AIA New Zealand lifts the lid on market-first initiative for financial advisers

AIA New Zealand lifts the lid on market-first initiative for financial advisers

AIA New Zealand lifts the lid on market-first initiative for financial advisers | Insurance Business New Zealand

Life & Health

AIA New Zealand lifts the lid on market-first initiative for financial advisers

Move part of company’s overall approach to digitisation

Life & Health

Terry Gangcuangco

Life insurer AIA New Zealand, which now allows potential adviser partners to apply via a fully digital process, says none of its competitors has the same capability. Speaking with Insurance Business, chief partnership distribution officer Sharron Botica (pictured above) and chief technology officer Marc Hale (pictured below) shared what’s behind the Digital Agency functionality.

Launched in September, Digital Agency is part of the existing AIAHub portal, the goal of which is to serve as a one-stop shop for financial advisers when they conduct business with AIA NZ including, as of late, their onboarding.

Original process

According to Botica, adviser applications with AIA NZ can now be processed in a day, as opposed to more than a month using the old system. 

“Previously, up until the launch of Digital Agency, it’s been via paper,” Botica noted. “It’s been a paper application that then comes in to us via email on PDF, and then comes in to a team who needs to review the handwritten content of the form… There’s a number of checks that we need to do – identity authentication; we need a signature – and quite a number of things that an adviser must complete.

“More often than not, what we would find is that probably closer to 70% of the applications that came in to us, we would need to go back to an adviser to ask them for more information, or they hadn’t completed something – so, the process internally with us interpreting a paper-based application or form, then doing necessary checks, sending those off to external parties, and just this ‘backwards and forwards’ would happen.

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“Then this person will get busy in their business as well, and then that may really slow down the application that they want to have with AIA. So, the end-to-end turnaround time of those could take upwards of six weeks or sometimes even longer for an agency to be approved. What we were seeing is we had a large number of requests coming to AIA for advisers who wanted to do business with us, but it was just exceptionally hard and long and prolonged to enable them to have their agency.”

Moving the process from paper to online, Botica said, was “just a part of our overall approach to digitisation of our business,” with AIA NZ recognising it as a key area where the insurer could make a difference to advisers’ businesses.

“Through digitising it, similar to our e-application that they do for insurance products, if they’d miss something, it will actually prompt them,” she highlighted. “We’ve had one example now with one of the agencies that have gone through that – it was actually approved in a 24-hour turnaround time. So, that adviser can now be out and distributing AIA’s products. We’re pretty proud of the delivery in this space.”

‘Digital is now’

For Hale, the AIAHub – with Digital Agency and all of the portal’s other functionalities – is proof that digital isn’t a thing of the future.

He told Insurance Business: “It’s often quite a surprise when an insurer can go digital like this. Insurance is still often thought of as an antiquated industry, but I think AIA New Zealand is proving that digital is possible and digital is now. We’re a cloud-first organisation – we have been for a while – and we’re able to deploy these platforms in really innovative ways to drive improved experiences for our advisers, our customers, and our staff.

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“The Digital Agency project, specifically, has been a labour of love, and it’s great to see it come to fruition in such a big, impactful change for us and our advisers.

“We’ve got a great platform in place with AIAHub that enables us to make these changes much, much faster now… We’ve got some of the more challenging ones out of the way. The incremental changes we can make now become easier and easier, so we are aiming to deliver more positive change to the market on a more frequent basis.”

As chief partnership distribution officer, Botica believes the rollout of Digital Agency is a critical development for AIA NZ.

“It’s critical as a part of everything that we’re doing in the digital space for advisers, because here in New Zealand advisers aren’t tied – they have choice who they do business with,” she said.

“What we are seeing is that the adviser businesses are growing quite a bit, so it’s just very important that we support them in all facets of their business. That’s a key driver for me. This particular Digital Agency piece – it’s just another example of how we are doing that to support the New Zealand adviser market.”

Botica added: “We launched the AIAHub out to the market just over four years ago, and that was really moving advisers into a digital world. That was enabling advisers to submit new business applications to us through a digitised process, and that was then backed by automated underwriting as well… So, the goal is to continue to build out the AIAHub, and that was where Digital Agency was born.”

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With a strong pipeline of features for the AIAHub platform, the business is slated to launch further enhancements in due course.

“We get great engagement with the adviser community, and we are looking forward to seeing what the next round of feedback is and how we can adapt to that and incorporate that for their businesses,” Hale said.    

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