When Momentum Investo undertook a journey to empower financial advisers and clients with the capability to update certain contract details themselves, little did they know how much they would learn along the way. Stanley Gabriel, CEO of Momentum Investo, tells the story.
Just after Momentum Investo unbundled from the Traditional product house and became a separate investment product house, it coined the 2024 vision: To be a highly cost-efficient provider of long-term savings. When the Investo information technology team had to decide on critical programmes to help Investo achieve this ambition, they chose digital initiatives and process optimisation with self-service as a key focus area.
From the outset, Investo wanted the vision to guide the business transformation. As part of the strategy, they wanted a more inclusive and empathic understanding of clients' needs and behaviour. "We wanted to know, in a world of choice, why would they choose us?" says Ockert Claassens, Engagement Manager: Business and Technical Solutions at Investo. In their world, clients are the people who buy their products and those who sell them – financial advisers. They figured competitive differentiation goes beyond the product value proposition to ease of doing business, that is, exceptional ease.
The team wanted to ensure outside-in thinking, so they wanted the digital transformation to be empowered by a new mindset and enduring cultural changes within the product house and IT team. They wanted to examine existing capabilities, processes and the business value chain and reinvent and innovate to improve the business.
"We wanted digital transformation to be an enabler of business transformation and not an end in itself," explains Business Analyst Andriëtte Bergakker. "Our clients demand that we are at the forefront, and to stay relevant, we must reassess what we do and how we do it all the time. We need to understand what drives and motivates our client and adviser community."
Data analysis was crucial in guiding and informing the team's thinking. The story that the analytics highlighted was that Investo had to make life easier for service specialists and advisers to process business tasks quicker and focus on more value-adding tasks. They soon saw much could be done to streamline "mundane" tasks such as updating details – contact, beneficiary, banking, personal and financial adviser details. "We were amazed at how often clients change banks," says Claassens. Their investigation confirmed, among other things, how emailing a service centre with updating details is a long-winded, archaic way of doing things.
Their research showed how much time it would free up for clients and financial advisers to update details themselves. "We realised we would empower them," says Bergakker. But first, the business needed to get everyone on the same page. "We had to let go of our egos and the mindset that 'this is how we have always done it'," she says. "We realised we had to be humble and focus on better collaboration as we needed help from cross-functional teams to deliver the capability."
They had to remember the federated model within the larger Momentum, too. The company has very old legacy systems, and to "break" a system in another product house as part of the fix, for instance, the claims process, would have caused havoc.
However, the most significant collaboration had to be with the client and financial adviser stakeholders to ensure that the transformation design would centre around their needs. The term here is "empathy point of view" – the business planners and designers had to put themselves in the users' shoes, think of different personas and the flow of motion design.
Next on the agenda were the tools and skills people needed to get the job done. They had to determine how they could bring about change with agility and be ready to learn and keep learning, technically and regarding ways of work.
"We kept referring to the vision – to how we can do things cost-efficiently," says Claassens. The growth objectives and cost savings had to be part of the design to keep them honest. They learnt how jargon hampers progress – and then set out steps and processes in a simple way. They also had to determine which role players they were adding value for and how. "On top of that, we had to be cognisant of change fatigue or resistance and where that could creep in," he says.
"We soon realised too many options create confusion and that we shouldn't jump to solution mode without fully understanding the 'why'," adds Bergakker. "We simplified things again and again." They wanted to improve the processes end to end.
"We underestimated the complexities," says Claassens. But they learnt a lot, and the phased approach helped them apply the learnings from each subproject to the next. "We learnt the importance of getting the input of subject matter experts very early on in each process so that they could be part of the design and not only of the sign-off." They also learnt that it is acceptable to make mistakes, as that speeds up the learning process. "What became clear is that we needed to communicate continuously, to check in and engage with our stakeholders and the team to ensure that we were still focusing on the right things and realigning where needed. We had hard conversations, too," says Bergakker. The purposeful connection became a reality and will remain a key driver for success, Claassens agrees.
"We learnt the discipline that we cannot have it all the first time around," says Bergakker. They realised they had to put some aspects and "nice-to-haves" on the back burner or the backlog for later enhancements. They were also often reminded that the business transformation had to happen with the digital transformation. "We had to figure out what pace of change would be best to inspire adoption by our role players," she says. That is why education, frequent communication, and the next steps were crucial.
According to Claassens, they relied on broad and structured planning but with iterative and incremental execution in smaller components. He says true market insights and analytics were indispensable in their decision-making: "We relied on the data and insights to indicate the right direction." Analytics is also essential to driving the adoption process. The channel partners use it to identify pain points and corrective steps and bring home the advantages.
"We will survive and thrive if we are willing to change, as long as these changes improve the lives of our clients and give them more time for doing more important things," says Claassens.