Ant Tyler Fri, Oct 12, '18 7 min read

Robo advice is nothing to fear

Advice automation has become one of 2018’s hot topics. Company tech leaders are increasingly using AI-driven software to complete mundane, time-consuming tasks – like the provision of help – that meet ‘if-then’ conditions. In doing this, they are dramatically increasing the speed, accuracy and efficiency of processes and freeing up staff to focus on more valuable customer interactions.

But not everybody is happy about this growing trend. Employees, in particular, are becoming very nervous about the growth of this so-called ‘robo advice’. Jade Software’s Head of Digital, Eduard Liebenberger, points out this kind of change is inescapable. He suggests it should be understood and embraced instead. “The only constant in life is change,” he says. “But change means uncertainty and uncertainty can be scary.”

Speaking at the recent Shaping Futures conference in Auckland, Eduard spoke of his own experience in coming to New Zealand from Austria 13 years ago. He said his way of dealing with the change was to find something familiar where he knew the rules and could participate.

Joining a local basketball club gave this familiarity and a shared common purpose with his teammates. The same is true of AI; understanding it helps us become comfortable with this unfamiliar – and sometimes intimidating – technology.


AI not a ‘big scary beast’

Eduard explained that AI – which underpins advice automation – is nothing more than pattern detection within a dataset. Just like his young son gauges feedback to determine if what he says is funny or not, AI also generates data and waits for feedback to find out if it’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. That information is taken on board for next time. And, over time, this pool of understanding grows.

But this doesn’t mean that AI is a big scary beast that will become so smart it’ll take over the world. Eduard stresses that it’s here to help us and prefers to call it ‘Assisted Intelligence’. “It’s not about the technology, it’s about how it can improve our human experience,” he explains.

Turning to a live example, Jade’s Director of Customer Solutions for Australia, Justin Mercer, described how Jade partnered with  TAL, Australia’s largest life insurer to support its ambitious growth plans.

“There were two innovation initiatives we worked with TAL on,” he said. “The first was a revamp of their direct-to-customer Lifebroker life insurance aggregator. The second was a brand-new product called CoverBuilder – a ‘build it yourself’ online service.”

Working together, Jade’s experience design team and TAL’s innovation unit started bringing self-directed and  automation solutions to life. “We missed the mark after the first week of design,” Justin said, “but we learned from the feedback, took it on board and explored new ideas. This produced a design vision that sparked the attention of the business.”


Steps to success: prototype, test, iterate

So how did they know they were on the right track? “We prototyped, we tested, we iterated and after the second round of testing we knew we were onto something,” he explained. After a successful Design Sprint produced a workable proof of concept, a cross-functional Jade-TAL delivery team was established in TAL’s Melbourne office to build and integrate the platform with TAL’s existing infrastructure.

“Although they were two different propositions, many of the key learnings and insights about customer self-service needs were applicable across both CoverBuilder and LifeBroker,” he said.

The new LifeBroker design was applied and the impact was almost immediate. “Within six months the conversion rate of visitors to the site moved from six to sixteen percent. And, while CoverBuilder also improved dramatically with more features and integration, a core win for the team was being able to guide customers correctly based on their needs.

By involving TAL’s product, legal, actuarial and IT teams on the journey, CoverBuilder was able to offer either a ‘Help Me Choose’ or ‘Build My Own’ option to customers.


Innovation award for CoverBuilder

“CoverBuilder went on to be more than a self-directed platform for TAL,” said Justin. It was leveraged to establish a new distribution with Qantas Assure – the airline’s insurance offering to their Frequent Flyer members.”

The success of TAL’s white-label version of the platform  was recognised in 2017 when TAL and Qantas were jointly recognised at the TDI Asia  Insurance Innovation Awards in Singapore with the Top Asian insurance innovator award.

Despite the user-friendliness of Lifebroker and CoverBuilder, some customers still need or want to talk to a person before making a decision. “This is designed as a seamless ‘handshake’ from machine to human,” explains Justin. This is a good working example of the ‘Assisted Intelligence’ AI that Eduard described.

“Electricity changed the world as we knew it,” explained Eduard. “Data – and more importantly how we use it – is next.“ So, I encourage you to think of AI not so much as a technology, but as a journey and an experience.

“Start with the familiar. Start small but dream big. Throw the rules out of the window, try new things, get inspired.”

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