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5 big questions on innovation

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Andre Fredericks, Chief Information Officer, IndieFin

Andre Fredericks, Chief Information Officer

Andre Fredericks is a get-things-done strategist exploiting design and technology to solve complex business problems. 

He holds an MBA from Stellenbosch University and has over 20 years of industry experience with deep expertise in Technology Strategy and Enterprise Architecture. He currently serves as the Chief Information...
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How is your team changing the game within your industry sector?

Life Insurance is a complicated product. It’s typically a grudge purchase made mostly because an agent convinced you that you needed it and assisted you over the purchase line. This in itself can be a complicated and drawn out process which could take a few weeks to complete, with underwriting and medical tests that need to be conducted. Life insurers also typically struggle in attracting younger clients which places pressure on long term business sustainability.

Indie has rewritten the narrative of purchasing Life Insurance away from “Protecting your loved ones when you pass on,” to “Not just insuring your life, but Creating Wealth." We do this by matching up to 100% of your monthly premium and placing it into an investment that generates wealth over time. It's all tax-free and costs our clients nothing.

We’ve been successful in attracting a younger audience with our fresh messaging and honest content. We don’t just want clients to buy our product, we want them to be financially savvy and make the right financial choices. That is why we keep on producing content to educate - not only for our clients but for everyone.

We view the entire customer experience and engagement as ‘The Product,’ which is contrary to the traditional view that only the Financial Product is ‘The Product.’ We actively leverage design and technology to deliver it in a seamless and cost-effective manner. With us, you can purchase underwritten Life Cover in as little as 10 minutes, or if you prefer, save and resume later, or chat with a live customer success agent for assistance.

We truly place our clients in the center of everything that we do. We view them as the true heroes of the story, which is their financial journey. We are only their guide. Our aim is to equip them with the knowledge and tools that will assist them in making the right financial choices and pave their way to financial freedom.


What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

Large incumbents have been around for many years. As an example, our Parent Group has been a going concern for 100 years. During that time, you develop a significant portfolio of legacy technology systems which inhibits your ability to change. This effect is compounded as the financial products those systems support have a very long lifespan and continued platform renewal is not always viable.

Mature businesses are also geared for continuous optimisation in order to remain profitable. Halting or impeding operations to experiment with a new business model introduces risk and creates tension between short and long term goals.

Our industry is also still largely intermediated where agents have relationships with the clients and insurance companies provide products. This separation makes it difficult for companies to get closer to clients and build real empathy required to deliver on their needs.

We have been set up as a new business with the freedom to experiment with new business models and technology whilst leveraging the scale that comes from our parent company. This scale comes in the form of intellectual property, financial licenses and access to capital. So really, the best of both worlds.


How has innovation become engrained in your organization's culture, and how is it being optimized?

Having the luxury of building an organisation from the ground up ensured we made it a foundational principle and baked it into our DNA. We try and keep our structure as flat as possible and communication as transparent as possible.

No one person has a monopoly on ideas or innovation. Everyone is encouraged to contribute and participate in identifying opportunities or brainstorming ideas to problems. Work in progress solutions are shared and everyone has the opportunity to engage, ask questions and make suggestions.

We also hired people who did not have experience in our industry and we valued the diverse opinions they brought to the table. Many times their “naivety” unlocked some insight where we were stuck in our old paradigm of “this is how that is supposed to work”.

We also have a bias towards action, as we truly believe that doing, and shopping our product is the only way you really learn. We are client driven and embrace feedback. It is the only way you refine your value proposition and assist your clients in achieving their desired outcomes.


What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

As the core financial products become more commoditised, companies will adopt a more personalised approach focusing on client engagement. Companies will have to deal with two major issues here, 1) typical Life Insurance services and products don’t lend themselves to frequent engagement and 2) as the industry is mostly intermediated, the client relationship typically resides with the agent.

We can expect to see regulation, affecting how agents are remunerated, create an advice-gap where agents opt to serve higher-income clients, leaving lower-income clients unserved. This is where Robo-Advice is able to play a role by automating financial advice processes. Agents could also leverage the type of tools we see remote teams use for collaboration, to attend to more clients, thus removing geographic barriers and saving time.

Effective distribution will remain key and I expect to see the continued experimentation with alternative distribution and partnership models.

Technologies like Cloud can assist in driving down operational costs and unlock new capabilities, while investments in AI and Analytics can offer better client and market insight, and also help optimise front- and back-end processes such as underwriting, improved pricing, risk- and capital management.

The key is not which technologies or trends are the latest, but how the intersection of these technologies and trends can be utilised to unlock more utility value for their clients. Companies who really understand and engage their clients will reap benefits.

Can you share a specific innovation strategy you’ve recently encountered which you find compelling?

I am a big proponent of Design Thinking as it provides a mechanism to really understand clients, identify their pain points and latent needs. Spending time with clients and building empathy really allows you to build solutions that matter. Beyond the Design Thinking process, having the right mindset is important such as reframing, asking questions, keeping an open mind, deferring judgement, and continued learning.

I also love innovations that bring to life that which seems to be futuristic in a way that hides all the technical complexity, whilst delivering a seamless client experience.

Amazon Go is a great example of this. Using computer vision, machine learning and IoT together to redefine the shopping and checkout experience. You simply scan your app’s code on the way in, select what you want from the shelves and just walk out. The technology detects what you’ve selected to buy and charges your card on the way out.

Each piece of technology already existed in its own right, but Amazon Go used the intersection of those technologies to develop a customer experience with enhanced utility value i.e. instant checkout.

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