TAKING A CUSTOMER CENTRIC APPROACH
In such a competitive industry as insurance, it is important to stand apart in product and service offering. Niran Peiris, Allianz CEO speaks with Business First about being a customercentric organisation. Story by Jonathan Jackson.
Niran Peiris’ predecessor Terry Towell was one of the longest serving CEOs in the country when he finally decided to hand over the Allianz reins. His influence on the organisation was immense and he left an indelible impression as well as a great track record.
Niran, who had worked his way through the organisation from General Manager of Finance in 2000 to CFO in 2001 and Head of Retail and CEO of Allianz Life in 2009, sat at the executive table with Terry through most of those years and during that time learnt that the most important aspect of the organisation was its customer-centricity. Another important lesson was the value of diversification.
“We had just purchased HIH and that brought in several streams of business. However Terry’s focus was on customers.”
Customer focus has been the company’s raison d’etre ever since and that focus is backed by systems within the organisation that facilitate the service to them.
“Terry was a stickler for efficiencies and embedded them in the overall culture. There was a relentless focus on efficiency and using that to create competitive advantage.”
There is a third factor in the success equation and that is that insurance is about cycles; to have your eggs in one basket equates to danger for the business.
“We embarked on a diversification program away from pure underwritten business, so that that we had a fee-style business that could buffer the underwriting business. Our non underwriting business includes workers compensation claims that we manage for State governments and our premium funding business, which are vital elements that can help sustain us in more difficult times.”
Having been a key member of the management team for more than a decade, when Niran took over as CEO he was comfortable with the strategy and no major changes were required. What he did do however, was look at generational change and focus on the incorporation of data analytics into all levels of the organisation.
“Technology is rapidly changing and how we deliver and execute analytics is an important driver. I changed management in IT through claims and operations because that is where the customer touch comes. Claims is the service we sell and we want to make that as efficient as it can be; it needs to be customer focused. We work out what the customer wants and then work our way backwards.”
The second change Niran implemented was based around professional development.
“We needed to acknowledge the rapid change in the world in terms of technology and encourage a learning agility to try to stay ahead of the game as well as look at diversity and inclusion.”
Allianz has grown substantially since Niran first joined the organisation. When he first started they had less than $2bn in premiums. Today they are around $4bn. They also had about half the number of staff that exists today.
Niran says the growth was achieved through a systematic rebuild of everything.
“When we first merged with HIH, there were five underwriting divisions and five different cultures and we had to get them all engaged. We worked to create engagement and to integrate our underwriting capability, sales and distribution into one. The evolution of Allianz was an evolution from a medium sized insurer to a one of the top 5. The challenge now is to be better, with a focus on making it real for customers and better reflect their risk profiles.”
Part of the growth was based around Niran’s roles as CFO as he injected a philosophy of when you have a bottom line you need to get something out of it. Everyone in sales knew what they had to achieve and this gave Allianz stable margins and good results.
As the head of retail distribution, he embedded the importance of great working relationships with business partners.
“A lot of our business comes through our significant relationships with partners, we have a multi-channel, multi approach to the market. People will do business with people they want to do business with. We rely on partners to promote our business. Those relationships are paramount.”
Partners include as diverse organisations as motor dealers, banks and credit unions, who sell hundreds of thousands of policy on behalf of Allianz every year. That’s a lot of insurance. Then there is CSC Australia, one of the country’s leading technology solutions