The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the overnight requirement to meet customer needs remotely saw Old Mutual fast-forward deployment of a series of enhanced digital services that it had been developing as part of the 175-year-old brand’s vision to build a leading African digital platform business.
When Old Mutual began its journey to transform into an always-on digital service, “we had no idea that as early as 2020 we’d be achieving the milestones that we are delivering today,” says Vuyo Mpako, Chief Digital and Data Officer at Old Mutual.
Fortunately, since so much of the valuable groundwork had been done, when the Covid-19 crisis hit, “our teams were able to deliver – overnight – many of the remote customer service functionalities that suddenly became critical even though many of these were still months away from launch,” he added.
From a customer experience perspective, funeral claims, for example, became instantly available via USSD and WhatsApp, enabling beneficiaries and their families to receive payouts without physical paperwork or the need for rural customers to travel into towns to access branches in lockdown.
In addition to assisting thousands of bereaved South Africans maintain social distancing as the country reached its peak infection period, funeral plan customers have also been spared the inconvenience, expense and delay historically associated with redeeming funeral policy payouts manually, he says.
Connecting with customers on the digital channel of their choice
The more customers can do digitally, the more value Old Mutual can add to their lives. Therefore, “convergence remains a key pillar of our digital strategy as we strive to meet our customers’ needs in one place – on the digital channel of their choice,” says Mpako.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, Old Mutual customers in South Africa can also apply online for personal cover, tax-free and flexible savings plans and even retirement annuities. No data or cellphone charges apply to customers using USSD or the Old Mutual app.
Moreover, using customer feedback on the functionality of these digital services, “we have used lockdown to fine-tune and even innovate new capabilities on the disinvestment and funeral claims platforms, for example,” says Mpako.
The group recently updated its Old Mutual mobile app for customers in South Africa, providing them with a quick and easy login with a fingerprint or facial biometric scan. The app provides customers a single access point to view their portfolio as well as Old Mutual Rewards information.
Customers are also now digitally nudged to use the Old Mutual At-retirement Calculator. This helps determine their potential monthly retirement income, “effectively digitising customers’ ability to use their own data to save and invest for retirement without ever having to enter a branch,” adds Mpako.
Delivering these kinds of meaningful, digital functionalities that improve customers’ experience when engaging with Old Mutual serves to illustrate the broader systemic transition the group is making, “from a traditional, face-to-face, product-siloed and analogue business to a digital enabling platform,” says Mpako.
Driving tangible digital change across Africa
Across Africa Old Mutual is driving collaboration and innovation to ensure that any digital capability developed in one country is “quickly scaled up to be customised and implemented in another,” says Mpako.
Today, many of Old Mutual’s websites in the thirteen countries where it operates share the same integrated platform, offering customers identical functionality regardless of where they are. Using technology like Contentstack, the platform drives collaborative and personalised content uniformly across all of Old Mutual’s African markets.
The website also features a live ChatBot providing digital access to 34 products via a secure customer portal, “illustrating just one example of how Old Mutual is working to make intelligent automation technologies like robotic process automation available to customers in their pockets across the continent,” adds Mpako.
The same web functionality will be extended to Old Mutual customers in East and West Africa later this year.
For now, USSD, Facebook Messenger Chatbot and WhatsApp are also available in Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi and Botswana. These digital assets are proving very successful in enabling basic transactions.
“They also encourage customers to initiate conversations with us that improve our ability to use their data to manage risk and grow their prosperity,” says Mpako. Similarly, in East Africa, Old Mutual’s Facebook Messenger Chatbot – called Arifa – is helping customers open and manage accounts, request withdrawals and even switch funds using the virtual investment buddy.
Scaling up future digital solutions
While the Covid-19 crisis has rapidly brought forward some of the most critical remote-use elements in Old Mutual’s larger digital transformation strategy, “this is just the tip of the iceberg. Things get a lot more exciting from here,” says Mpako.
Old Mutual takes great pride in the strong culture of innovation amongst its cross-functional teams that work together to improve customers’ experience across all business lines. Much of this is made possible by the agility of Old Mutual’s internal learning and development methodology, including the training of thousands of call centre agents and advisers in the digital tools, functionalities and solutions available to support customers’ transition to digital.
Old Mutual will continue scaling up its digital solutions, eventually delivering personalised, seamless, end-to-end digital functionalities that provide customers the ability to manage life’s setbacks and build long-term prosperity through the generations, “on their pocket phones or tablets, 24/7 from anywhere in Africa,” predicts Mpako.
Since this level of personalisation will be driven by data, Old Mutual remains committed to invest in the technology and people “to build a digital capability with the skillset and ability to support customers at a pace and on the platforms that meets their needs while measurably transforming their ability to achieve their financial goals in life,” concludes Mpako.