04 Apr

FWD Group CTOO and Head of Tech speak on co-innovation

27 MARCH 2019 15:30 PT

During the second and last day of Oracle OpenWorld Asia in Singapore, Amy Hoe and Marson Ma talked about their successful digital journey

What do the radio and Pokémon Go have in common? Both are products that reached 50 million users at some point in their history. The main difference is that, whereas it took half a century for the radio to achieve this goal, Pokémon Go did it in just 19 days.

There’s no doubt that digital innovation facilitates technology progress and consumer reach at a much faster pace. During yesterday’s keynote at Singapore’s Oracle OpenWorld Asia (OOW), CIOs from different industries in Southeast Asia spoke about how the key to business success is innovation speed.

In the second day of OOW, two IT executives from Singaporean insurance company FWD Group spoke about how co-innovation has helped them achieve an unprecedented technological and business success in their industry. FWD Group is today the fastest growing insurance company in the world and a key sponsor of the Special Olympics.

Amy Hoe, Group Chief Technology and Operations Officer (CTOO), and Marson Ma, Head of FWD Technology Company (FWD Tech), participated in a panel with Benjamin Mah, Director, Digital Transformation and Innovation, at Oracle, and moderated by Esmond Tong, VP, Innovation and Cloud Solutions, also at the tech corporation.

As Group CTOO, Hoe is responsible for all aspects of operation services and technology functions across the nine markets where FWD operates, namely Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and, since last weekend, also Malaysia.

In her role she leads the implementation of different IT and operational solutions which are cost-effective, customer-centric and innovative. She also drives digital initiatives and fintech investments which support FWD’s digitisation strategy on customer experience, operation efficiency and business model optimisation.

Ma leads the design of FWD Tech’s operation model by developing company strategy and delivering group strategy IT initiatives including the Regional Claim Platform, the Integrated Sales Management Platform, and the ecosystem for Ready Go!, a lifestyle app. He also supports the FWD Group overall strategy and digital transformation.

Why enterprise innovation projects fail?

Despite the promises that the word innovation carries with it, it’s a double-edged sword: it’s an opportunity and is also a threat. 90% of enterprise innovation projects fail. Why? According to Oracle, because there are many ideas on the table but they lack execution. And if your competitor is faster than you, you are in trouble.

“Today your competitor is always different so you have to keep innovating and avoid stagnation in your business model,” said Ho. “That’s why you have to find a partner outside your industry that can help you executing ideas and concepts fast. My boss says: is not tomorrow, is yesterday.”

In the big enterprise there’s an additional obstacle concerning lack of consensus among different departments and stakeholders, and we all know that without agreement, there’s no investment. Another problem is the length of time that it takes to visualise an outcome, with the sad conclusion that ideas never become a reality. Without resources there’s no capability, and capability is needed to bring co-innovation of ideas for the realisation of projects.

What’s the co-innovation model?

To overcome these barriers, FWD Group is implementing a co-innovation programme which represents a fundamental change in business approach, goals and relationships.

It provides a methodical approach which underpins digital transformation and customer experience design initiatives. The mindset for this concept is continuous innovation.

“We should continue to innovate and leverage the technology and ecosystem to drive different business models so that we can keep up with the changing digital world and meet our customers’ expectations,” said Ma.

FWD Group is creating a fresh customer experience through the use of digital technology. With over 2.6 million customers in the region, FWD Group is not a traditional insurance company.

As Hoe explained in the panel, their mission is to make people change how they think about insurance. “We help people life their lives to the fullest,” she said. In doing this, technology and digital play an essential key in supporting the organisation’s vision, which includes organising marathons and giving back to the community.

One of the platforms they have created using the co-innovation model is Ready Go!, a digital app that creates an ecosystem around lifestyle and sports using artificial intelligence (AI) facial recognition and blockchain for health and racing records, as well as for seamless registration. The model proved successful since the idea became a reality in just ten weeks.

“But there are a lot of challenges,” added Ma. “One of them is that we have a lot of creative ideas but we want to ensure where should we start and what’s the value of each of them. Another challenge is that we know there a lot of technologies – AI, blockchain, cloud, internet of things (IoT), legacy platforms – but we were confused about how to best integrate these technologies to maximise our customer experience.”

Working with FWD Group as their business incubator and project lead, Oracle’s Benjamin Mah quickly realised that digital innovation and transformation for FWD is not good to have but a must to have. This applies to every single employee in the company, from office staff to the CEO.

“The discipline of having an outcome is essential,” Mah told the audience. “The second important discipline is the speed in which we work together in a very agile manner.”

“To enable such a rapid growth – we are the fastest growing insurance company in the world – technology and data play a very important role in supporting our organic as well as inorganic growth,” the CTOO said.

“Innovation is a journey. You don’t have to do everything yourself, with so much technology around. Partner and find a partner outside your industry who share the same passion as you.”

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