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In the late 90’s, market commentators were quick to split the world into the winners and losers of digitalisation. For many companies at the time, it was all about having a web footprint. But time has passed and in today’s hyper-connected world, for many, digital has become a fool’s errand, distracting them from their key focus and raison d'être, their clients.
Over the past two decades, we have seen a surge in new apps aimed at making our daily lives easier with a full range of services available in one click, from booking flights online to managing and enhancing your golf swing!
Digital pioneers have created new standards and needs, and clients, including those in need of wealth and succession planning, now expect the same seamless user experience when interacting with their providers/advisers as to when booking their next holiday. The coming of age of the digital native generation has massively amplified this trend. A survey by MyPrivateBanking reported 73 per cent of millennial HNWIs stated that they are unimpressed with their wealth manager’s digital app. Whilst Millennials are the vanguard of this shift away from traditional interactions to paperless and digitally enabled services, previous generations have also followed. This has very often led the major wealth management players into a dangerous trap: digitalisation for digitalisation’s sake.
Digitalisation has become essential to stay ahead of the competition. But digitalisation is everything but a silver bullet. In our industry for instance, plugging a digital-enabled servicing platform on top of an existing rigid and inefficient infrastructure is, in my opinion, a waste of investment. If a company wants to win the race to successful digital integration, it needs a thorough and cohesive approach. Off-the-shelf solutions are rarely helpful.
Embedding a client centric culture within your organisation that fosters service excellence is absolutely critical. A digital solution has to mould to the company’s existing approach to service. Trying to overcompensate a lack of service-oriented mindset with a digital solution will lead to a poor overall client experience.
That’s why I am a firm believer that digitalisation is a state of mind, not simply an add on! It’s an attitude that has to be deeply rooted in a company’s mindset.
It all starts with a deep understanding of your company’s core purpose and what it stands for. At Lombard International Assurance, we believe that private wealth has a material impact on the world in which we live in. We just happen to create the best tailor-made wealth and succession planning solutions to cater to high and ultra-high net worth individuals’, families and institutions.
Then, to be successful, all digital initiatives must be able to answer "How will this contribute to enhancing my existing service proposition to my partners and clients, and subsequently increase their advocacy?” This has been the main pillar of our newly launched pan-European distance selling process. This new process enables subscriptions to new policies to be completed remotely, in a fully compliant, secure and efficient manner. It is a simple, yet tangible and efficient solution for our partners who are now working and interacting with their clients remotely. The process was implemented quickly in a truly agile way – why - because we’re firmly on our digital servicing journey with a clear understanding and track record of what needed to be done to succeed.
Back in 2017, when we first launched our digital servicing platform “Connect” in France, and across our other European markets, we already had a dedicated team who understood and knew how to answer our partners’ needs and deliver the level of service they expect. Connect was a natural digitally enabled extension of our value proposition. Fast-forwarding to today, 75% of the independent financial advisers we partner with in France are using Connect, and close to 95% of our French new business premiums are generated through digital onboarding. These figures speak for themselves. Establishing a robust, user-friendly and secured digital servicing platform is not about mastering technology so much as already having the right attitude and approach. Technology then becomes more of an enabler that supercharges the overarching user experience.
Another illustration relates to the challenges rising from the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Digitally-enabled solutions have today become the ‘sine qua non’ of any business continuity plan (BCP). Whilst an essential tool to enable continuity, during this period it is the all-encompassing plan that needs to work, including the efficient adaption of processes and procedures as well as a clear understanding of roles and related communications.
Whilst most of the 12 European markets we operate in are currently under self-isolation, our agile approach to distance selling and the successful implementation of our BCP are examples of how our customer centric culture can help to pivot the organisation quickly, albeit in extremely challenging circumstances, to respond to our partners and clients’ needs.
Of course, our industry is not known for pioneering innovation and often faces criticism that it is adapting too slowly to the wave of disruptive technology that is redefining so many other industries. There is much room for improvement, but in the end, the winners will be the ones capable of having an integrated and consistent approach to digitalisation. In a globally connected world, where wealth is becoming more digitised and mobile, with many wealthy clients having multi-jurisdictional complex requirements that necessitate more tailored solutions, looking ahead is important to keep pace with and exceed their expectations.
Managing Director Europe and Group CFO
Lombard International Assurance