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Digital Transformation

StatePlus boosts customer experience, secures straight through processing with cloud

Susan Woods, General Manager, Business Technology Services & Transformation, StatePlus

At StatePlus, we believe quality financial planning advice changes lives. We also consider ourselves pioneers of the possible in terms of how we are using technology to transform the delivery of financial advice to all Australians.

Our transformation journey started four years ago, a point we sometimes refer to as our ‘Kodak moment’, when we looked at the changes in our industry, changes in our client behaviour, and our ability (or otherwise) to respond. We acknowledged as a business that we needed to disrupt ourselves to create a new business model that delivered financial advice on the clients’ terms.

In designing our future operating model, we also developed our new client experience strategy, which then helped to inform the technology solution.

Our transformation journey has focused on the design and implementation of a new operating model to eliminate existing inefficiencies and provide a platform for future growth.

A key component of the journey has been the transition of our technology infrastructure which runs many of our core business applications into the Microsoft Cloud. We’ve also achieved what we believe is an Australian-first with the establishment of straight through processing of financial advice for our clients. But this is just the start of our transformation journey.

Superannuation is one of the flagship sectors of the Australian economy. At the end of June 2017, the nation’s superannuation assets reached $2.3 trillion including growth of 10% in the previous 12 month period [1].

It’s big business.

Like all other financial services sectors, superannuation and in particular the financial advice landscape has seen a significant amount of change over the last ten years. This change has been driven by an aging population, limited access to advice, technology innovation, and regulatory change. The drive for competitiveness has also stimulated significant consolidation and merger and acquisition activity.

The external factors transforming the advice landscape created our case for change. Against that background we realised we were limited by a ‘one size fits all’ approach, minimal automation, and changing clients’ needs that we couldn’t address, for example, a desire for self-service, and 24/7 access – anytime anywhere.

We recognised we had no option but to transform if we didn’t want to be disrupted altogether. We had to start doing things differently and take the opportunity to leapfrog our competition.

While transformation was a business imperative, if we wanted to stay relevant there was significant upside – internally for the business and externally for customers.

As part of that change we have shifted several our core applications to Azure so that it becomes a trusted, resilient and secure platform for today, and the foundation for ongoing innovation.

Our move to Azure is very much about providing a foundational infrastructure as a service platform from which to grow. It allows us to be more agile in responding to change, and bring new customer experiences and services to market more quickly. It gives us scale to grow our business, access to expertise that’s hard to attract and retain in-house, and internal efficiencies, creating value all round.

Two key benefits of our transformation stand out. A new digital channel for clients, and straight through processing of financial advice and customer-initiated transactions,  improving speed and accuracy.

Straight through processing of financial advice is quite unique in our industry. 

On average, a Statement of Advice includes seven separate transactions that need to be executed before a client’s financial plan can be implemented. Historically this could have taken days or weeks to complete, subject to receipt of data from clients, other super funds, and daily processing activities all powered by human hands. All that has now has been automated through this process.

I don’t think there’s anyone else doing that in the Australian marketplace. It was a colossal effort, but it’s done, we got it there.

With the cloud foundations now completed we’re well-placed for ongoing innovation.

Once we embrace Office 365 we’ll start to delve deeper into analytics and leverage the data we already have in the cloud. We’ll continue to explore software as a service option potential for bots and AI, and we know that with Azure we can turn on the bot framework and predictive analytics when and how we want.

We made the move to the cloud because we wanted agility, flexibility and access to core capabilities that are challenging for us to develop and retain in-house.

Yes, we could have done a lot of the functional change ourselves and continued to run on infrastructure in house – but it wouldn’t have given us the flexibility and agility that we have now. Most importantly, our transformation has been about establishing we a platform from which to grow and enables us to delivery financial advice on the clients’ terms.

[1] Australian Superannuation Fund Association (ASFA) Superannuation Statistics, August 2017