With Jørgen Nygaard Nielsen, CIO, AP Pension.
At the Danish pension fund AP Pension, the digital strategy is closely linked to the customer experience. Efficient and agile IT systems and customer-facing solutions provide the most loyal and satisfied customers, says Jørgen Nygaard Nielsen, CIO of AP Pension. Among other things, he points to machine learning as a way of building closer costumer relationships.
Although digitalization and scaling of the existing systems and solutions sounds like 'cost reduction and efficiency improvement' to some, at the pension fund AP Pension it is at least as much a matter of optimizing the customer experience.
AP Pension manages more than DKK 160 billion in pension funds on behalf of more than 400,000 customers.
"When we look at the digital strategy, it is, in some sense, twofold. On one hand we have the purely technical and simple process and operational optimization with the savings you can get there, and then on the other hand there are the customer-facing efforts. In 2019, we launched AP Pension's new digital strategy, with a strong focus on customer-facing things like self-service and counseling, as well as a focus on optimizing the processes that affect customers. Faster handling of cases, shorter response times and solutions that facilitate contact with AP Pension are of great importance to the customer's experience - and ultimately, increased efficiency means a higher number of satisfied and loyal customers," says Jørgen Nygaard Nielsen, CIO of AP Pension.
IT and robots ensure manageable customer relationships
The idea of changing retirement fund, or financial institution in general, can, to a lot of people, seem like an almost insurmountable task, which is why AP Pension's digital strategy is largely focused on facilitating the transition for customers.
"Moving to another pension fund is a big thing, so the better optimized our systems are for the task, the more smoothly the customer experiences it - and the easier their transition to become a satisfied AP customer will be", Nielsen says. He explains that AP Pension is also aware that partnerships with, for example, IT providers of various services and solutions are not necessarily something that the customer needs to relate to.
"Previously, we have had a tendency to develop everything from the ground up, but now we use more partnerships. We have a large number of partnerships that supply different elements for, among other things, front ends and innovative services, but it gives the customer a sense of security that they only have to deal with AP Pension. In the long term, the plan is for dedicated customer teams to structure data and feedback to define how our services will evolve."
The customer-facing focus does not confine itself to new customers. Nielsen explains that through machine learning and software robots, AP Pension attempts to guide customers to act in a timely manner.
"Machine learning and robots give us some opportunities that we did not have before. Among other things, we use algorithms to identify when events occur in customers' lives that are important to their savings. So, for example, if you are approaching pension age or change your address the algorithm ensures that you are contacted, so that the pension savings can 'count on it' in relation to the further savings. Sometimes customers forget to give consent, but our robots make sure to send a reminder. These are specific services that - hopefully - benefit the customer. At least that's what the feedback points to."
Cloud compliance and bottlenecks
As a financial company, AP Pension is governed by strict rules of compliance set by the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority, among others. It especially sharpens up the requirements for the use of subcontractors, but also has a major impact on the company's ability to act in the cloud.
"Compliance requirements are only positive, because we work with people's futures. However, there are some sector-specific governance and compliance rules that force us to work extra fast and hard when it comes to using cloud solutions. Not because cloud is dangerous, but because we must manage the supply chain and ensure full transparency right down to the sub-supplier level. We spend more time on things like supplier contracts, security and outsourcing today than we did a few years ago," says Nielsen.
At the same time, it is important to find the right suppliers. For while many corporations pride themselves on their ability to deliver cloud integration and facilitate transitions to new systems, that expertise should sometimes be taken with a grain of salt.
"A lot of corporations claim that they can "cloud" - but when you look into it, few possess the overview that is required when working with a company like ours," says Nielsen.
"With our data warehouse, for example, it was easy to set up the environment, but moving data out afterwards was difficult. The bandwidth was fine, but there was a bottleneck at the network protocol level - various PTTP stacks that were in the way. In a situation like that, you have to master troubleshooting to the very bottom and it just requires a level of competence that few people have."