Insurer Aviva to give financial advisory partners a boost

It plans to help them digitise and be more efficient in meeting new regulatory requirements


INSURER Aviva plc is "well down the path" of helping its financial advisory (FA) partners here modernise by digitising and industrialising the advisory process.

Speaking to The Business Times on Wednesday, Chris Wei, executive chairman of Aviva Asia and global chairman of Aviva Digital, said that the group was looking to provide financial advisers here with more advanced advisory tools.

For example, it is working on automating the Know-Your-Client form, which is an essential fact-finding step to provide the financial adviser representatives information necessary for them to identify a customer's objectives, protection needs and what they can afford.

With automation, advisers will be able to go through the Know-Your-Client process with their clients and make sure they "tick everything off and do everything they are supposed to be doing", said Mr Wei.

This is crucial for the FA industry here as the government rolls out the Balanced Scorecard remuneration (BSC) framework from January.

The BSC is one recommendation from the Financial Advisory Industry Review (Fair) that ties an adviser's and the supervisor's remunerations to the quality of advice dispensed.

The challenge comes as most FA firms here are still largely paper-based and many of them, particularly the small firms, have difficulties in carrying out compliance of the BSC.

Many cannot afford an automated Know-Your-Client system that can carry out pre-transaction checks.

"In a classic sense, the bigger players with large agency forces would build their own systems for their agents, but nobody's building it for financial advisers. That's something we think we can play a unique role in, to help our advisers digitise and be much more efficient," explained Mr Wei.

At the group level, Mr Wei's focus is to transform the insurer's business "inside out" and his vision for the future of Aviva is one without forms.

"We're going through a pretty significant journey group-wide, to refresh all our digital assets so it's fixing on the inside out and not just 'that's a great idea, let's try and plug in' and I think that's quite different to what some of our peers are doing."

A key to digitalising the group is to rethink product design to meet customers' needs in a simpler way, he said.

"So we do need to simplify the way we design products and how we articulate, whether it's exclusions or constraints around those products. To me, that's the massive exam question for Aviva across the world and we're doing a lot of work around that."

The shift away from the conventional method of doing things in the region starts with Hong Kong.

"In my opinion, the products and the distribution approaches that are available may be a bit old school. We're going to take a fundamentally different look at Hong Kong, we're going to relaunch towards the latter half of 2016 a totally different model which will be Digital First," said Mr Wei, who stressed that taking a digital first approach does not mean taking only a digital approach.

Traditional distribution channels - through intermediaries, brokers and banks - will continue to have their place.

Also, customers in markets including Singapore and Canada will be able to view all their policies across life, general and private medical insurance online at one go, as the insurer rolls out its online platform, MyAviva, across multiple markets gradually.

This was launched in the United Kingdom in mid-2014 and is also currently available in France and Italy.

Using digital means to improve customer experience is one part of the equation but insurers also need to come up with innovative solutions.

To this end, Mr Wei said that Aviva in September this year launched customised packages called "You, Me & We" in Poland as it sought to attract younger customers.

Through research, the insurer found that single working adults in Poland feel very alone when things happen as their families are not around to help them.

"So, if they get sick, or if they have a pet, Aviva takes care of the pet. When they get home, they can't quite clean and cook yet, we'll bring you food and clean the house. To me, those are the features that really address the pain points for that segment. That's an innovative product development that really meets the needs of those consumers."

Such packages are "testing out really nicely" in Poland, said Mr Wei, who added that for it to work in Singapore, the concept needs to be customised.

Mr Wei was speaking ahead of Wednesday evening's launch of the "Digital Garage" in Singapore, which comes some four months after the group first announced the idea.

Similar to the first one in London, it is a dedicated space for technical specialists, creative designers and business leaders explore and test new insurance ideas and services.

The centre, located in a four-storey heritage shop-house on Armenian Street, has a team of about 100 and will be supported by another 200 technology specialists based here.

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