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FWD: Expediting a digital innovation strategy for one of Asia’s fastest growing insurers

About FWD

FWD Group spans Hong Kong & Macau, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, and Malaysia, offering life and medical insurance, general insurance, employee benefits, and Shariah and family takaful products across a number of its markets. FWD is focused on creating fresh customer experiences, with easy-to-understand products, supported by digital technology. Through this customer-led approach, FWD aims to become a leading pan-Asian insurer that changes the way people feel about insurance. Established in Asia in 2013, FWD is the insurance business of investment group, Pacific Century Group.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: Singapore, Philippines

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FWD created an innovative AI chatbot using Dialogflow, part of Contact Center AI, to boost customer satisfaction, enhance innovative power, reduce operational costs, and support its Asian expansion strategy.

Google Cloud results

  • Accelerated launch and development: Prototype to launch in just eight weeks, compared to standard six months lead time
  • Fast customer adoption rate and approval: Within two months, chatbot delivers a 4.5/5 satisfaction rating
  • Improved overheads: Machine learning ID verification boosts operational capacity by 7%
  • Generates new leads and delivers a 97% handle rate
  • Significant reduction of operational costs

Fast implementation and high customer satisfaction

In economic terms, Asia is a region of opportunity as well as risk. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, 2020 is the year that Asia’s GDP is expected to overtake the rest of the world. Naturally, COVID-19 will have an impact on these figures, just as it will in all markets globally. But the big picture remains one of an emergent middle class and a rapidly growing economy. Of course, there are mitigating factors that will always present challenges along with risk. For example, many parts of the region are prone to natural disaster, and insurance products are yet to be fully adopted by all markets. But as the Asian economy grows, and its people start to integrate insurance into their financial planning, FWD sees the opportunity to create a new customer proposition: insurance that’s easy to buy, easy to claim, and easy to understand. It’s doing this through a powerful brand vision: to change the way people feel about insurance.

“In just two months, we collected everything we needed and developed our own platform using Dialogflow, the Contact Center AI solution from Google. We then released Enzo, our latest chatbot, to customers across the Philippines, and we just did the same in Singapore.”

Natalia Kozyura, Head of Innovation Center, FWD Insurance

With this challenger mindset, the award-winning brand is using new technology to create a best-in-class customer experience, leveraging AI as a core part of this strategy and an enabler of its vision. In doing so, the brand’s stance is not to replace its human talent, but to free it up and leverage the team’s wider expertise.

In the words of Natalia Kozyura, FWD Head of Innovation Center: “In just two months, we collected everything we needed and developed our own platform using Dialogflow, the Contact Center AI solution from Google. We then released Enzo, our latest chatbot, to customers across the Philippines, and we just did the same in Singapore.”

Meeting human needs with machine learning

By December 2019, Enzo had launched in the Philippines and later was joined by its sister chatbot, Faith, in the company’s Singapore market. With Enzo, it was imperative to the team that he was able to acquire a more sophisticated grasp of human “intent,” or the goal that a customer has in mind when typing in a question or request. In the end, this became one of the key reasons that FWD chose Google Cloud.

As Natalia says: “We looked at multiple platforms, but determined that Contact Center AI’s Dialogflow, as well as Cloud Natural Language, stood out amongst the pack. One of the reasons for this is that Dialogflow has been specifically developed to interpret human intent, often in slang, in a growing number of languages. And in the end, focusing on our customers is key. We need to support the majority of languages in Southeast Asia and offer new digital solutions to as many customers as possible. And Google Cloud is enabling new additional languages for Southeast Asia as we speak. Knowing that there are firm plans to invest in this region and support all these languages is a great reassurance for us, taking into account our presence and expansion across the region.”

“With our vision of changing the way people feel about insurance, FWD Philippines has taken steps to provide a best-in-class experience to our growing customer base. Ensuring greater focus on service availability anytime and anywhere, Enzo gave us a reliable, innovative platform to connect with potential FWD customers through effective use of digital technology.”

Judy Field, FWD Philippines Chief Marketing Officer

Within two months of launching the Enzo chatbot in the Philippines in December 2019, it was able to manage queries from more than 4,000 users, increasing the insurer’s capacity to answer questions by 7%. The chatbot also quickly scored a customer rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars, matching FWD’s live chat service. This rating has remained, even after handling more than 22,000 messages, with a 97% handle rate. Customers have shared positive feedback after interacting with Enzo: “Cool,” “Wow!” and “Very prompt” are some of the verbatim comments.

“The biggest value of Contact Center AI’s Dialogflow is improved customer experience. Enzo is a welcome addition to our host of customer-led solutions that allow us to serve our customers in their preferred channel or platform. It complements FWD Philippines’ 24/7 Customer Connect operations, adding greater scale in the way we service our customers’ needs," says Natalia. “While Enzo covers basic queries from customers, it helps free up our Customer Connect Executives and gives them the opportunity to address complex and customer-specific issues in depth.”

“With our vision of changing the way people feel about insurance, FWD Philippines has taken steps to provide best-in-class experience to our growing customer base,” adds FWD Philippines Chief Marketing Officer Judy Field. “Ensuring greater focus on service availability anytime and anywhere, Enzo gave us a reliable, innovative platform to connect with potential FWD customers through effective use of digital technology.”

Spreading a safety net across Asia

Enzo’s success in the Philippines is just the beginning of FWD’s journey in bringing human-focused, machine learning-powered insurance solutions to Southeast Asia. The project has inspired Natalia’s team to build four more chatbots, with a new chatbot for the brand’s Singapore market set to go live by April 2020.

FWD has already been using a chatbot in Singapore, built by a leading provider. But following Enzo’s success, the brand has decided to design its own chatbot in the market, powered once again by Dialogflow. In this way, it can spend less on running costs and invest more in its own business.

The competitive costs of Dialogflow are particularly important to FWD as it moves into new markets with developing economies. As Natalia says: “In emerging markets where the margins are still small, it’s important to have a system that retains our standards of excellence but remains competitive on price.”

How Google Cloud has fostered new skills as well as growth

Another advantage of the system has been the ease of use of Google Cloud, which has quickly upskilled the innovation team, as Natalia puts it, “from knowing nothing about Dialogflow to being experts within, literally, a couple of weeks.” FWD is now on course to complete four new chatbots on Dialogflow within an eight-week timeframe, she says.

FWD staff in office

Using additional Google Cloud solutions to optimize the experience as well as costs

FWD is now using other Google Cloud solutions for its business. Cloud Vision and AutoML for example are powering another core asset: FWD’s Know Your Customer (KYC) identity verification. As Natalia says: “When a customer buys a policy online, it’s crucial that we’re able to perform fast, accurate background checks and therefore offer policies in good time. Speed of service is all part of our customer experience and value proposition. So we use Cloud Vision AI and Cloud AutoML to instantly determine whether the ID our customers submit is valid, reading data fields from date of birth to location. This AI-powered solution has led to a 20% boost in our operational efficiencies, while slashing these ID verification costs by 50%. In short, it’s made a huge difference.”

“With Google Cloud, we have the tools we need to innovate fast and add more value to our customers. It offers improved time to market, enhanced operational performance, and cost efficiencies. As a result, we can focus on our strategy, and our technical team.”

Natalia Kozyura, Head of Innovation Center, FWD Insurance

Future possibilities and revenue streams

For Natalia’s team, Google Cloud is much more than a product offering; it’s a powerful toolbox that creates intellectual property while solving real-time problems. Natalia is now talking about other business possibilities such as opening up FWD’s KYC solution to its banking partners to generate new revenue streams and capabilities.

“With Google Cloud, we have the tools we need to innovate fast and add more value to our customers,” says Natalia. “It offers improved time to market, enhanced operational performance, and cost efficiencies. As a result, we can focus on our strategy and our technical team. Instead of relying on external vendors to build IP, we’re building it ourselves. This means we’ve pivoted from being a consumer to a creator of intellectual property, and that’s really inspiring.”

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About FWD

FWD Group spans Hong Kong & Macau, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, and Malaysia, offering life and medical insurance, general insurance, employee benefits, and Shariah and family takaful products across a number of its markets. FWD is focused on creating fresh customer experiences, with easy-to-understand products, supported by digital technology. Through this customer-led approach, FWD aims to become a leading pan-Asian insurer that changes the way people feel about insurance. Established in Asia in 2013, FWD is the insurance business of investment group, Pacific Century Group.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: Singapore, Philippines