AXA: Leading innovation in Hong Kong’s insurance market

AXA: Leading innovation in Hong Kong’s insurance market

The world’s economy has witnessed exponential growth over the last decade. Population growth, longer lifespans, rising healthcare costs and increasingly digital lifestyles are all leading to the disruption of not only the protection available for consumers, but also how insurers will continue to play a key role in this evolving industry. Insurers have therefore looked to overhaul the traditional ways of working in a bid to remain ahead of the curve and better serve their customers.    

Witnessing how the surge of new players continues to drive the launch of personalised solutions across Asia, AXA has also seen a number of non-insurance companies, such as Tencent and Alibaba, look at entering this competitive space, demonstrating their potential for future growth.

“New digital entrants are starting to disrupt the insurance business with a relentless quest for simplicity and a focus on what truly matters to the customers. Traditionally, insurance has not led in the digital space but it is catching up quickly with other industries. At AXA, we are investing heavily in infrastructure, people and tools to transform the customer experience and modernise insurance on all fronts,” says AXA Hong Kong Chief Marketing & Customer Officer, Andrea Wong.

“In Asia, customers are really embracing a digital lifestyle, probably more so than you would see in the rest of the world,” observes AXA Hong Kong’s Chief Information Officer Darrell Ryman. “Having spent 10 years in Mainland China, I witnessed how the country skipped the PC and went straight to mobile. We are committed to digitalising business deployment through technology and making insurance readily available across devices, anytime, anywhere.”

Making insurance simple and personal

The advent of the digital age has changed the way people communicate and consume. Customers are now well connected online and demand speedy and round-the-clock services, making it extremely important for insurers to provide a much simpler and more personalised experience to their customers.

“Customer-first is our core value. We consider the way our customers live today and tomorrow so that our products and services continue to be relevant and meaningful to them. Moving from a product-led company to one which is more customer-centric, we have significantly transformed to make connections with customers simpler, easier and quicker. MyAXA is a modern online experience we specially designed for simplifying our interaction with customers,” explains Wong.

MyAXA is a 24/7 web and mobile app based digital service for AXA customers. Customers can view their Life and Employee Benefits (EB) policies with AXA Hong Kong on MyAXA, and are able to perform key online transactions such as SmartClaims (with just a simple photo snap), fund switching and searching for doctors using geo-locations.

In addition, a first-in-market service was launched in October 2017, called ‘e-Prescription’. MyAXA users can order prescribed medicine with just a photo of the prescription, then pay and pick up the medicine from a designated pharmacy, creating added convenience.

“In just 12 months, MyAXA had over 80,000 downloads, and since it was launched to our EB policyholders the number of active users is increasing at a promising rate with more downloads day after day,” Wong says.

To offer a more personalised service, AXA also piloted brand new concepts in promoting personal wellness. “We introduced Xtra by AXA, which is a unique personal coaching mobile app that rewards users for living a healthy lifestyle. We are the first in the market to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into an interactive digital chatbot named Alex, to provide tips on health and wellbeing for customers who are health-conscious,” adds Wong.

AXA has put in place a robust system to capture customer insights at different service touch points, such as when making a claim, calling hotlines, or buying a new product, as an ongoing effort to excel in customer service. The feedback collected has enabled the company to identify specific areas to improve and offer more personalised services to address customer needs.

Offering best-fit propositions for customers through big data

AXA’s new direction is to become a partner to its customers, not simply paying them. “By looking at our services from a customer perspective, it's not about product, it's about the experience we offer our customers,” says Ryman. “It's not just about them buying a policy and us paying them for a claim, but about becoming more of a partner for them.”

AXA has a pool of data scientists and has already deployed big data technology to optimally match the right financial consultants to customers based on their profiles, deliver personalised offers and identify next most relevant products or services for its customers.

“Thanks to big data that enables automatic risk underwriting, we are introducing guaranteed offers for online health insurance purchase. Big data and analytics also help us to best-fit customers and propositions, including automating the provision of the next best protection and health offer for customers, and matching customers with the best financial consultants based on their profiles.”

“With data and analytics, we provide the answer before the question is even asked, freeing our customer’s minds from worry so that they can focus on what’s important to them,” adds Wong.

AXA Hong Kong received the ‘Big Data and Analytics’ award at the Asia Insurance Technology Awards 2017 for the second year in a row, the bronze award for ‘Best Use of Mobile’ at the Customer Experience Asia Excellence Awards, and Celent’s Model Insurer Asia Awards 2017 in the ‘Data & Analytics’ category – all testament to its success in enhancing the customer experience through strong investment in data and digital innovations.

Empowering distributors with digital

“Technology helps us modernise our sales practices. We developed AXAiPro which benefits both our financial consultants and customers through the customer-centric buying experience leveraging on digital technology,” says Ryman.

AXAiPro is a powerful and fully integrated digital platform that empowers our financial consultants through increased mobility and improved productivity. The technology facilitates a paperless application, where only an iPad is used during the sales process. AXAiPro provides the financial consultants with timely data for a meaningful conversation and an instant underwriting result for the customer to buy on spot and obtain instant coverage.

It also works to perform essential verification requirements for Mainland Chinese customers via mobile devices connecting to the internet by leveraging on GPS technology. It brings great convenience to these customers so that they need not complete the necessary procedures at a service centre in person.

“We continue to evolve AXAiPro with innovative functions that improve the customer experience, such as online instant payment. It makes planning and dealing with AXA easier for both our financial consultants and our customers,” says Ryman.

AXAiPro platform also provides an interface where consultants can get the most relevant leads at their fingertips after aggregating and analysing different big data sources including advertising, social media and websites.  

Strengthening the infrastructure

To cope with growth momentum, AXA has made significant investment in its digital capabilities, which includes the expansion of its Hong Kong IT team with an additional 50 specialists.

Supported by a single CRM system and an onshore customer contact centre, this IT and digital investment will enable the business to be more agile and responsive to customer needs and further drive modernising insurance. 

AXA is continuing to strengthen its technology backbone with a new architecture hosting a lake of applications to enable an integrated customer journey.

Safeguarding customer data

Housing such vast volumes of customer data, AXA seeks to uphold its consistent, company-wide data privacy policy, with the aim of obtaining international accreditation in the future.

“We are running an initiative called Quartile One, which is a security initiative based on the ISO 27001, 27002 and 27005 standards, with an aspiration to be in the top 25% of all companies globally in terms of security standards and practices,” notes Ryman.

“A Data Privacy Officer has been also appointed to oversee the implementation of our data privacy policy with regular training for all employees handling customer data,” says Ryman. “In addition, we have put in place strong controls across all our IT systems that are in line with international best practice and standards, to secure our customer data.

“Cyber risk is firmly at the top of the international agenda as high-profile breaches raise fears that hack attacks and other security failures could endanger not only personal privacy but also the global economy.

“At AXA, we implement strict validation processes on all websites. All of them are required to obtain digital permits.”

Reinforcing its leadership position

Digital transformation is in itself a moving target as technologies and customer expectations are changing rapidly. Continuously adapting and responding to these changes is a challenge.

“We address the challenge by focusing on an ‘agile’ approach to transformation and continuously investing in IT capabilities and innovative technology in order to sustain our leadership position in a competitive market,” says Ryman.

“We are striving to transform the customer experience, making insurance simpler, more relevant and more personal for customers. Leveraging on new technology, we can better anticipate customers’ future needs so to provide the next best offerings,” says Wong.

Catering to the evolving needs of its customers, AXA continues to innovate and expand the product range across Life and Savings, Property and Casualty as well as Health and Protection so as to deliver the best products to satisfy each customer’s unique requirements.

Internally, AXA is promoting a fresh entrepreneurial culture among its employees. The new spirit motivates all employees to “run the company like your own”. Mindset change is a key success factor behind the transformation of insurance and the customer experience, and every employee must play a part.

With a long-term purpose of empowering its customers to live a better life, whilst remaining the modern insurance company of choice, both Ryman and Wong are vigilant and aware of the need to remain competitive and keep abreast of all developments within the insurance industry.

Darrell Ryman