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CIO100 2017: Others to watch: Ed Saul and Steve de Jong of Intelligent Life Limited

  • Name Ed Saul and Steve de Jong
  • Title Director (Saul) and business partner (de Jong)
  • Company Intelligent Life Limited
  • Commenced Role 2006
  • Reporting Line Business owners
  • Technology Function Five staff working as platform innovators and architects, along with project managers and testing resource
  • Related

    “Our business, Intelligent Life, was established in 2006 for the sole purpose of delivering business transformation to insurance companies,” says co-owner Ed Saul.

    “We established Intelligent Life for the specific purpose of transforming the traditional and well established business process/model of selling life insurance. Back in 2006, this traditional process had not changed across the global insurance industry in 50 or so years.”

    The traditional process involved insurance agents meeting with clients face-to-face and filling in a paper application and then physically submitting the application to the insurance company, he says.

    This process then continued with the life insurance company’s underwriter reviewing the application form and contacting the applicant if required. In some cases, further medical evidence was sought, involving more manual processing. The typical timeline for purchasing and receiving a life insurance policy via this process, was anything from two days to three weeks.

    “Intelligent Life’s new platform changed all that,” says Saul.

    “In 2007, we launched a fully automated process online in New Zealand for insurance company Pinnacle Life. Our purpose was to use business transformation to disrupt the life insurance industry,” he states.

    These included:

    • Applicant purchases life insurance directly via the insurance company’s website (traditional process required an agent)
    • Application process takes 10 minutes (instead of days or weeks), and the life insurance policy is emailed instantly (instead of arriving in the post days later)
    • Processing costs for the insurer typically reduced by more than 50 per cent, therefore the insurer can significantly reduce the price to the customer. For example, Pinnacle Life’s product pricing is the lowest in New Zealand.
    Steve de Jong
    Steve de Jong

    Over the ensuing years, Intelligent Life’s focus broadened to deliver similar business transformation processes to insurance companies globally.

    Delivering ‘business transformation’ and staying ahead of the competition has required Intelligent Life to innovate, and to keep on innovating, he says

    Last year, Intelligent Life designed the first online, instant-issue platform for term life insurance products sold by agents. The platform was launched for a US-based insurance company.

    This year, it is working on implementing an automated electronic underwriting platform for health insurance products in New Zealand.

    “Intelligent Life only focuses on the delivery and support of business transformation projects for insurance companies,” he explains. “We have almost nothing to do with legacy systems.”

    “To help insurance companies keep new innovative systems and legacy systems in balance, we offer to provide new platforms on a SaaS/Hosted Service basis. This eliminates the need for our company clients to invest in hardware or a support team.

    “In this way, the insurance company’s IT people can focus on legacy systems, while we focus on the newer disruptive technologies.

    “We spend approximately 30 per cent of our time and resources on new design, architecture and innovation.

    “We try to find client companies that will purchase innovative functionality and concepts and develop accordingly, then reuse what we build (agreements permitting) for new clients.”

    Intelligent Life offers its systems to insurers by selling those companies a distribution strategy. In other words, it is not selling technology, it is selling “modern distribution capability”.

    “We influence companies in the sense that we open up new distribution possibilities for them with a promise to access new markets, drive new business growth, attract and retain clients and significantly reduce distribution costs.

    “This means we engage directly with CEO’s, Distribution Managers, Actuaries, Product Managers and Underwriting Managers. Our collaboration with our client’s IT people is generally only in respect of developing interfaces between our breakthrough platforms and the company’s legacy systems.

    “Due to our significant experience spanning 10 years, we are able to deliver such platforms to insurance companies at significantly lower cost, and more quickly, than if they were to attempt to build their own platforms.

    “Our collaboration starts during our sales cycle and continues through the project delivery and ongoing support phases,” Saul says.

    The company business is promoted through word of mouth and through reinsurance companies.

    “Our clients are essentially life and health insurance companies and this is an industry in which word spreads far and wide, very quickly.

    “Since we are in the ‘FinTech’ space, we try to be profiled as much as possible through respected associated blogs, chat forums and similar communication channels,” says Saul.

    Saul says Intelligent Life is composed of five staff, including two directors, himself and business partner Steve de Jong.

    “We outsource our actual software build and support. Our focus is on design and architecture and on owning IP. We outsource the actual build and support of software to other parties.

    “Our entire ethos is about designing and rolling out systems/platforms that are innovative and enable business disruption.

    “All of our team are involved in projects that promote this thinking and philosophy.”

    Rodney Fletcher

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