Defining Digital Transformation & What Hiring Managers look for



Welcome everybody to another episode of the Marketing and Digital podcast. I’m your host, Kenneth from RGF Executive Search and as usual every week we’ll be inviting a senior marketing or digital leader to share more about their career journey and some of the trends within their specific function. Today we have with us, Dr. Patrick Chin. Patrick is currently the Chief Digital Officer and Regional Head of Brand for Sompo Insurance. Japan’s second largest P&C insurer, and has also held senior digital and marketing positions at MetLife and IHG. He’s also the author of three different books focused on innovation, digital transformation, and digital marketing. Hi Patrick. Thanks for taking the time to join us today.

Q. To start things off, could you tell us a bit about your career journey and how you got to where you are today?

Patrick: Sure. More than happy to. Basically, my first love was in statistics. I’m a numbers person. I got my formal training from NUS majoring in economics and did my masters in statistics, then I started my career as an analyst building forecasting models for Citibank as well as a number of other financial institutions.

As I progressed along the way, I worked on a number of positions moving from the data side of things, into more Digital & branding roles and ultimately moving into innovation roles. More recently. The last few roles that I took on really brings it full circle by combining Innovation, Data and Digital to create new business models. As of now, I’m at Sompo looking after branding & digital, using data as a base.

Q Touching more on the subject of Digital. I realized that this is a word that companies nowadays tend to use quite a lot. Some people define it as a new way of engaging customers, to others it involves new ways of doing business, and they talk about new products, but what’s your take on this and how would you define digital?

Patrick: As you pointed many people use the word Digital differently, some may feel that by using certain platforms they call it Digital. Others may define it as digital marketing, how to reach out to customers and some even define their products as digital. The way I define digital would be in three phases.

First I think it’s very important for us to really understand the meaning of digitization. The most well-known example of Digitization is the conversion of information from hard copy to soft copy. Digitization can also apply to processes where we look at automation by using technologies such as robotics/RPA.

The next phase for digital definition is called digitalization, which means creating new business model basing on these technologies we spoke about earlier which in turn generate new revenue streams, acquisitions, in terms of new customers, and at the same time, improves or disrupts the process tremendously.

The Third phase of digital is disruption. We see this in the likes of companies such as Uber & Amazon that are disrupting traditional industries and creating entire ecosystems around themselves. In my opinion, those are the 3 Phases of Digital : Digitization, Digitalization and Disruption. My take is that due to the current situation many companies are currently ramping up to Digitization and Digitalization, which means they’re trying to see how they can get everything online and create new business models. This varies across different industries. Some industries are faster in terms of their Digitalization. For example in Asia many F&B Companies are now delivering food to their customers through platforms such as Grabfood. This is a way these companies are hopping on the wagon of Digitalization and creating new business models for them to acquire new customers.

Q. Where would you say the team at Sompo is at the moment?

Patrick: When I first took up this role, I disseminated these three areas that I saw to the team. Within digitization, digitalization & disruption, I further broke it down and told the team that in order for us to do well in the digital space, we need to do 3 things:

·       Digitally Active

·       Digitally Engage

·       Digitally compete

So the 1st phase which is being digitally active, means we are trying to digitalize all our touch points, from engaging our customers digitally, allowing them to buy online, and even allowing them do their claims online.

At the same time, being digitally active means you’re also training your people to have a digital culture mindset. This involves a huge shift in mindset, training, as well as fostering a culture of innovation and Design thinking.

That’s what I’ve been driving in my first year with Sompo. Right now we’re moving to the next phase which I call digitally engaged. Once we’re active and able to present some proof of concepts in this space, how do we start to further engage our stakeholders, our customers, as well as internally? This could be through the use of different platforms

The last phase would be, how do we go about competing with the ecosystem? In fact competing might not be the right word. I personally like to call this “Coopeting” which means collaborating while competing in a digitally active space. Right, now we’re in the second phase of digitally engaging. Things are moving quite fast this year, I’ve put in place, a lot of initiatives especially towards the end of the year and hopefully will to be able to bring us to the next stage by another year or two.

Q. Can you share a bit about some of the projects that you’re specifically working on at the moment?

Patrick: Sure, I’ll just touch on a few that are better known within the industry. The first one that we have done quite recently is we’ve managed to launch an on demand Insurance in our Thailand market. By collaborating with Line OA, Official account, to enable our customers to buy travel insurance using the Line chat engine.

On the back end we’re working with an InsurTech partner called Slice which heavily improves our speed to market. In Thailand, Line is the ecosystem that everybody is comfortable with. So we want to allow our customers to do all their purchases online. The other project that we have done recently in Singapore is our AI fraudulent claims project, which we have won awards for in Singapore business review. What it does is it checks through incoming claims to see if there is a potential for fraud, if its all clear we allow it to pass through.

Together with another project, we call this automated claim assessment. This improves the turnaround time for claims tremendously, hence optimizing the customer experience because our Customers won’t have to wait too long for any claims and they can rest assured that their claims are being actioned upon.

Q. Were there any specific challenges that you faced when you were going through Sompo’s digital transformation and what were they?

Patrick: I think this is something that we see not just in Insurance but across other industries as well, for those companies that exist for a long time, employees tend to have a set of things and processes that they do that forms the fabric and culture of a company. The culture of the company cannot be changed overnight. The reason being because even if you have the best technology, people may revert to their old ways of working.

So the biggest challenge I felt in any digital transformation initiative is the culture of the company. When there’s an existing way of doing things to change this involves getting people out of their comfort zones. Then, you can train them, change the way you reward them and so on, but that takes time. So I think that part is the biggest challenge. Technology is not a challenge it’s the culture of the company that is usually the biggest challenge.

Q. Speaking about change do you think it works better from a bottoms up or top down approach?

Patrick: This is just my own personal opinion, I feel that any change should start from the top down, the reason being, bottoms up can only work if there’s a mandate from the top. Without a mandate, no matter how much you try to push it from the ground up, it will be futile, because when it reaches to the second, third or fourth layers of approval then you realize that it’s not going to be approved because the top guys don’t believe in it. However I think the bottoms up approach is also important because you need to get those people who are willing to drive cage within a company. These people can be of any level but what’s most important is that they have an open mindset and are willing to push for change.

Q. In your opinion, which parts of the P&C insurance value chain are the most likely to be disrupted or are already being disrupted right now or within the next year?

Patrick: I think disruption is already happening. Recently I read a very interesting article titled “What’s next after Covid? The new normal.” This led me to think about what will happen to Insurance distribution models when the new normal kicks in?

I think distribution models and partners will change very soon because we used to say, you must partner with certain people. That will change very soon because right now our consumer behavior is such that when people interact online the trust factor is different.

For all you know in the future, Insurers may have to partner with any partners who are able to provide a specific on demand coverage. The second change that I’m seeing right now and also in Covid is that agents will also have to adapt because the old way of Agents trying to meet up with potential customers to sell them policies be it P&C or Life may change drastically because when we get more used to interacting digitally, the way to influence our prospects, may also shift from a face to face approach towards a more digital approach. I think that is something that is ready for change, because agencies & intermediaries still form at least 80% of the total revenue for any P&C Insurer

Q. Which skill sets or functions do you think would be the highest in demand as insurers are increasingly looking to digitalize their value chain?

Patrick: I think there will definitely be a demand for people who understand data. Understanding data means not just being able to code but also being able to interpret and turn the data into actionable insights for the company to act upon.

An example being, how do you make use of all the different data sets, from online and offline, and make sense of this by turning it into a key story or insight that drives us to do our business differently. I think it’s very difficult to find people with this skillset. It’s not difficult to find Python programmers who can build models. In fact there’re plenty of them. However, to actually make sense of the data, that requires specific training.

I think it’s also equally important to have multi-disciplinary people in the team who understand digital, not just as a sales channel, but who have an innovative mindset and are able to adapt and piece things together fast enough and create solutions. That’s also another rare skillset.

This is because wjem we’re trained in a specific area, we tend to do things a certain way, it’s great to specialize in a certain area but I believe in the future what we need is more “T Shaped” people. This means that while still being a specialist in your particular field you also have a broad based skillset and understanding of different industries and are able to harness all of that knowledge to come up with innovative solutions. I think that’s very hard to find nowadays because our school system tends to build us up as either specialists or generalists but not as “T shaped” people.

Q. Going back to the topic of change & digital engagement, one could argue that this change is mandatory rather than voluntary. Do you see this resulting in any long term changes in consumer behavior or do you think things will revert to the way they were before once this is all over?

Patrick: I think the COVID situation has shared with us, at least to me, an important lesson This COVID situation has highlighted the theme of social distancing offsite, and social closing onsite. What I mean is, People will start to implement social dispensing for a while. We never know if and when the next virus may strike.

This will cause human beings to crave for more social closing onsite, this means online itself. They will have their own online social communities that they’re closer to. They will have their own social groups they are communicating with. Brands will still play a very important role, but I believe word of mouth will play an even more important role because this is the group of people that you trust and they will tell you how and what to buy and what to experience.

I believe this would be the new normal. I have not cracked the code to this new behavior yet, but I feel that we need to crack the code to see how we can potentially tap on this new untapped market.

Social selling has been around for a while, but I think the definition of social selling really needs to be renamed and redefine because this is a growing space that is getting more and more important.

Q. Is social selling something that Sompo would be looking at?

Patrick:Yes in fact, I’ve already instructed my team to explore or redefine the meaning of social selling in the context of online. Social selling can be from offline to online. So we need to rethink what role does online have to play in the whole position of social selling?

In fact we’re also seeing an increased emphasis on content marketing, and I don’t mean using content as a trigger to sell products. In fact if you look at other brands out there such as Coffee Bean or Starbucks, the focus has shifted to communicating with their consumers about their top priorities/concerns before they even talk about their own products. I think this will change the way businesses communicate to our consumers

I’m also working on a number of projects that aims to focus on lifestyle as a mode of communication to customers, instead of just saying we’re an Insurance company and we cover X, Y and Z. We’re targeting more of a lifestyle concept that links into prevention.

I personally feel this would be a very lucrative space for us to explore. As insurers, our main business is still that of protection. However here at Sompo, we also have a new tagline called “A theme park for security, health, and wellbeing”

This allows us to better communicate with our customers and talk to them about how we can be more involved into their lives, health, security and wellbeing. This will become an important component when providing solutions for them rather than talking about Insurance plans and benefits. They see that we are selling insurance. I think that if the whole industry were to make that change, this would improve the perception of consumers towards our industry as well.

Q. As a hiring manager yourself, what would you say are the three main soft skills that you’d be looking at when you’re hiring for your own team, assuming that you were considering between multiple candidates who were equally technically proficient?

Patrick: My philosophy is that technical skills can be learned the soft skills that I’m looking for are:

Agile –Being able to take on different challenges and analyze matters from various perspectives

Innovative & resilient – Able to learn from their own mistakes and find ways around problems

Consultative – Able to listen to stakeholders, and identify problems and propose solutions

That sums up our session for today. That was really eye opening. Patrick and thanks for joining us today.

If you want to find out more about Patrick or read more about some of the work he’s done, you can also find his eBooks or books on Amazon or the Google app store.

He’s published three books so far:

–       Sketch sense ~ how to run service innovation workshops.

–        Digisense ~ making a sense of digital marketing

–       How to build a great customer experience.

Thanks again for your time Patrick!

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جميع الحقوق محفوظة للمنتدى السوري – برنامج التمكين  الاقتصادي 2020 – 2021


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