Day: October 8, 2017

Hong Kong-based insurer AIA to invest more in technology but won't go 'fully digital', says CEO – South China Morning Post

Technology

Hong Kong-based insurer AIA to invest more in technology but won't go 'fully digital', says CEO – South China Morning Post

AIA, the largest life insurance company in Hong Kong, plans to invest more in technology to help its 14,000 agents sell more efficiently but has no plans to replace its sales team with digital channels, according to its Hong Kong chief executive Peter Crewe.

“Our younger agents and customers have a big appetite for technology. They want to do a lot of things the digital way. It is important for us to use technology to improve their experience with our products and services,” Crewe told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview in his office in Quarry Bay.

“However, it would be naive to go fully digital for all our transactions without first listening to what our customers want. Many customers still want to do transactions via face-to-face meetings with their agents. I believe a hybrid model of using both online platforms and our agency sales force would continue for a long time.”

AIA pays US$3 billion for CBA insurance unit in Australia and New Zealand

Crewe, originally from Britain, joined AIA 23 years ago and has worked for the company in different areas including Hong Kong, Indonesia and Australia before becoming its chief executive of Hong Kong and Macau in June.

AIA operates the largest insurance agent team in Hong Kong with a sales force of more than 14,000 at present, up 65 per cent from 8,500 in 2010.

“Despite the growth in number of financial planners, with individual agents getting older every year, our average age for financial planners remains the same at 40 years due to the new blood from younger agents,” he said.

The younger agents like to use digital tools to sell, so AIA has invested heavily in technology, including an interactive point of sale (iPoS) solution which has been adopted by 90 per cent of the sales force. The iPoS allows agents to use their mobile tablet to do financial analysis, policy applications and process claims anywhere they meet with customers.

This speeds up the sales process substantially, with a simple policy application conducted via iPoS taking only six minutes instead of the three to four days turnaround when using the manual method involving paper documentation.

“This has increased the efficiency and productivity of each agent. We aim to invest more in other technology in our back office to become completely paperless to serve our 2.7 million customers more efficiently,” Crewe said.

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The insurer will also launch an online platform by the end of this year so its group insurance customers can top up their medical plans online.

For some simple products, such as travel insurance or personal accident insurance, Crewe believes customers may prefer to buy them online.

“AIA customers are digitally savvy as over half of our life business customers use the online platform to carry out common transaction processes. Close to 60 per cent of our customers like to use the online platform to handle fund-related transactions,” he said.

However, Crewe believes online sales would not replace agents. The firm has no plans to move all sales online.

In overseas markets, simple products such as car insurance are only seeing less than 10 per cent of policies sold online, with most still sold through agents, which showed that customers like to buy through agents, he said.

For sophisticated life insurance products, which involve financial planning for 20 to 40 years of a customer’s life, Crewe said many customers would prefer to talk to their agents in a face-to-face meeting.

“What we need to do is provide the right technology to assist our agents to ensure a good experience and efficient service for the customers,” he said.

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Future of news: bracing for next wave of technology – Fin24

Technology

Future of news: bracing for next wave of technology – Fin24

Media

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Washington – If you think technology has shaken up the news media – just wait, you haven’t seen anything yet.

The next wave of disruption is likely to be even more profound, according to a study presented Saturday to the Online News Association annual meeting in Washington.

News organisations which have struggled in the past two decades as readers moved online and to mobile devices will soon need to adapt to artificial intelligence, augmented reality and automated journalism and find ways to connect beyond the smartphone, the report said.

“Voice interface” will be one of the big challenges for media organisations, said the report by Amy Webb, a New York University Stern School of Business faculty member and Founder of the Future Today Institute.

The institute estimates that 50% of interactions that consumers have with computers will be using their voices by 2023.

“Once we are speaking to our machines about the news, what does the business model for journalism look like?” the report said.

“News organisations are ceding this future ecosystem to outside corporations. They will lose the ability to provide anything but content.”

Webb writes that most news organisations have done little experimentation with chat apps and voice skills on Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, the likes of which may be key parts of the future news ecosystem.

Because of this, she argues that artificial intelligence or AI is posing “an existential threat to the future of journalism”.

READ:Social media deepens its hold on SA – all the stats 

“Journalism itself is not actively participating in building the AI ecosystem,” she wrote.

One big problem facing media organisations is that new technologies impacting the future of news such as AI are out of their control, and instead is in the hands of tech firms like Google, Amazon, Tencent, Baidu, IBM, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, according to Webb.

“News organisations are customers, not significant contributors,” the report said.

“We recommend cross-industry collaboration and experimentation on a grand scale, and we encourage leaders within journalism to organise quickly.”

Drones, virtual reality

The study identified 75 technology trends likely to have an impact on journalism in the coming years, including drones, wearables, blockchain, 360-degree video, virtual reality and real-time fact-checking.

Webb’s study said some changes in technology will start having an impact on the media in the very near future, within 24 to 36 months.

“In 2018, a critical mass of emerging technologies will converge, finding advanced uses beyond initial testing and applied research,” the report said.

Some of these new technologies – the ability to interpret visual data, develop algorithms to write or interpret news, and collect and analyse increasing amounts of data – will allow journalists “to do richer, deeper reporting, fact checking and editing,” the report said.

These technologies “will give journalists superpowers, if they have the training to use these emerging systems and tools,” Webb writes.

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