? Are we getting engaged customers? Are we enabling happier and better equipped advisers? Is our business a better business because of what we spend? Then we decide what we’re going to do in the next quarter.
“Are we getting more sales? Are we getting more cross-sell or are we getting deeper relationships with customers? Those are tangible results,” said Mr de Oude. A 
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