Opinion: Innovating at pace – "we can't and won't stand still"
Against a challenging backdrop of climate change, elevated cyber risks, workforce shifts and the increasing speed of technology adoption, Suncorp is accelerating our technology-enabled transformation.
Having worked in banking for many years, my time at Suncorp has been a rapid induction into the realities of the insurance industry.
With back-to-back La Nina seasons, and a third just declared, we have seen the debate on climate change and the transition to net zero brought forward by the increased frequency and impact of natural disasters impacting us today.
Then to the COVID pandemic, with the unprecedented impact it has had from both a health & wellbeing and economic perspective. Combined with geopolitical instability around the world, this has driven a major dislocation of supply chains and investment market volatility.
Closer to home in my technology role, we have seen cyber criminals increasing their nefarious activities, with a marked step up in ransomware, phishing, denial of service attacks and customer scams. Responding to zero-day vulnerabilities is now an almost daily reality for our cyber and technology teams.
We have also seen a dramatic acceleration in our customers' adoption of technology, which has increased their expectations for seamless and personalised digital experiences. Artificial intelligence. Machine Learning. Telematics. Intelligent automation. Cloud. Internet of Things. These words are no longer kept within small tech circles but are very much becoming part of our daily insurance vernacular as we all embark on ambitious digital transformations.
And, if all that wasn’t enough, we are navigating a profound shift in how and where work is now being performed: a transfer in the balance of power between employees and their employers, alongside chronic shortages in key skills and capabilities.
Artificial intelligence. Machine Learning. Telematics. Intelligent automation. Cloud. Internet of Things. These words are no longer kept within small tech circles but are very much becoming part of our daily insurance vernacular.Suncorp Chief Information Officer Adam Bennett
As the world around us changes and customers expect higher quality outcomes, faster and at lower cost – we can’t and won’t stand still. We need to evolve and adapt, at pace.
For many years, Suncorp has challenged the traditional ideology of an in-house technology team. Since 2020, our revitalised Technology & Transformation function has encompassed group strategy, transformation, partnering and innovation, alongside infrastructure, digital technology, data and automation.
Against this challenging backdrop, Suncorp is accelerating our technology-enabled transformation.
#It starts with people and culture
Recent dramatic workforce shifts have necessitated new ways of thinking about talent and creating an innovation culture.
At Suncorp, we have doubled down on attracting entry-level interns and graduates, looking more creatively at the degrees we are recruiting from and the diversity we are seeking. I was so pleased to see in our last intake of technology grads and interns we achieved close to 60% female gender mix.
Equally critical is building new capabilities and reskilling our people. We are also creating opportunities for our people to learn about new technologies and get them excited about solving real customer problems.
And of course, the days of people coming to the office to sit at their desk and perform individual tasks is clearly over. We need to think of offices as flexible, fluid and technology-enabled collaboration spaces.
Our Reskill program is supporting our people to develop valuable new skills in process analysis, in partnership with University of NSW and our Group Automation team.
Our Innovation Academy offers structured learning for our people to build innovation skills and mindsets.
Our recent Sensorthon event created opportunities for the team to experiment with sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT). The winning idea is now being tested to explore how we might take it to market.
Our brand-new head office in Brisbane at Heritage Lanes is a 100% digital building, with 700 wireless access points, 3,300 desk sensors, 100+ Surface Hub devices, 700 digital media screens, and an industry-first smart building ‘brain’ software platform.
#A customer-aligned way of working – at speed
We’re scaling agile ways of working through our Momentum delivery model, building on our strong agile heritage and adapting to lessons learnt from COVID.
Our Momentum model has been progressively rolled out over the past year, initially in New Zealand, then successfully piloted in Australia across several portfolios, and is now implemented across the enterprise – both business and technology – to over 3,500 people.
Essential to these new ways of working are mindsets and behaviours:
- Customer obsession – creating a clearer link to customer outcomes.
- Pace over perfection – less bureaucracy – outcomes delivered to customers more quickly.
- Empowered teams – a better experience for our people – working in innovative, adaptive, and accountable teams.
- Transparency and trust – enhanced transparency of delivery performance – in an environment where it is safe to experiment and 'fail forward'.
We have totally revamped our operating model and end-to-end delivery methodology in addition to streamlining our investment funding and governance model.
Our Innovation Studio is an internal ideas incubator that helps our business prototype new ideas.
Our multi-cloud strategy is giving us greater technology agility with more than 65% of our systems hosted in public cloud, and a plan to reach 90% by the end of 2023.
#Tapping into innovation externally
The final ingredient needed is a portfolio of strategic partners to augment internal capability, be that Insurtechs, the ‘Big Tech’ companies or more traditional business and technology partners.
Our most recent technology wins demonstrate how this comes together.
Our new AAMI Driver Rewards app feature will give customers the opportunity to earn rewards based on how well they drive. The telematics and AI-enabled solution was first prototyped out of our Innovation Studio and integrates our partners' capabilities.
Our modern analytics-driven Customer and Pricing Ecosystem (CaPE) offers a more customer-centric approach to pricing with improved risk selection.
Our industry-first geospatial capabilities are transforming the end-to-end home insurance customer journey, halving the number of property attribute questions our customers need to answer in a quote.
Our Event Control Centre has quickly become a critical capability that allows us to track weather events, quickly understand impacted areas, map this against our customers' properties and proactively prepare and manage our event response.
#A critical role to play
Despite the challenges we have all navigated over the past two and a half years, the role of insurance products and services in protecting what matters for our customers has never been more important.
And the insurance industry more broadly has an even more critical role to play in helping to shape our nations’ transition to net zero, advocate for greater government and community focus on natural hazard mitigation and resilience, and respond to cyber threats and the other emerging risks our business and customers face.
These macro trends have also reinforced the need to accelerate the pace and scale of innovation across all aspects our business.
Those insurance companies that will be successful now and into the future will be guided by a strong sense of purpose, with execution of their strategies underpinned by a committed focus on people and culture, customer-aligned ways of working, and leveraging a strong ecosystem of strategic partners.
Adam Bennett first presented this speech as the keynote speaker at the FST Insurance Summit.