SilverBridge supports AirBuy in driving fintech innovation

SilverBridge and innovative fintech Airbuy have entered the second year of an enterprise development programme, highlighting how the technology solutions provider can assist start-ups in unlocking additional value by providing them with the relevant expertise to navigate the complexities surrounding the financial services industry.

“At the time, SilverBridge interviewed numerous start-ups to identify one that provided them with a good cultural fit from an enterprise development perspective. Airbuy stood out from others due to the passion and commitment of the founders, and how focused they were at realising their idea. They also wanted to make a difference in their communities which is something SilverBridge feels quite strongly about,” says Ruth Wotela, People Wellness Executive at SilverBridge.

The Airbuy payment gateway allows e-commerce sites to accept payments without customers needing to provide their banking details. For the end user, this entails using only their mobile number to set up and complete a transaction.

“Given the increasing connectedness of people thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, we identified a huge gap in the market. Mobile penetration is significant not only in this country, but throughout the continent. It therefore made sense to harness the power of the mobile phone allowing us to create the opportunity for all South Africans to buy online and also experience the product accessibility and convenience benefits on offer. Of course, Airbuy not only ensures increased accessibility, it also caters for those users who are sceptical about the security of saving their credit card details on e-commerce sites. Airbuy has developed a proudly South African solution to cater for those requirements,” says Njabulo Makhathini, co-founder and head of business development at Airbuy.

SilverBridge supports Airbuy with office resources in a shared environment as well as access to several experts in different areas that include marketing, IT, HR, compliance, and business.

“We identified individuals at the company to provide Airbuy with guidance and mentor the team in different ways. It is not a case of changing their vision but supporting them and encouraging the business to grow. We are supporting them and empowering them to do what they want through not only access to our experts but also our network of partners,” says Wotela.

Tshepang Kobo, co-founder and CEO of Airbuy, believes SilverBridge gave them the structure required to think more strategically about their goals.

“Before, we were very free flowing. But working with SilverBridge made us realise there are certain elements to consider and being cognisant of their long-term impact on the business,” says Kobo.

“Even though we are passionate about our idea, we learnt very quickly in the journey that starting a fintech is not the same as doing, for example, a delivery app. There are significant legal and regulatory elements that must be in place. SilverBridge helped us every step of the way and enabled us to grow quicker than we anticipated and scale our systems accordingly,” adds Makhathini.

He points out that the biggest lesson is that a start-up does not necessarily require funding but the right expertise.

“It is easy to spend funds in the wrong way. It is more about getting the right resources and making less mistakes on spending money inefficiently.”

For Kobo, the SilverBridge relationship brought with it a lot of stability.

“Previously, we used to meet at coffee shops or worked at various incubators for a few weeks at a time. This was a very volatile approach but SilverBridge gave us a safe environment to work from.”

As to be expected, Airbuy dealt with setup-related issues in 2019, but now it is focused on scaling up. It plans to expand into another country by 2024 but will remain reliant on SilverBridge consulting throughout the process.

“Even though we might not be working from their offices by then, we will always use them from a consulting perspective. They have vast experience in scaling solutions across Africa which is extremely valuable for us as we focus on growing Airbuy,” adds Makhathini.

According to SilverBridge’s Wotela, the relationship is very flexible.

“SilverBridge is there to support Airbuy. We believe in what they are doing and hope they continue with the innovative work for years to come. Our support is focused on assisting them as they navigate through their business developments,” concludes Wotela.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 24 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our experience includes working with over 60 customers across 16 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital insurance suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.

Understanding disruption in insurance

Disruption is a term used increasingly often in a digital environment. But what does it mean for insurers looking to differentiate themselves from the rise of agile insurtechs and fintechs? Jaco Swanepoel, founder and CEO of SilverBridge, examines the impact of disruption in insurance.

Disruption refers to a process that breaks or interrupts the normal course of action or the continuation of some activity. And when it comes to defining it in a digital context, it talks to the use of technology to shake-up an industry with ground-breaking new products and processes. Sometimes, it can even result in the creation of an entirely new industry segment.

For example, think about how mobile devices have disrupted the television industry. Some people have become so comfortable to stream video content to their mobile phones and tablets, that many millennials prefer these over big screen televisions. This has resulted in TV manufacturers being ‘forced’ to become more innovative in how they package screens and displays.

“Of course, in insurance, this involves more than just hardware, software, and the bits and bytes of what is happening around us. Meaningful digital transformation requires combining technology with powerful ideas that was not possible before and thereby creating new opportunities,” says Swanepoel.

In practice

At their core, insurers focus on meeting customer expectations to manage their risks. In a digital world, people want increasingly more intuitive, user-friendly options to fit into their real-time lifestyles. Whether that is 24-hour access to relevant information to manage their risk or use mobile apps to submit and resolve claims that are processed automatically with no agent interference, the ways insurers deal with people and manage the business have changed.

Research has shown by introducing automation, an insurer can reduce the cost of a claims journey by as much as 30%. Considering how tight budgets have become and the importance by finding subtle ways of improving the customer journey, this is a significant number. Furthermore, the reduction in size of devices have turned mobile phones into what can be considered portable computers.”

This means insurers (and consumers) can harness new opportunities to reinvent what has come before. An entirely new ecosystem is emerging that is driven by digital customer engagement. No longer do insurers have to exclusively rely on agents for user interaction. They can leverage mobile apps to provide a continually evolving set of products and services catering for more innovative ways of analysing customer data and market trends.”

People first

Much, if not all, of this is centred around a people-centric design. Customers want ease of use and want insurance to become a significantly more intuitive experience.

“So, even though technology is making all this possible, it only enables insurers to embrace disruption. It should never be the be-all and end-all of everything. The person remains at the core of the insurance experience.”

Another example is how some insurers rely on automation for the customer sign up process. By simply providing basic information, a user can have immediate access to full personal cover and submit photos of their insured items from an insurance app. From quotes to claims, the bulk of the insurance journey becomes automated thanks to better data analysis and artificial intelligence that deliver a more efficient way of customising products on a per user basis,” adds Swanepoel.

However, Swanepoel advises that the insurance approach must remain cognisant of identifying new opportunities instead of simply overhauling traditional processes.

“It is all about taking digital disruption and making it concrete and measurable in the hearts and minds of people. The customer should experience this as an improvement and not as a shock unless it is a positive one. It must demonstrate returns to all stakeholders and not just be technology for its own sake. Only then will companies be empowered to start reinventing how they manage insurance,” concludes Swanepoel.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 24 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our experience includes working with over 60 customers across 16 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital insurance suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.

Big data helping drive insurance innovation

Research shows that insurance executives are recognising the opportunities associated with big data. Of course, they are no stranger to the importance of data analysis given how the industry is built around understanding market requirements and developing solutions accordingly. With the help of technological advances, says Kelly Preston, data analytics manager at SilverBridge, it has now become easier to transform big data into actionable insights.

“The growth of insurtechs, in not only the local, but the global market, is adding to the momentum and drive towards big data transformation. Consumers are now spoilt for choice when it comes to their insurance needs. Big data therefore becomes an enabler for incumbents providing them with opportunities to transform and become more adaptable to the requirements of the digital age. This will assist in helping create the differentiation required to be more competitive,” says Preston.

An example of how big data can be used in this regard is pricing and underwriting. The ability to accurately price a policy based on complex risk procedures is critical for insurers. By making use of the big data available and incorporating artificial intelligence, this process can only become more effective and precise.

“The high-performance computing capabilities of the cloud mean insurers are no longer limited to on-premise solutions but can integrate the sophisticated insights derived from these online offerings. More efficient big data analysis can also expedite the claims process – a known challenge that frustrates many clients. More modern systems ensure vast amounts of data on claims are processed faster than ever to accelerate the process and potentially reduce premiums due to more effective pricing models.”

Customer environment

Unsurprisingly, IBM has found that customer analytics is driving big data initiatives at insurers. According to the company, this is consistent with the pressure insurers are under to transform from product-centric to customer-centric organisations. In this environment, the customer is the centrepiece around which data insights, operations, technology, and systems evolve.

“Most executives understand that big data can lead to real business advantages. It enables the capture and analysis of external data sources. Combining this with existing internal data allows the insurer to become more innovative with the development of customised and segmented service offerings,” adds Preston.

Again, think about the claims process. With the sheer number of claims to manage, insurers do not have time to closely evaluate each submission. Instead, approvals and rejections are made based on a combination of experience, the information readily at hand, and tacit knowledge of the person processing the claim.

“But machine learning throws this model on its head. The technology makes it possible to combine the human insights with a more effective and real-time analysis of data across all business units. This means claims are not only processed faster, but more accurately as well as with fewer false positives. As a result, instances of fraud are greatly reduced, customers are happier due to a smoother process and the business can grow due to increased loyalty.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 24 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our experience includes working with over 60 customers across 16 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital insurance suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.

AI helps unlock data potential of banks

Artificial intelligence (AI) provides banks with the means to make better use of the massive amount of data at their disposal. In doing so, they can identify opportunities for growth faster and gain significant competitive advantage at a time when more agile digital counterparts are emerging. Patrick Ashton, a managing executive at SilverBridge Holdings, believes that without this insight, it is difficult to modernise processes or to understand how best to introduce new technologies into back-end systems.

“When it comes to product development, the offerings of banks typically evolve slowly over time. Part of the problem is that legacy mainframe systems are expensive and slow to update whilst people resources for these systems are scarce (and becoming more so). This creates a bottleneck in the process as the mainframe systems are typically the central record for all data. This means they must form part of any new solution developed. Front-end applications are relatively quick to develop but back-end integration or changes to core systems become the stumbling block.”

Banks must therefore work with experienced and trusted partners to extract data from mainframes into modern database architectures that can use the data more effectively. In most instances, curated data extracts taken from the mainframe are very large, making it difficult for individuals to work with. These are typically put into a spreadsheet format for users to work with. However, this is inefficient, prone to error and carries significant risk due to human involvement.

“Instead, banks need the ability to extract their data and present this to users in a modern application interface for task processing. Risks are managed better, and operational efficiencies are dramatically improved when simple rule-based actions and decisions are removed from the human function.  People can then be empowered to add higher levels of value into processes through the analysis of data insights gained, a better customer-centric service model, and re-imagining of traditional processes. AI-led technologies enable this transformation. Of course, all of this must be done within a strong governance framework. It is about building robust solutions that involve risk officers from early in the process to ensure all the necessary requirements are taken care of.”

Transforming insights

Getting insights from data is the first step to understanding where efficiency can be built into the internal processes of banks. In many instances, banks have been relying on the same data processes put in place decades ago. These have gradually been tweaked over time without major overhaul. Adoption of new technologies tends to be slow resulting in toolsets, like traditional spreadsheets, remaining the primary environment used to analyse datasets. However, this is neither efficient nor secure.

Even so, one of the most significant challenges revolves around exception handling. Most banking transactions require little human intervention. However, in cases where items are flagged (for example, AML/Fraud/Screening checks), this requires human intervention. Given the high volumes involved this comes at significant cost to the organisation.

“It is therefore an excellent place to deploy new AI technologies such as Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). This streamlines processes and automates steps usually performed by people. Think of AI virtualising the human experience. It is about building technology solutions that consider the exception handling process and automate as much of this as possible, introducing efficiencies and mitigating risk simultaneously.”

Furthermore, in many instances, banks require multiple levels of human approval for transactions to be cleared. This is another time-consuming process that can be transformed through AI. Instead of having two or three people view each transaction, the AI process can deliver the same level of expertise consistently in real time to improve SLA management and improve service to customers.

“It is not about reinventing the wheel but optimising the robust processes banks already have in place when it comes to managing their data and processes. Through refining and automation of processes a significant amount of human activity can be taken out of the system and this can be repurposed to give the bank more capacity to focus on areas such as improved customer service or the design of new offerings.

Modern practices

Using modern applications that can integrate with existing data and processes, banks are able to generate insights from start to finish. For example, look at the typical ATM infrastructure that must be managed daily. Transactions and GL account balances must be reconciled to ensure machines are working correctly, that no fraud is taking place, and there is always the right amount of cash available for banking customers without over exposure of capital reserves. Using people to reconcile and investigate discrepancies is slow and inefficient. But using AI toolsets mean these tasks can be managed consistently, at high speed, and with full auditability. Volume or capacity constraints are then no longer an issue. This extends into customer service as well, improving the customer experience when queries or complaints arise as there can be immediate action taken rather than waiting for a human to perform analysis and then take a decision.

“An AI layer can be implemented to sit on top of existing processes while integrating into back-end legacy systems to deliver the value banks require. Banks have high quality data, but it is not always accessible. Using AI to help manage the high data volumes can bring about significant improvements in operational efficiency which will ultimately deliver a better customer experience,” concludes Ashton.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 24 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our experience includes working with over 60 customers across 16 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital insurance suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.