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Assupol ups digital transformation amid insurtech surge

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Assupol group chief information officer Nomthi Nelwamondo.
Assupol group chief information officer Nomthi Nelwamondo.

South African-based insurance company Assupol’s chief information officer (CIO) Nomthi Nelwamondo says the firm is accelerating its digital transformation initiatives to stay ahead of the game.

Nelwamondo joined Assupol in January 2019 to fulfil the role of CIO. Prior to joining Assupol, she was CIO of Liquid Telecom SA and previously fulfilled a divisional CIO role at Telkom.

She has also held diverse roles in senior management in IT, telecommunication core networks, network wholesale service operations and internet services.

In an e-mail interview with ITWeb, Nelwamondo says Assupol continuously invests in the latest and relevant technologies, as well as technology partners in its business processes to ensure the insurer remains competitive in this digital age.

Assupol’s move to invest in digital technologies comes on the back of emerging insurtech firms disrupting the traditional insurance business models by leveraging technology.

These insurtech firms are making use of technologies such as automation, robotics, internet of things, machine learning and artificial intelligence to shake up the insurance industry.

According to Markets and Research, the paradigm shifts of insurance companies towards integrating cloud computing, escalating adoption of predictive analytics, and augmenting demand for improved customer services are driving more demand for insurtech.

Venture capitalists are also showing a lot of interest in insurtech. A recent report by reinsurance broker Willis Re, global investment in insurtech start-ups totalled $10.5 billion in the first nine months of 2021, a record high.

It says investment in the third quarter totalled $3.1 billion, up 23% from the pandemic-hit third quarter of 2020.

Also putting pressure on the insurance sector are banks, which are aggressively pursuing the digital insurance space.

Starting in 1913 as a burial society, Assupol is one of the oldest insurance companies in SA, providing funeral, life, savings and retirement products.

“As an insurer to the people, Assupol’s technology capabilities are geared towards improving efficiencies and increasing access to services for clients, while making it easier for business to comply with the relevant rules and regulations that govern the insurance industry,” says Nelwamondo.

Information technology is, therefore, a strategic enabler in an evolving operating and regulatory environment, she adds.

“In support of the larger Assupol strategy, we continue to make progress on our journey by employing digital technologies to diversify our market segments and to grow in our core market. This has allowed us to serve more clients across different channels, resulting in more people engaging with our brand online, including on social media.”

She points out the company’s focus on technology investment has been on simplifying processes, modernising technology infrastructure, enhancing client experience and ensuring business resilience.

Some of the technologies include cloud services, data analytics, next-generation SD-WAN infrastructure, cyber security, as well as client relationship and engagement management.

She explains that before COVID-19 hit South African shores, Assupol had a digital and information security strategy in place, and it had implemented digital workforce capabilities for staff to access systems securely.

“We also implemented capabilities for our clients to interact with us via digital and self-service mechanisms to enable us to continue to honour our commitment to serve our clients. By using online collaboration tools, Assupol could easily transition to remote working, which led to an increase in productivity throughout the organisation.”

According to Nelwamondo, Assupol is on a multi-year modernisation and digital journey focused on improving client engagement for better and consistent experience in different channels. The insurer is also focusing on automation of customer engagement and operational processes and using digital technologies, such as cloud computing, to solve business requirements by building cloud-ready applications.

The company is also enabling the use of different technology devices as part of frontline and back-office processes, she adds.

With more and more organisations resorting to remote working, cyber crime has also been on the rise.

“We have noticed an increase in phishing activities in the ICT sector. The focus of Assupol’s information security strategy has always been on protecting strategic information assets by incorporating security by design and continuing to enhance our security posture.

“We continue to enhance security measures to protect our business and clients against criminal activities,” she concludes.

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