Following a 2006 initiative by parent company Allianz SE that identified customer satisfaction as key to long-term growth, Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America ($13.8 billion in gross premium, 2005) announced a customer-focus enhancement effort to further differentiate the Minneapolis-based insurer as a "customer focus leader." Allianz Life SVP of IT Steve Senden says IT will support the effort through a series of initiatives, including the recent implementation of the Accenture (Chicago) life insurance platform.
"We started to see ... a need to really make an investment in our front-office platform," Senden says. "[The Accenture platform] allows us to really build consistent workflows so that we can look at the body of work that's on our plate and create effective alert and notification processes so that we can be rigorous in our approach to making sure business moves through the pipe, and moves through it correctly."
A core element of the Accenture deployment, Senden relates, was to extract the front ends from all pertinent legacy platforms and consolidate them into a single enterprise view. "One of the things we press on, significantly, is to simplify, simplify, simplify," he says. "Complexity is typically at the root of where we see breakdowns."
Whatever Suits You
As part of the customer-focus enhancements, Allianz Life will create an executive-level chief suitability officer (CSO) role to oversee processes and procedures that aim to ensure that consumers purchase policies appropriate to their needs. Several states require life insurance customers of a certain age to be given the option to fill out a suitability check form at the point of sale. Allianz Life spokesman Hubertus Kuelps says that the insurer takes the legislation a step further by requiring all customers, regardless of age or circumstance, to submit to a suitability check.
"We take every single application and enter it into a system to go through a suitability check," Kuelps says. "That's a rules-based engine that tells us if a policy is suitable for a given customer."
Senden says he expects that the new CSO, whom the company will name by the end of the third quarter, will help refine rules in the carrier's suitability engine. "[The rules engine] gives them the option to configure the things that they feel are the key differentiators that allow us to go above and beyond the regulations," he explains.
The best way to support the technical requirements of a customer-focused company, Senden believes, is to facilitate communication between IT and the business. "On some level, we're technologists and not business experts in some of these areas," he says. "So having close connections with our business partners is important. We've found that to be probably the No. 1 element of success."