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The future of customer-centric insurance

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Click to watch an introduction to Great-West Lifeco



Great-West Lifeco’s digital transformation

Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian companies are undergoing one of the most significant transformations in their 100-plus year history. As it looks to the future, the company aims to keep one element securely in the centre of it all – the customer


or any organisation, of any size, undergoing an extensive digital transformation is no small feat. For Great-West Lifeco Inc. (Lifeco) and its Canadian-based companies, which have been providing insurance, benefit and financial solutions to Canadians for more than a century, the challenge centres upon maintaining a promise the company has made since it was founded. “As a company, we’ve long offered a promise to our customers – to improve their well-being, to keep their personal information safe, and to be there when they need us most,” says Philip Armstrong, Executive Vice-President and Global Chief Information Officer (CIO). “Our digital transformation is all about building upon this promise. We’re strengthening how we protect customer data and investing in new digital solutions that will provide convenient service for our customers anytime, anywhere.” As Global CIO, Armstrong’s role is crucial in the delivery of this transformation. Lifeco has carefully selected technology partners


like Cisco, SAP, IBM, Microsoft, FireEye, Zscaler and IPSoft to completely transform its entire technology ecosystem. Armstrong feels strongly that the role of the Global CIO has also significantly evolved alongside this journey. “Traditionally, I think that companies first created a business strategy and then looked at how technology could underpin and support that strategy,” he says. “Today, with technology moving so fast, technology is a key driver in determining business strategy. The CIO is now expected to actively partner in the business transformation process, from design to execution.” Lifeco is a global provider of financial services, comprised of a number of companies that operate predominantly in Canada, Europe, and the US. Armstrong is tasked with overseeing a number of regional CIOs together with motivated technologists located around the globe. “We have approximately 3,400 technologists within our core technology teams,” he says, “and

Philip Armstrong Executive Vice-President and Global Chief Information Officer Philip joined Great-West Lifeco in January of 2016 and is currently responsible for all technology strategy, delivery, infrastructure, procurement and operations, with a focus on technology architecture, cyber security, digital transformation, hybrid-cloud enablement, employee productivity, big data analytics, A.I. and robotic process automation. Reporting to the CEO, Philip is a member of the Lifeco Executive Management Committee. Philip has 38 years of progressive global technology experience, as a CIO, senior technology executive, and technology consulting strategist. Prior to joining GreatWest Lifeco, Philip held global roles as the Chief Digital Technology Officer for Sun Life Financial and the Chief Technology Officer for Manulife Financial/John Hancock. Philip holds a Bachelor of Administrative Studies (BAS) from York University and a B/TEC from Leeds University (Keighley college). Philip serves as a Board Member for the TBM Council, and an advisor on the Trusted Advisory Board (TAB)

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we’ve recently aligned them closely with our different business groups; this blurs the lines between what would traditionally be a technical or a business role. This alignment helps us be more agile and outcome based. It allows our business to better leverage technology to meet the future needs of our customers.” The changing face of technology Technology has always been Armstrong’s first passion. He began his career working on the frontlines of technology in England in 1979, before the personal computer arrived on people’s desks. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming the CIO of a leading Toronto based financial services company at the age of 29. Since then, his technology career has provided him opportunities to visit and work in 48 different countries. Armstrong has seen first-hand how technology has evolved over several decades and how each new wave of advancement has influenced business models. He

argues that one of the most significant changes has been how we now perceive technology’s potential. “In the early days, I watched as technical solutions were positioned with rampant overselling, which led to unrealistically high expectations and the inevitable disappointment of broken promises,” he says. “Today’s technology platforms are so powerful that their potential is often ahead of what most companies need. There’s never been a more exciting time to work in the technology field and turn that potential into a reality.” Armstrong joined Lifeco as Global CIO in 2016 to advance the company in how they could leverage technology across their group of companies. “It’s about changing how we apply technology to provide modern timely services for our customers,” he says. “We believe strongly in putting the customer at the centre of what we do, and that translates into the decisions that we make around what technologies and services we intend to roll out.” Lifeco’s Canadian companies

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March 2018

have served Canadians for more than a century, and Armstrong says their transformation is really about positioning them for the future. “We’re embracing the future, while respecting our past. We have a proud heritage of helping Canadians with services and expert financial advice. We’re looking to use the power of technology to find new ways to improve the financial, physical and mental well-being of our customers.”

24,300 Number of Employees at Great-West Lifeco worldwide

Evolving customer needs Armstrong believes that while customer expectations of technology have risen, many aspects of the financial services industry have been slow to respond. “The modern customer wants immediate access to their financial information augmented with timely advice that empowers them to make better decisions,” says Armstrong. “Advice-based insurance and wealth management business models within Canada have approached technology cautiously, fearing it would provide an unnecessary barrier that gets in the way of what is a very personal relationship between financial planners, advisors and the customer.” But according to Armstrong, Lifeco isn’t shying away from this challenge, and instead, views it as a strategic opportunity. “We’re listening very closely to both our customers and financial advisors. We see emerging technology as an opportunity to significantly enhance these personal relationships that are so important to our overall success.”

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What’s the difference between intelligence and knowledge? It’s about enabling you to use information, not just have it.

Protecting personally identifiable information (PII) that Finance and Insurance organizations are entrusted with. This is the FireEye story.

The Difference

We’re in the business of keeping promises, where we put the customer at the center of everything we do. Unfortunately today, you can’t do that without sophisticated protection and intelligence.

FireEye gives us a distinctive competitive edge where we can feel confident about delivering on our promises. —PHILIP ARMSTRONG EVP & Global CIO Great-West Lifeco

© 2018 FireEye, Inc. All rights reserved.

The company is listening intently to its customers, identifying their pain points and building a technology ecosystem that can rapidly respond and adapt to the customers’ wants and needs. “It’s a modernisation process that starts from front to back,” says Armstrong. “You have to examine how your customers are interacting with you, and many of ours do so through intermediaries. We have


to equip financial advisors and our distributors with digital solutions that enable them to be more productive, more informed, and more connected, so they can provide exceptional service to their customers.” “Where it makes sense, we’re helping advisors and clients by providing customers with new digital self-service capabilities. Within our own business operations, process automation, machine learning,



data analytics and AI technologies are helping to streamline and reduce business processing costs, enhance responsiveness, and increase employee productivity.” Rising customer expectations and the industry’s competitive landscape are also reshaping the way Lifeco approaches systems and solutions delivery. “Our technology development process was much more inward looking, today it’s a more organic process that has to be closely aligned with what customers want, need and expect. ”

Armstrong points to how Agile development methodologies and ways of working are becoming the preferred way at Lifeco, bringing together crossfunctional, full-stack teams that are able to deliver quickly. To him, this is often the biggest cultural change. “It’s no longer good enough to work on requirements, develop code, wait six months, and then present the result – the traditional waterfall approach. There needs to be shorter, sharper sprints, allowing us to reduce execution risk and respond to opportunities in the marketplace as they happen.”

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Artificial Intelligence: Re-inventing the Customer Experience

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is creating new paths to provide a better customer experience across industries. Many Canadian businesses, organizations and researchers are piloting AI technologies – fo for everything from interactive insurance claims processing, to advanced medical diagnostics, to personalized service. AI in customer experience in particular is generating a high degree of enthusiasm as companies consider how this technology can be used to assist and augment their overburdened human workforces.

Amelia is the only AI ready to transform entire processes at scale, from intelligent front office conversations to smart back office execution ex

Delivering this kind of elevated human-like digital experience is imperative because customers are demanding it. Research from Accenture -- noting that 52% of consumers said they have switched providers due to poor cu customer service -- found that human interaction is a critical component for customer satisfaction, and recommends providing “human elements” across digital channels.

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Companies must be diligent in selecting the AI tech that will deliver those elements and the best experience for their various audiences and communities. An effective AI solution needs to be scalable to handle high inquiry and transaction volumes, self-learning so it can improve services it delivers over time, conversationally interactive so it can connect with end-users, collaborative to work with human agents and employees, and intelligent to detect users’ sentiments and emotions and provide support in an empathetic way. Amelia can communicate with customers 24/7 in the proper context and through multiple channels like laptops, mobile phones and even virtual home assistants (like Alexa or Google Home). Recognizing these trends, Great-West Life Insurance Company is looking to leverage IPsoft’s Amelia to enhance its customer-facing platforms with cognitive AI technology.

“We recognize the great potential that AI technology like Amelia can deliver to our customers,” said Philip Armstrong, Executive Vice-President and Global Chief Information Officer at Great-West Lifeco. “Customer satisfaction is our highest priority, and Amelia will provide enhanced levels of accuracy and efficiency for our customers.” Amelia is more advanced than chatbots, which provide only static pre-programmed responses to customer queries that often do little to enhance overall customer satisfaction. Amelia elevates customer interactions to the cu point where users feel as if they’re talking to a human that cares about their needs. She provides human-like intimacy and interaction at scale that helps companies build long-term customer bu relationships, while at the same time keeping costs in check. Great-West LifeCo will be able to take advantage of best practices from other IPsoft clients, even those outside its industry. For example, SEB, the leading Nordic corporate bank, is utilizing Amelia for account password resets, pa

step-by-step assistance with credit and debit cards, and banking location services with its customers. Amelia has reached a 90% accuracy rate in understanding and completing tasks, and co correctly hands-off queries to her human co-workers when necessary. At IPsoft, we believe in AI’s ability to transform business and transform our lives. Our customers are achieving real-life business benefits from their Amelia investments while delivering an exceptional customer experience. Companies like Great-West Lifeco are pioneering the use of cognitive AI in customer service and driving the industry toward a new digital future.

For more information about Amelia, visit


© 2018 SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.

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The art of the possible Armstrong emphasized the importance of aligning Lifeco’s strategic business plan and technology vision. “I consider myself to be living in the future, my job is to envision what could be and then partner with my business colleagues to define the art of the possible,” he says. “We have a clear business vision, but marrying that vision with emerging technologies often drives new possibilities that weren’t previously considered.” “Working this way requires a major cultural change, operating model re-alignments and a more flexible organisation structure. This has been a major part of our transformation journey. It’s vitally important to know where you’re going and having everyone aligned towards that goal. That congruence of vision, action and technology is how you start to move from where you are today, to your destination in the future.” A transformational journey For Lifeco’s Canadian companies

this latest transformation represents one of the biggest turning points in their illustrious history. They’re working to reinvent the organization’s core technologies and business processes, many of which have been successfully operated for decades. With every major component of technology now in a state of flux, being replaced, modernized, moved to the cloud, or retired; surely this creates a higher level of operational risk? “I think it’s far riskier not to change,” says Armstrong. “Indeed, we are acutely aware of how well these transformation activities and risks need to be managed, but we’re also aware of our industry’s future direction. We know its advancement will be largely fuelled by technology innovation. We’re not going to wait for the industry to change, we want to be proactive and drive this change.” “I don’t know of a larger technologybased transformation happening within financial services across Canada right now. Our digital and business transformation will differentiate our company

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“Early in our planning, we realised that if we are going to transform our digital capabilities we would need a strong technology foundation. So the first thing we needed to address was our core Canadian network, and to do this we developed a strong partnership with Cisco.” “Cisco designed and built an intelligent state-of-the-art, leaf-andspine, software-defined network that provides us with secure access, increased responsiveness, robust stability and scalability. This now provides us with a clear competitive edge to support all of our digital aspirations.”


“Partnering with Microsoft has provided our employees with the latest in office productivity and collaboration tools, such as Office 365 and the Azure cloud. We’re transforming our campuses through wireless access, enabling desktopto-desktop communication tools through Skype, and activating digital collaboration spaces equipped with Microsoft Surface Hubs.” “Supporting employee mobility and enhanced connectivity gives us the freedom to work where, when and how we want, increasing productivity and collaboration.”

“We’ve been working closely with IBM to completely modernize our data centre and to support a hybrid-cloud environment. We’ve rethought how we store information, how we retrieve information, how we configure our servers, to ensure our infrastructure is secure, fast and efficient. We’re also modernizing our mainframes, allowing for rapid data access. IBM is providing and partnering with us on our data intelligence technology stack, another fast moving area within our company.”

“We have a very close relationship with SAP, which provide us with a variety of quality platforms and services. SAP platforms power our corporate financial systems, augmented with products such as Insurance Analyzer, HR solutions, and in-memory computing capabilities like HANA. Our cloud-based development stack also includes tools like Hybris. With changing regulations such as GDPR and IFRS, having a large global partner like SAP has proven to be invaluable.”

Click to hear about Great-West Lifeco’s partners of choice

INTUITIVE. INTUITIVE. Digital transformation is creating new customer experiences, transforming business

Digital transformation is creating new customer experiences, transforming business models, and empowering workforce innovation. Infrastructures of yesterday struggle to models, and empowering workforce innovation. Infrastructures of yesterday struggle to support the needs of today’s innovative businesses. support the needs of today’s innovative businesses.

Cisco is proud to have partnered with Great-West Life to deliver a software-defined foundation powering transformation and ensuring theofsuccess of their nextfoundation powering theirtheir transformation and ensuring the success their nextgeneration endeavours. generation endeavours.

Great-West Life benefits from a highly secure, flexible, data-driven infrastructure and th clients and policyholders benefit from entirely new technology-enabled user experience delivered anywhere and at anyat time. delivered anywhere and any time.

Great-West Life and Cisco together are pushing the boundaries of how financial service

areare delivered in Canada. delivered in Canada.

©2018 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.


Consolidated assets under administration

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and position us to remain competitive going forward.” A vital part of Lifeco’s strategy has been to establish strong partnerships with leading global technology providers including Cisco, Microsoft, IBM and SAP. Through these strategic partnerships, Lifeco has been able to leverage their partners’ R&D capacity and gain access to some of technology’s biggest and brightest talent pools. “We work closely with our large

technology partners, spending time to understand their solutions and roadmaps, and then applying suites of integrated technology to business challenges and opportunities. This avoids spending most of our time trying to integrate disparate technology solutions, forcing them to work together.” “For us, this is an efficient model where we leverage the expertise offered by these large technology partners, and they’ve been fantastic to work with.”

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Great-West Lifeco and the importance of cyber security

“We take cyber security very seriously. I’m a great believer in a defence and depth strategy, where you have multiple layers of protection technology that overlap. Cyber criminals are getting more sophisticated, and you have to respond with more sophisticated defences.” “Our primary partner in cyber security is FireEye, we’re currently using their endpoint detection and remediation technologies. We’re also a valued subscriber of their threat intelligence feeds, iSight services, and we use their consulting organization, Mandiant, quite extensively. FireEye is passionate about cyber protection, and we’ve been delighted with the strength of our partnership and

SECURED DATA the results we’ve seen so far.” “But it’s not good enough just to dig a moat around your data centre and protect your employees’ devices anymore. You have to extend your cyber security fabric and protection out to the intelligent edge of your network, out to the cloud and the internet. We’re using cloud-enabled cyber protection companies, like Zscaler and their sophisticated sandboxing technology, to extend our defences well outside the data centre to the intelligent edge. Zscaler was the first to move into this space in a big way, and we have a strong relationship with this talented team. Cyber is such a complicated, fast moving space that you have to choose your partners carefully - and we have.”

The buzz of technological change Armstrong acknowledges that this year, the financial services technology industry will be awash with technology buzzwords and jargon, coupled with an unprecedented amount of disruption and transformation. Artificial intelligence, conversational AI, machine learning, cloud, bots, blockchain, and big data analytics, are all major trends across the industry. What is Lifeco doing with these technologies to ensure that they are truly advancing their business priorities, and not falling for the marketing hype? “A large part of my job is to position cloud, artificial intelligence, conversational AI, machine learning and process automation technologies within our organization in a practical way that delivers real value,” says Armstrong. “We have lofty ambitions and strive to leverage these technologies to serve more customers, across the channel of their choice, using any device, at any time, and in the language of their choice.”

Armstrong says that the only way to incrementally deliver towards this goal is to invest in process automation, digital technologies and artificial intelligence. Lifeco has already started to integrate robotic process automation into its operational work environment. Another important strategy is the introduction and integration of IPSoft’s conversational AI platform, which Lifeco is piloting. IPSoft offers one of the most comprehensive conversational AI platforms on the market today with the ability to communicate with customers in multiple languages, across multiple

30+ Million customer relationships

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This is not a cloud. This is the IBM Cloud. This is a car protected from storms by an insurance company that knows the weather down to the square block. This is a diamond tracked on a Blockchain—protected against fraud, theft and trafficking. This is a financial transaction secure from hacks and threats others can’t see. This is the IBM Cloud. Built for all of your applications. AI ready. Secure to the core. The IBM Cloud is the cloud for smarter business.

IBM and its logo, and Watson are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. See current list at Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. ©International Business Machines Corp. 2018. P32787

channels, while evolving and adapting Armstrong. “We’re working to create from each customer interaction. a truly digital workplace that supports Armstrong also believes that AI enhanced mobility, connectivity, will be critical in helping financial productivity and collaboration services companies, like Lifeco, across the company. We’re looking extract value from large datasets. to empower our employees with “I think you’ll start to see artificial simple yet powerful tools, so they can intelligence being applied in situations focus on our customers and provide where the quantity of the excellent service data is so vast that that sets us apart.” it overwhelms the Armstrong concedes human capabilities that simply deploying of our analysts,” he technology for employees says. “In these cases, isn’t always enough, Year founded AI will empower often, this is when the our employees to real work begins. spot trends, solve “We structure problems, and make agreements with our decisions faster.” strategic partners where they directly assist with the Empowering Employees implementation of the technologies Lifeco prides itself on placing the they provide. They help to educate customer at the centre of their strategic our employees, facilitate training decisions, but Armstrong is quick to and co-own our adoption goals. The call out that it is employees who bring productivity gains we’re seeking will this promise to life each and every day. only come from intelligent usage “Customers are at the centre of and full adoption of the new tools.” what we do, but our employees are Modernizing the employee the foundation of our success,” says experience extends further as



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“WE CAN’T WAIT TO START SHARING THE FRUITS OF OUR DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION WITH CANADIANS” – Philip Armstrong, Executive Vice-President and Global Chief Information Officer


evidenced by Lifeco’s new physical office designs. Some of Lifeco’s iconic buildings have stood for nearly a century and are a testament to the company’s heritage. In what Armstrong described as a metaphor for Lifeco’s transformation, these buildings are also undergoing a significant transformation. Inside you see fresh, modern office interiors that offer flexible, open and collaborative work environments. Armstrong points to improved collaboration and team responsiveness as a direct result of the new environments and wireless enabled workspaces. “Enhancing both our physical and digital work environments brings our global workforce together, allowing us to collaborate more effectively and deliver faster,” he says. “New cloud-based collaboration tools and digitally-enabled meeting rooms connect people from different

offices and across the globe, as if they’re working side-by-side.” Respecting the past, embracing the future Technological transformation will never truly end; it will remain a continuously evolving journey. Armstrong believes that for Lifeco, 2017 was a foundational year, and 2018 will yield more visible results. “In 2017, we brought in what I’d like to describe as core technology building blocks,” he says. “Now that we have those in place, we can start arranging and connecting them in new and exciting ways that have never been done before. That’s when our customers and employees will start to see a bit of a quantum leap. We can’t wait to start sharing the fruits of our digital transformation efforts with Canadians.”

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100 Osborne Street North Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1V3 Canada, R3C 1V3 Tel. 204-946-1190

Brochure - Great West Lifeco Inc  

Business Chief - Canada

Brochure - Great West Lifeco Inc  

Business Chief - Canada