Thriving on change

  • By Christine St Anne

MLC Life Insurance chief innovation and transformation officer Sarv Girn talks to AB+F about leading on large-scale transformation projects and the “golden opportunity to transform one of the leading insurers in the country”.

According to Girn, the insurance industry is perfectly positioned for large-scale transformation.

It was this view that spurred the executive to shift to the sector following 30 years in banking. It was a view that was also developed in part through personal experience.

Three years ago, Girn had a major operation following a fall. Unable to work for a period of time, he put in a claim to his insurer – not MLC - and found the process not only riddled with delays but also lacked support at a crucial time when a person most needs it.

From his experience in banking, he saw an opportunity to introduce innovation together with the human touch into the business of insurance.

Appointed in March 2018, Girn had already led large scale transformation projects including working in executive leadership roles in the St George Acquisition at Westpac and the New Payments Platform at the Reserve Bank of Australia adding that it may be a cliché but “I thrive on change”.

What he found from that experience was the banking sector has moved to a self-service model, think mobile banking.

It was this approach that Girn wanted to apply to insurance.

“There is a role for self-service in the claims process and a need for modern technology. I saw my role with MLC Life Insurance as a golden opportunity to transform one of the leading insurers in the country,” Girn said.

But it’s not all about technology. Girn also sees a need for insurers to play an active part in the post-claims process, again drawn from his personal experience.

“Once my claim was processed and I was walking again, I still needed physiotherapy, I still needed to watch my health, but I had to work that out myself.”

His experience in banking also highlighted the important mix of people and technology within the self-service model.

I saw my role with MLC Life Insurance as a golden opportunity to transform one of the leading insurers in the country

Whether self-service can be done through an app, or through a superannuation fund platform or through an adviser platform is important, but equally so is the customer’s ability to engage with a person when they need to.

“The industry knows about IQ and EQ [emotional intelligence] but what we now have to develop is digital intelligence (DQ).

It’s not about automating everything. It’s about working out what parts of the service delivery needs to be digitised and what parts need to be personalised. Digital intelligence is key for us.”

One of his key priorities with the business was tackling the legacy systems issue.

The approach involved creating a new modern environment separate from the legacy environment that ran the business when it was formerly under the ownership of National Australia Bank.

“We now have a customer-centric platform that connects customers, advisers and superannuation funds; and migration of our customers on to this has started and will gather further momentum this year.

“It is a modern and legacy-free integrated platform that is a leader in the sector. It sounds easy to say this in a couple of sentences but, the strategy, delivery and change behind this should not be underestimated.”

For Girn, the key to the success of the new platform was the commitment that its new owner Nippon Life brought to the business which included a $500 million investment to transform the business.

It is a modern and legacy-free integrated platform that is a leader in the sector

People were again key, and for Girn understanding staff in the program when he joined included not only-one-on-one meetings with direct management but also a series of coffee meetings with small groups – 10 to 15 – across the program.

“It not only gave me a very good understanding of what people were thinking but also what were the challenges they faced and where they needed help.

“The people side is critical. You need to understand the pain points that your staff go through when having to deal with a program of this scale and the challenges legacy systems present to operational processes.

“From that experience I was actually able to put together cultural diagnostics for the team which helped set the agenda and priorities”.

The AB+F February edition includes full interview of Sarv Girn.