Life insurer's head of IT enjoys refresh opportunity

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This article appeared in the July 2017 issue of CRN magazine.

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Life insurer's head of IT enjoys refresh opportunity
Matt Lowth, MLC Life Insurance

Founded more than 127 years ago, MLC Life Insurance has undergone significant change of late, with former owners NAB selling 80 percent of the company to Nippon Life Insurance Group. Now, chief information officer Matt Lowth is tasked with building the newly separated company’s IT platform from the ground up.

What’s one of the biggest IT projects you’ve undertaken recently that involved systems from third party IT companies?

Thanks to Japanese life insurer Nippon Life, we’re currently undertaking a $300 million transformation as part of our separation from NAB systems.

This involves the creation of a greenfield IT environment, which is enabling us to operate as a standalone life insurance business. As part of this separation, we’re consolidating and replacing legacy systems that our business currently uses to service customers. This means we will be able to provide a much better customer and adviser experience as we stand up our own capabilities.

Have you had any outside help?

Establishing a greenfield environ­ment allows us to look at the best of what’s available in the market and assess how we can apply that to our own business. Given this, we sought the help of a service orchestrator to help us build an enterprise canvas of systems that will work together cohesively. Essentially, our brief was to leverage the best of what’s available with a bias towards procuring systems “as-a-service”.

Ideally, we wanted to minimise the traditional approach to IT – spending a disproportionate amount of time on lower-value activity such as maintaining software and hardware currency. We’re working with Deloitte as our service orchestrator.

What does a reseller or systems integrator have to do to impress you and win your business?

In any given week, we’re approached by dozens of different companies that want to share their solutions to our problems. Most vendors can deliver widgets, but in my perspective, I’m not interested in one-off deals. I’m interested in building longer-term relationships with partners who I can trust to look after our best interests; where our success supports theirs. I’m impressed by potential partners who provide a perspective and insight that we wouldn’t be able to access ourselves. I appreciate when partners are forthright with what they can’t do, rather than bidding on work for the sake of it. I also believe that trust is built over time, so expecting to come in and do everything without first proving yourselves is also unlikely.

Can you tell us about the last time an IT service provider impressed you?

At our recent hackathon, held over two days, one of our partners developed a chatbot tool leveraging AI, automation and a number of other tools to provide an assisted experience in a number of potential channels. Seeing what was developed in two days was fantastic. What impressed me the most was how the team went about explaining how the tool worked. They’d developed a series of customer journeys around questions our customers might face.

Are there other trends that are impacting the way you work with IT service providers?

With the pace of change ever-increasing, I think the traditional approach to contracting is becoming more and more difficult. Having a partner who is flexible on the specifics and always providing services that are up to date and fit for purpose is important. Once we’ve finished our transformation, we don’t want to be in the situation where when something new comes along, we have to undertake new programs of work to replace components of our environment. Rather, we’d like the partners we work with to ensure that the right tools we need to be effective are provided.  

Mar 2016 – Present  CIO, MLC Australia
Nov 2015 – Mar 2016  Head of technology, insurance, NAB 
Sept 2014 – Nov 2015  Head of technology, insurance and wrap platforms, NAB
Sept  2013 – Sept 2014  Head of technical services, customer technology, NAB
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