In the age of digital transformation, global insurance provider AXA has adopted a decentralised approach to innovation. AXA International and New Markets (AXA INM) takes charge of AXA’s operations in emerging and developing markets, covering Eastern European territories, Latin America, the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), Africa, India, Singapore, Malaysia and more. “There’s a significant amount of Transformation to deliver across the 20-25 entities,” says Kuldeep Kaushik, Chief Operating and Transformation Officer at AXA INM. “We have very different maturity levels across the businesses and very different technology landscapes as well. Part of my role is evaluating each of those entities and defining programmes which are specific to their maturity, business strategy, and needs and capabilities.” While AXA INM has an overarching transformation strategy, Kaushik notes that this is open to deviations where necessary. “We have key areas from a strategy perspective that everybody needs to follow and have a roadmap on. However, if there are scenarios where regulations are not evolving fast enough, certain providers aren’t present locally, or we do not have a strategy in place to build local solutions, we do make exceptions at that point.”
In terms of the core principles being driven at a group-wide level, Kaushik says there are seven key pillars being addressed: Legacy and technical debt, Cloud, the Partnership and Customer Service ecosystem, Big Data, Innovation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), People Capabilities, and Information Security. Each of these pillars can face regulatory and infrastructural hurdles, but AXA INM’s ability to tailor its approach to wildly differing markets is reaping dividends. The Move to the Cloud initiative is a particular challenge when it comes to local regulation in some of AXA INM’s countries, Kaushik explains. “If you look at our geographical spread, we have entities which have quite strict regulatory constraints. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), for example, has regulatory limitations from a public cloud perspective and in terms of moving data out of the country.” In terms of negotiating a concern of this magnitude, the firm must consider both time and alternative solutions.
AXA INM does not want to establish any additional on-premises data centre environments, but territories whose public cloud regulations necessitate private clouds are changing with the times. For example, the Polish government is currently developing the Polish National Cloud, a new environment that will enable enterprises to move to a public cloud whilst also answering the crucial question of the authority of control. In an interview with FinTech Magazine, Olivier Schemberg, Head of IT (CIO) at AXA Poland, said operations will begin to launch on the Polish National Cloud in summer 2019. In the Middle East, Kaushik notes, concerns surrounding cloud strategy were alleviated by the adaptations of cloud providers. “We might have to make an exception in countries where we have regulatory data residency challenges and public cloud isn’t available,” he says. “Gulf countries, for example, had been a concern in this area, but luckily cloud providers have evolved their business strategy and we now have both Azure and AWS (Amazon Web Services) available in the Middle East.”
Cloud maintains a centrality to AXA INM’s transformation plans as a key enabler of other technologies, such as Big Data and AI. Across the group, AXA INM is keen to increasingly leverage data as a means to drive business decisions, enhance customer centricity and build more meaningful relationships with customers. Simultaneously, the firm aims to simplify customer journeys and data input needs from customers, especially for claims processes. “Our CEO is driven from a customer perspective,” says Kaushik. “We’re focusing on solutions that are keeping the customer in the middle of all solutions we design. For example, we’re significantly focused on making sure that the customer journeys on the sales, servicing and claims sides are streamlined. In terms of data touchpoints that we expect from the customer, we’re ensuring that we only ask for relevant information at the relevant time.” Not only are customers being asked for less input throughout the process, but new technologies are being applied to simplify how those data inputs can be delivered. “In some of our countries, we can issue a motor insurance quote as long as the customer can upload an image of their driving licence and car registration document. That, for me, is customer centricity: you’re actually delivering solutions which make the life of a customer easier,” enthuses Kaushik. “From a servicing perspective, there are a lot of new technology-driven claims solutions that we have delivered in Turkey, Morocco, Greece and Nigeria, for example, that deliver on the spot claims assessments. We’re able to survey accidents using various technologies, such as image recognition, to expedite the claims process as well.”
AI has been brought into the fold to speed up policy issuance as well as enhance the company’s cybersecurity capabilities. Robotic process automation (RPA), combined with AI, has revolutionised the back-end processes of entities across the group, and the positive results for efficiency are manifold. Kaushik offers an example launched in Brazil that has cut policy issuance from weeks to just a single day. “We brought RPA and AI technologies together to deploy a solution that can take the process of policy issuance (which can take around 14-16 days) and turn it around in 24 hours." he says. “Automation solutions are also being deployed in the security space – we have a sizeable landscape and exposure in terms of digital assets available in various entities, and on a monthly basis we now scan the entire landscape to ensure assets are protected and there are no vulnerabilities.” In addition, the AI-augmented scanning enables AXA INM to monitor whether any fraudulent assets have been launched across the internet that are aimed at deceiving AXA customers. “There are fake assets popping up across the globe, so we are using automation solutions to identify anything that could put our customers at risk.”
For Kaushik, one of the most exciting things about AXA INM’s work is the ability for emerging markets and entities to leapfrog established solutions and cut ahead of mature markets. “In Senegal, for example, you can upload pictures of a vehicle and have a quote issued for a motor policy; some of the mature markets don’t have that capability yet,” he says, adding that we will see some major new projects delivered imminently. “The next 18 months is about delivery; it’s about getting the legacy and the technical debt reduced to a minimum level. It’s about moving our infrastructure to the cloud, it’s about building digital capabilities on the distribution side, and it’s about improving our data capabilities. It’s full steam execution for the next 18 months to become a truly Tech-Led organisation. Amen!”