Samantha Chow is the Global Head, Life Insurance, Annuities, and Benefits Leader, Capgemini Financial Services. She spent several years working as a consultant, and encountered insurance through her consulting projects. She tells us why the industry attracted her.
Tell us about your journey into Insurtech/ Consulting
My journey in InsurTech/Consulting started at a young age of 21 with Aflac. This is where I first discovered the purpose of insurance – talking to customers, understanding how insurance was protecting them against unplanned financial crisis. It was not something that I was educated on as a child, and this was the pivot point in my understanding of insurance and its importance. After this is when I decided to get a formal degree.
I worked with New York Life, where I acquired deep knowledge on the operations across the value chain. I focused on operational efficiency, customer experience and learnt about the barriers that the carriers put on themselves and how to transform key areas such as claims, underwriting, service, IT, and more. As an analyst, I deep dived into the multidimensional aspects of insurance and technology – claims, regulations, compliance, analytics, underwriting; and then position them in a way that the carriers understood the value and help them look outside the box. It was enlightening for me to view these challenges from an outside perspective and then recommend what the market really demands.
It was my desire to go back to life insurance industry after minor stints as a researcher for Wall Street brokers. It was fast paced, but not as fulfilling as life insurance was for me.
This brought me into the technology and now into consulting carriers regarding their challenges, successes, and risks. The learnings from my time as an analyst and previously as a researcher drove me to what I am today.
Describe your role - what are your responsibilities?
My role at Capgemini is to help clients evolve their business in order to meet the changing customer needs and demands in the fluid economy we currently live in. The core of the role lies at enabling clients to think out of the box, reduce costs and restraints that stress insurance providers. Life insurance and annuity is all about keeping a promise – through and after life to the insurance buyer as well as the beneficiaries. We want them to be able to reduce their costs as well as continue to provide easy and seamless experience to their customers so they can be relevant for the next century as so many already have.
Apart from this, I also advise clients on how they can craft product offers, skills in the right areas which will better the industry. I play a lot of different roles here – working alongside marketing, sales enablement, and advisory, I also have an active participation in research and what we publish as an organization. It, however, ultimately funnels into one single thought – my responsibility towards life insurance providers, benefits’ providers, and annuity providers to make sure they fulfill their promises towards their customers.
What challenges have been memorable in terms of your role at Capgemini?
I have only recently joined Capgemini, and it may be too early to highlight challenges. It is a large organization, and you get to work with such talented, smart individuals who are deeply focused on the industries they work for. Navigating and nurturing through a complex landscape could be daunting – finding the right connections and networking to learn and enable self as well as others. But, Capgemini makes it easy.
What changes would you like to see taking place in the health insurance sector?
There are four changes that I foresee, have the potential to transform this industry – 1) attracting younger talent, 2) modernisation of legacy systems, 3) simplification, and 4) enabling customer education.
Modernisation of systems is the need of the hour and younger talent can truly bring a fresh perspective to this shift. Some of the processes while dealing with insurance are still overly and unnecessarily complex. These, if simplified, can enable a better customer experience, and attract millennial/GenZ customers. The complexities are not peculiar towards the GenZ and millennials only, the older generations feel them too. However, they are aware of the benefits of having insurance – be it for retirement planning, life, annuity or others. This awareness is lacking among the newer potential customer base and there is an opportunity for insurers to educate this group. We would then see the insurance ownership gap shrink.
As a woman working in this space, what’s your experience been like so far?
When you have a seat at the table, and most of the times in my career I happened to be one of few women at the table if any others – it is important that you speak, and you speak loud & clear. When you know something is right, hold your ground firmly and express freely. It is now my goal to not only be this voice, but also enable other voices to be heard. You cannot be the quiet one – you must be outgoing and assertive.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Be bold and assertive, make your voice heard. I had amazing mentors who led by example, for me to stick around and understand the nuances. Definitely, travel more! I wouldn’t change much in my journey as what I am today is a product of all those experiences and learnings.
How do you achieve a work/life balance?
I try to be fully present with my family when I disconnect from my work. Thanks to the flexibility that remote working has brought to our lives, I get to be a part of moments that matter – be it a simple post-school chat with my teenage kids or an afternoon cup of tea with my 94 year old grandmother.
What actions can companies take to attract more young women into the InsurTech/tech space?
This questions really pulls at the heartstrings. Beyond the numbers, analytics, data volumes, lies the core of this business – how are we preparing the next generation for financial success? Life insurance is not only about what one leaves behind for heirs, but also about savings, preparing for retirement and overall having a financial safety net. I used my Universal Life Policy, which I got when I had just begun my career, to put a down payment on my first house purchase. These benefits need to be talked about more.
When it comes to operational efficiency and organisation skills, women tend to have a natural aptitude for it. I would encourage young women to use these natural and the acquired technical skills in conjuncture to make strides in a life insurance career.
There is a deep purpose behind this job. For example, helping an insurance career accelerate their claims processing can ease a beneficiaries’ life and help them navigate through the mourning period without having to worry about finances.
With everything we do here at Capgemini, you are not only benefitting the business or the client – it is a butterfly effect. The indirect impact passes over to millions of the clients’ customers and their beneficiaries.
Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate, excited, and solar powered!
The excited and passionate go hand-in-hand. I could not have advanced in this career without being truly passionate about insurance. I am excited to see how this industry will transform as the customer needs evolve.
The solar powered part reflects who I am as a person. I love the outdoors. When the weather’s right, I love to step out and soak in the sun and vitamin- sea!
What inspires you in Insurtech today?
It is the art of the possible without forgetting the journey thus far that truly inspires me. Its being the leader, educator and having the ability to think out of the box. It is combining these strengths and presenting the market demands to the insurance carriers, so that they can keep the promise they have made to their customers.
It is about an evolution. It is not about any transformation, a word many of us are tired of hearing! It is indeed about how this industry must evolve to cater to the changing needs and environment that surrounds us.