The human connection between clients, technology and advice

Whether advisers like it or not, the reality is we now live in a world where information is consumed in 140 characters or less.

Emerging technologies have forever changed the landscape of human interaction. Clients are no longer content to wait hours, let alone days, for a response from advisers, nor are they satisfied to make do with ‘one size fits all’ service offerings that fail to take their unique needs into account.

Whether advisers like it or not, the reality is we now live in a world where information is consumed in 140 characters or less, and clients are more driven by bouncing icons on their smartphones than all that can be experienced in the outside world.

So what does this mean for advisers at a time when maintaining client relationships is more important than ever? And with efficiency gains also at a premium, where can they find the time (let alone the resources) to create bespoke digital experiences for their customer base?

Clearly, changing times call for bright ideas. The good news is that some of the most successful ‘human-centric’ innovations to date have been delivered by the financial services industry.

For those not familiar with the concept of ‘human-centricity’, it is the unique approach to innovation that is centred on people. It looks at humans as the reason a technology or service exists in the first place; not just an essential part of it (ie, a user).


The powerful thing about taking a human-centric approach to innovating is that it forces you to really think about the people that consume the products and services that you develop – not just in terms of how to market them with SEO and call-to-actions but on a deeper level, thinking about how you can build a meaningful (and mutually beneficial) relationship between yourself and your customer. 

IT giant Fujitsu has been the trailblazer of human-centricity in its design process for a while now, but the benefits of the approach have recognised by the insurance industry in recent years, with European insurer Swiss Life building an app in 2013 that had the elusive Millennial customer in mind.

They came to the conclusion that 20-somethings may have dreams that involve money but were lacking in a plan to achieve their financial goals. So by using these human-centric innovation parameters, the One100 app was born. It was a digital platform for desktop and mobile that motivated Millennial customers to save money for their dream items by allowing them to track and share their progress with others, as well as providing tips to reach their goals and cheer them on when they reached milestones. It effectively adopted a similar approach to – wait for it – traditional financial planning for your future, but designed in an innovative way that had the exact customer in mind.

And while One100 went offline at the end of 2014, the learnings from the project like putting user needs first and working interactively to attract and serve new customers bases, have proven invaluable for the insurance industry more widely.

MassMutual has taken the early learnings of the human-centric method in the design of their products for the under-40s market. Their research showed that people either have a 'smart money' mindset or don’t, and when it comes to being an adult about financial issues (chipping away debt, saving to buy a house) age doesn’t matter. So, instead of making a case for something people didn’t want, MassMutual took on the human-centric innovation approach to produce the Society of Grown Ups: a concept, a brand, a movement and ultimately a shop front and engagement hub, with a curriculum that covers everything from investing in superannuation to having that hard talk about a budget, and even to how to pick good, cheap wine.

No detail was overlooked (right down to the custom table and pencils) and the look was hip and funky – after all, these guys under 40 still see themselves as a youthful bunch. And in the end the unique approach paid off, with The Society of Grown Ups making $100 million USD in just 12 months.

So the question for advisers now is, what kind of innovations can you make within your business that will make a meaningful difference to your clients’ lives? What human-centric tools can you create to provide your business with new opportunities and stay ahead of the disruption that’s coursing through the financial services industry?

Maybe look to some independent thinking from Zurich because, just like you, we want more Australians to get, keep and understand quality protection. One of our five recently launched ‘Blueprints for the Future’ – product innovation – is helping achieve this by increasing the simplicity, affordability and sustainability of our life insurance solutions.

Our newly released 2016 risk offering caters for the modern client, including lower Term & TPD rates for under 55s, new Income Protector & Income Protector Plus, a two-year rate certainty commitment, plus a simpler pricing structure that enables more customers to access our very best rates, either bundled or standalone. And we will continue to support advisers with a full solution spectrum, to suit a diverse range of advice models – from offerings for scaled advice or robo-services, to comprehensive solutions for fully bespoke advice.

And with the LIF changes forcing advisers to rethink every aspect of their business, Zurich has also designed a range of adviser-centric educational and business management resources to help advisers turn change into opportunity. These include our Adviser Flipchart app and integrated Wealth Index tool, automated quote and application system ZXpress, as well as our soon-to-be-launched intensive adviser education offering – the Zurich Curriculum.

We are at the precipice of a whole new era of financial advice that can provide a real opportunity – if advisers are prepared to be bold and partner with innovative industry leaders – to leapfrog the competition and ultimately, come out on top. All it takes is a little human-centric thinking.



Andy Marshall is the head of sales strategies for life and investments at Zurich Financial Services Australia

The human connection between clients, technology and advice
Andy Marshall - Zurich
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