MetLife opts for pragmatism in digital investments

21 Jun 2018

MetLife's digital investments focus on four main areas that include distribution, front- and back-end processes, data analytics, and innovation. MetLife Asia senior vice president and chief information officer Stephen Barnham said, "We agreed early on that for every $3 of expenses the company can save, $2 will be reinvested in digital efforts. We have been using this process for three or four years, investing up to $300m a year to modernise our foundation and leapfrog the industry with good returns."

Pragmatism, he said, is central to the company’s digitalisation approach and as such, it has prioritised its funds across three ‘horizons’. These horizons focus on 1) improving foundational standards and driving savings across the enterprise; 2) initiatives that drive a competitive advantage for the company, many of which are funded from the savings derived from the first horizon; and 3) disruptive innovation opportunities often emanating from outside the company or industry including among others, strategic partnerships with leading tech companies and collaborations with academia, ‘MetLife Digital Ventures’ which is a $100m co-investment fund, and Singapore-based innovation centre LumenLab.

While customer acquisition is certainly an important aspect of its digital strategy, Mr Barnham said MetLife’s aspirations are broader – it wants to ‘redefine the customer experience’. The customer experience is multi-faceted and so the temptation to focus solely on customer-facing enhancements is short-sighted and must be resisted. He added, “We’re also looking at how digital integration can enable us to reach our customers through their preferred channels. For example, in China, we have full integration and straight-through processing with WeChat and can offer 20 service functions through WeChat’s mobile app, which provides 24/7 service across branches in 24 cities, as well as enabling us to serve and support customers in remotes provinces.”

But MetLife has not taken its eye off its intermediaries. “Distribution, including through agents and advisors – is a key focus of MetLife’s digital strategy. Over the last two years we have taken significant steps to transform our distribution channels driving productivity and efficiency. Like consumers, our distributors have come to expect us to be accessible anytime, anywhere and want their interactions with us to be effortless and seamless.”

He added, “Across Asia, we are investing in digitally enabling and enhancing our distribution. Our sales platform in Japan is one example of this. We also built a new mobile sales platform in Malaysia, enabling sales agents to onboard customers anytime, anywhere. The new solution replaces a manual process, reducing the risk of inconsistencies and duplication in the customer application process.”

“With more of our salesforce wanting to interact with us digitally, we also launched the MetLife Career Agency Portal, a multi-lingual mobile platform that gives agents access to a wide array of resources and capabilities to educate, enable and inspire them through their career cycle. The device-agnostic platform is among many steps we are taking to empower career agents,” Mr Barnham said.