Since its founding as a life assurance provider in Birmingham in 1841, Wesleyan Assurance Society has enjoyed its Mutual status, meaning the Society focuses principally on its members and its staff.
Wesleyan has weathered many big changes in the financial services world. Recently, the sector has seen yet more change, driven by disruptive new market entrants as well as changing customer expectations.
Wesleyan has continued to grow and evolve over the years, but like many organisations this has resulted in the expansion of legacy technology platforms to support different capabilities and needs in the business. To better serve its clients, who are primarily dentists, doctors, lawyers and teachers, along with looking after the Society’s long-term business goals, Wesleyan decided to explore a strategic approach around technology investment that would deliver secure, resilient systems and support future growth.
Working with PwC, Wesleyan set out on a transformation journey built on key strategic pillars including resilience, cyber, data, digital and simplification.
Now entering its second year, the programme is already producing significant benefits and placing the Society on a more agile, secure and resilient footing for the future. One notable highlight of the work so far has been the creation of a data centre of excellence, built around a Microsoft Azure cloud environment. This has already enabled the release of a customer insights dashboard providing all of Wesleyan’s customer facing Financial Consultants with a better understanding of their customers, as well as the products and services that best meet their and their families’ financial needs. The benefits and outcomes are already coming through and these are outlined further below.
Now the foundations are in place, Wesleyan will continue to drive the technology strategy forward focused principally around customer engagement and improving the efficiency and capability of the workforce.
“By working together, we’ve created a longer-term transformation journey and benefits case that sets out the vision for how technology and data solutions can support business strategy and transformation outcomes. It’s been fantastic to see Wesleyan deliver commercial and customer benefits in the first year, using the cloud-based foundations we’ve put in place. Now that the capability is developing and scaling in the business, we're really looking forward to seeing how Wesleyan evolve over the coming years.”
Like many businesses, Wesleyan’s technology infrastructure has grown organically over a number of years. This left the organisation reliant on a number of disparate business systems, including multiple policy administration systems with varying levels of support. Complex infrastructure meant that building resilience against cyber attacks was difficult and the organisation’s capability to detect and respond to issues more difficult than need be. Disparate systems and applications internally also prevented the organisation from seeing a single view of the customer, something that Wesleyan sees as critical in driving continued customer service improvement. The challenge was clear, but how does an organisation deal with this successfully?
Led by COO David Stewart, Wesleyan asked PwC to help develop and implement a longer-term technology strategy to improve processes, reduce risks, increase resilience, and ultimately improve services and support for customers. Teams from both organisations collaborated to develop a multi-year technology strategy and business plan built on several pillars, including resilience and cyber, data, digital and simplification of the technology estate. Each pillar would include roadmaps spanning different periods of time, with specific projects aimed at delivering proof of value every few months.
The shorter-term, proof-of-value projects demonstrated an agile way of working, enabling Wesleyan to try out new ideas while recognising that not all would succeed. Those projects that did succeed would help the Society begin reaping benefits early on, rather than having to wait until the full transformation programme was complete.
Longer-term goals included moving IT systems to Microsoft’s Azure Cloud environment services for improved resilience, strengthening cyber security controls, and modernising and making better use of data and analytics for improved business insights. This also supports Wesleyan’s desire to simplify its technology estate and open up new digital channels for an improved customer experience.
“At Wesleyan, our members and customers are at the heart of every decision we make. We’re striving to create a truly customer-centric organisation, underpinned by our significant investment in digital, automation and data analytics. Delivering our technology transformation plan is crucial to ensure we meet our customers’ changing needs, and I see PwC as a key Partner from strategy to execution. Right from the outset we agreed it was critical to build internal capability around technology and data skills. One year on, I’m pleased to say that we’re making great progress and reaping the benefits. I’m also proud that during this time, Wesleyan has stepped up to play a key role in expanding the FinTech community in the Midlands.”
Just one year into the programme, Wesleyan has already moved much of its infrastructure onto a cloud and successfully adopted a Microsoft-first approach for integrated, cohesive business processes. This has put it on the path toward significantly improved cyber security and resilience. The Data centre of excellent is up and running and this has created a longer-term foundation for gaining greater insights using data from both inside and outside of the Society.
The new data centre of excellence delivered significant benefits from its first project, launching a customer-insights dashboard for all of Wesleyan’s Financial Consultants (FC’s). The cloud-based business intelligence product gives FC’s immediate access to rich data about their customers such as active products, purchase history, third party products, interaction commentary and service support. Combined with historical data, industry data and external data sources, such insight improves FC efficiency, supports more targeted discussions with customers and drives a far more personalised connection between advisor and customer.
A survey found that 79% of salespeople strongly agreed that the dashboard has helped to identify better prospective customers. Additionally 73% strongly agreed the tool helps them to identify customers in their territory who are currently assigned to other salespeople. The survey highlighted that 69% said they have succeeded at scheduling appointments with customers identified through the dashboard, and 39% have generated income from such appointments.
Keen to evolve its online presence, Wesleyan has also implemented a state-of-the-art Digital Experience platform. In the summer of 2020, it launched a new D2C sales portal on the platform for its stocks and shares ISA offering. The foundational aspect of the digital pillar is also now helping Wesleyan establish a digital distribution channel, providing balance with a mature, more traditional face to face model.
Wesleyan has also taken proactive steps to build resilience into its operations – a key focus area for financial services regulators. This has involved defining business-critical services and how operations support them, along with stress-testing its ability to remain within impact tolerances. Improved resilience has also come through activities to increase cyber security and technology process maturity and to mitigate the associated risks.
This programme demonstrates the importance of including shorter-term projects and goals within a multi-year transformation. It’s a more modern way of doing things that enables Wesleyan to achieve quick gains in specific areas while working toward longer-term change across the organisation.