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CIO50 2021 #26-50: Roxanne Salton, Southern Cross Health Society

  • Name Roxanne Salton
  • Title Chief Digital Officer
  • Company Southern Cross Health Society
  • Commenced role November 2019
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 75 staff, nine direct reports
  • Remaining true to its roots as a Friendly Society, Southern Cross Health Society’s (SCHS) digital platforms team, led by chief digital officer Roxanne Salton, is focused on the delivery of initiatives to make it easier for the organisation’s members to interact with the business, by optimising fit-for-purpose digital solutions.

    Although it has had an array of small proofs of concept over the past two years with new emerging technologies, it is most proud of its innovative thinking in using current technology to solve a fast-emerging problem.

    COVID-19 response

    In the early months of 2020 when the effects of COVID-19 hit New Zealand, the team’s core focus was amplified as the business responded to the needs of its members who needed support during these most unprecedented and challenging of times.

    On April 14, 2020, less than three weeks after New Zealand went into the first level 4 lockdown, the Society made a public pledge to return $50 million to its 880,000 policyholders and 4,000-plus business customers by way of premium credits.

    The digital platforms team had been mobilised just five days before the pledge was announced (as part of a cross-functional business squad to action the pledge) and briefed to design a technical solution that could be delivered with confidence. SCHS had never delivered a premium credit at this level before, and the digital platforms and data teams played a core role in working out exactly how it could be effected. Extensive testing was carried out to work out how credits could be calculated and applied.

    Just six weeks later, the premium pledge was successfully applied to 338,590 eligible policies. The digital team worked tirelessly to achieve this milestone in partnership with the cross-functional project squad, and the credit total applied was $50,003,826.27.

    Achieving this only weeks into an unprecedented pandemic lockdown was possible because of the foundation SCHS had laid by investing in digital and data-driven platforms, investment in modelling and data science and developing robust and agile processes. Working with cloud technologies such as Microsoft Azure supported its ability to design and deliver complex business solutions such as the pledge, while working completely remotely and isolated from team members.

    “Rolling out an incredibly complex project like the pledge would normally take months to complete, but the digital platforms team launched it in just three weeks. We were able to mobilise our team and drive a successful completion in record time. This tight deadline was driven by our care for our members and customers as we knew that they needed as much support as possible in the pandemic crisis,” Salton says.

    The complexity of the core systems and insurance processes presented additional challenges as did the sheer number of applications and processes required for productively working remotely.

    “We also had to contend with the scarcity of available skilled people in our partner network due to high demand for digital resource during the crisis. There was complexity around applying the premium credit to business customer groups. These couldn’t be easily accommodated with the automated application of credits. The design principle early on was to keep it simple and deal with the outliers manually and this approach was successful,” Salton says.

    Despite the effect of the pandemic, SCHS has experienced significant growth, in FY20 its membership grew by 8,133 members increasing to a total of 879,198 members. Its net promoter score for FY20 was 59.5%, a very strong result in a tumultuous year.

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