MLC Life to focus on tidying up its apps following split from NAB

MLC Life Insurance has been on a three-year transition out of the National Australia Bank.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor on

MLC Life Insurance is in the midst of a transition out of the National Australia Bank (NAB), hoping to transform the organisation into a global leader when it comes to digitisation.

According to MLC CIO Nishanth Chandran, since the organisation started its journey around three years ago, it has completely re-platformed every single system that it needs for a future without the red and black bank behind it.

"The journey that we are on is basically to be the leading digitised life insurance in Australia, hopefully the world as well," Chandran told Mulesoft Connect in Sydney last week.

In 2015, NAB entered into an agreement to sell 80% of its MLC insurance business to Japan-based Nippon Life for AU$2.4 billion.

The sale required the establishment of a new organisation, MLC Life, and the separation of the new legal entity from NAB's commercial and technical arrangements.

See also: Digital transformation: A CXO's guide (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

A customer of Salesforce-owned Mulesoft, Chandran said in preparing to go it alone, MLC put a lot of applications in place, just to lift everything out of NAB. The plan is to now to tidy everything up.

"My pet peeve would be we buy all this great technology and we don't use anything of it," he said, noting the plan with Mulesoft as a partner is to determine how MLC can get more value from its software stack. 

"We're doing it right now to get the delivery done, but it's that next stage where we are really working with Mulesoft ... assessing what we've got, doing maturity assessments, and helping us pave that roadmap ahead."

While the transition has been full-steam ahead, Chandran said a priority for MLC has been business and IT alignment. As such, business engagement has been one of the five pillars for its technology strategy.

"One of the biggest and most important themes is business engagement. The organisation has been on a delivery journey -- let's just get these things in and get the data out of NAB and into future MLC -- now it's actually about all the assets that we've got in place, we've got to really leverage that," he explained.

"Business engagement for us is about explaining and working with the business, explaining the value of technology and value of the assets we have to them, but also likewise understanding what the journey they want to get onto, and starting to prepare for that."

Chandran called it a balancing act. The danger, he said, is if the people don't understand why something is changing, the journey could fall apart very quickly.

"Because sometimes you have execs up there, or business people out there getting onto buzzwords ... and trying to say, 'Let's just get on and do that', but also sometimes you've got to pare that back and explain to them that it's a journey that they need to get onto as well ... whether it's through CX, automation, AI -- all these other things -- we need to explain to them and get them excited to some extent," he continued.

See also: How AI may help solve banks' customer relationship issues (TechRepublic)

Touching on a product launch MLC had embarked on a little over a year ago, Chandran said such a process isn't usually easy, even with a good technology partner in tow.

"We had an interesting scenario about 12 months ago where due to certain market conditions, a particular product of ours was not going to be sold, which had a huge impact on our balance sheet," he explained.

"What actually happened then, in the midst of transitioning all of our technology and building all these new platforms, we also had to find a way to launch this product a different way, but using these new systems that we hadn't finished building yet ... we actually launched in a very compressed time frame."

The product launched within a year, which Chandran said is unheard of in the "conservative" insurance industry; one he said is usually fraught with "ancient" processes.

The plan for MLC is to now focus on leveraging APIs.


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