Digital insurance: a global future

Sian Moon

10 minute read

Sian Moon is Vice President for Global Customer Relationship Management at iptiQ by Swiss Re in Hong Kong, a digital first, white-label provider of consumer-insurance products. As global portfolio lead, Sian supports Partnership Engagement by optimising sales processes and tools across Europe, the United States and the Asia-Pacific.

In 2011, Sian graduated from the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE) with a Bachelor of Commerce. Continuing her studies at CBE, she graduated with a Master of Management in 2014.

She subsequently worked across public and private sectors in Australia, including roles with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Disability Insurance Agency and ANU, before moving to Hong Kong in 2017.  From there, Sian held roles supporting digitisation of distribution channels by building ecosystem solutions for various primary insurers across the Asia-Pacific region, before taking up her current position with iptiQ.

In this interview, Sian talks technology and the future of insurance, her passion for problem solving, and explains how her CBE degrees prepared her for a global career.

Q. Can you tell us about your career path and what led you to the role you're in today?

The consistent element throughout my career has been complex problem solving in unique business environments. I am passionate about all things strategy, process and data, and use these to translate digital solutions into business success. 

Early in my career, I worked across the Asia-Pacific region delivering capacity-building workshops in a program funded by AUSAID. This sparked an interest in knowledge sharing and learning from different geographies.

My interest in analytics then led me to a more technical role with ANU, implementing data warehousing and performance-change programs across professional and human-resource environments.

In 2017, when a move to Hong Kong presented itself, I grasped it with both hands. I spent the next four years building digital solutions for primary insurers across the Asia-Pacific region. These roles allowed me to expand my technical capabilities across digital enablers in the insurance industry.

This has led me to my most recent role with iptiQ by Swiss Re, where I am able to leverage both my technical delivery skills and experience in distribution to represent the business – while still being focused on a data driven, digital-first approach.

Q. Fuelled by FinTech investments and InsurTech start-ups, insurance has become a hotbed of digital innovation. What is your assessment of the current digital-insurance ecosystem?

It is valuable to remember that insurance companies have existed since the 17th century, and have evolved through multiple political, industrial, and technical revolutions. Insurance has become a hotbed for digital innovation due to the ongoing and absolute need for change, with FinTech and InsurTech start-ups among the first to identify and leverage these opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this change, but in most cases, insurers had already been working on this digital transformation journey for decades.  

Like other industries, digital disruption is driving the insurance market into new operating models at an unprecedented scale and pace. This is driving not just insurers, but the broader ecosystem, pushing partnerships and collaboration with adjacent industries across the end-to-end value chain, and allowing them to leverage new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and machine learning. 

The challenges and opportunities facing insurance companies are changing faster than ever, making it increasingly difficult to plan for emerging trends and new technology. The most important aspect now is enabling the workforce to be agile in confronting and managing the inventible change.

Q. With more driverless cars and smart homes on the horizon, how will such technologies shape the future of insurance?

Insurers and reinsurers have always been data driven and fundamentally, are built around measuring and managing risk. The expansion of technologies has amplified the focus on monitoring consumer trends to offer products that meet business and consumer needs, while still appropriately managing risk.

Technologies, such as driverless cars and smart homes, are changing the risk landscape for personal insurance. In some areas, risk is reducing. However, this is offset by areas where risk is growing at an exponential rate, including cyber security and fraud. 

The rise of wearables and investment into other health and wellness applications are also shaping the future of insurance. They dually build consumer knowledge and understanding, while feeding information back to health practitioners and insurance companies. Because of this, the emphasis on, and the potential of data is significant.

Companies such as iptiQ are focused on gathering, aggregating, normalising, organising and presenting this sort of information in usable ways to provide thought leadership, generate new product offerings, price differentiation and enhance their underwriting capabilities.

Q. Digital transformation, heightened competition, and customer expectations are pressuring any modern, client-facing company to deliver better customer experiences (CX). Talk us through some of the hard choices that companies in your sector will need to make between boosting CX or losing market share.

Consumers are demanding a digital experience that is both frictionless and highly personalised. Delivering a superior customer experience, plus value-added services, is non-negotiable for insurers to remain competitive. It is also a key component of my work philosophy.

Building customer loyalty is in some ways a 'holy grail' for insurance companies, as perception of this relationship is still fragmented and lacks trust. While the digital age has made it easier to switch providers, recent research has found that customers who use ecosystem services (for example doctor networks or personal advice lines) give their insurers higher value ratings. Therefore, meeting these demands of the consumer (and broader distribution channel members) should be a number one priority to drive market share.

The emphasis and decision driver for many companies is leveraging human-centred design thinking and processes to get as close to the customer as possible. Recent research by KPMG found that 90 per cent of individuals are willing to share their personal information in exchange for greater personalisation and more value. Investing in data capabilities and mining these lakes of information to predict behaviour and meet customer expectations is key to business success in the 21st century.

Q. What kind of impact will the COVID-19 pandemic have on project managers' competencies? And what has been your experience with preserving project continuity in a pandemic?

Project Managers by nature require a strong emotional quotient to navigate complex internal structures, political environments, cross-functional teams and challenging stakeholders. During the pandemic, project managers have had to prioritise understanding and meeting the needs of their team members as a key to continuing to deliver business outcomes.

COVID-19 has brought both benefits and challenges to project delivery. Benefits include cost reductions resulting from remote working, reduced travel and office downsizing. Challenges include the human and technology cost to implement non-face-to-face capabilities, and the need to maintain momentum in the constantly accelerating digital transformation space.

While projects can be delivered successfully remotely, project continuity comes down to ensuring sustainability for the people involved. Part of my role has been to ensure that team members have boundaries between work and non-work activities. Mechanisms to switch off are essential to avoid burnout and sustain momentum, and I have worked with my team to implement measures such as additional paid days leave, recurring 'refuelling' days, and meeting and phone block-out periods.

Letting people disconnect is so important in the digital workplace, but it also can be one of the hardest challenges.

Q. How did your CBE experience prepare you for your career?

CBE teaches its future leaders critical thinking and problem solving. Through group work and practical case studies, we learnt to question the status quo and think differently. This prepares you to tackle real-world problems from the get-go.

With a diverse and interactive community from across Australia and around the world, students in CBE are encouraged to interact outside of their established networks and comfort zones. This real-world experience is crucial, when you walk into a new career, a new country or a new employer. 

CBE also has a strong alumni and engagement mechanism. I have been able to find ANU alumni in many locations around the world and leverage these connections for business outcomes across the globe.

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.