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Featured Profile: Megan Beer

A resolute spirit

In balancing facts and figures to make all-important decisions to lead Resolution Life and AMP Life, chief executive Megan Beer is guided by a force that is often overlooked - the human spirit. Karren Vergara writes.

From a young age, Megan Beer's deep interest in mathematics set the early foundations for her career as a seasoned actuary.

Taking her love for all things maths and economics at school, she moved from Lismore in northern New South Wales to Sydney for the opportunity to take up actuarial studies.

We need to be more agile about responding to what's happening. I think that's something that we have embraced as part of our transformation.
In the early 90s, Beer got her foot in the door at MLC Insurance, serving in various actuarial roles and applying everything she learned at university to eventually become a fully-fledged actuary while working there. Beer relished that time she was able to put theory into practice.

"Actuarial skills give you a good grounding on risk assessment; thinking about the long term and bringing that back to what it means for today and then balancing that going forward," she says.

While actuaries have a mathematical and analytical mind, perhaps what makes them a little more unique is their ability to refine vast amounts of data, assess it and interpret it for the real world.

Beer then moved into other actuarial roles such as consulting and became chief actuary at TAL (TOWER at the time).

"I had the opportunity to work in an area looking after clients, both claims and underwriting, and other parts of the insurance business. That was a really transformative time for me, because I worked closely with claims assessors and understood what it takes to assess the claims," she says.

It was during this period at TAL that she began truly appreciating more than the theoretical: seeing the mechanics of how the numbers and policies of life insurance work, the implications of the insurance ecosystem on customers, and how it affected the human aspect of life all came together.

That experience, she notes, has been the motivator and energiser for the rest of her career.

While Beer no longer crunches the numbers (and does not miss this part of being an actuary) many of the forementioned skills are still highly relevant to her role as chief executive of Resolution Life and AMP Life today.

"Resolution Life's aim is to deliver for our customers, a sustainable long-term business. In managing for long-term sustainability, we look for opportunities and risks and make balanced decisions that will set us in good stead for the long term. I think that's what being an actuary is all about," she says.

Beer has a grand vision for Resolution, which recently notched up 15 months since it separated from former parent company AMP.

In what is a unique growth strategy, she wants Resolution to be the leading in-force life insurer in Australia and New Zealand by focusing solely on its existing customers and their needs.

"Rather than bringing new customers into our business on a daily basis we are focused on engaging with our existing customers and their advisers," Beer explains.

"This involves keeping them up to date and informed about all product features and services. We are underpinned by a well-capitalised company, which is important to ensure that we're sustainable, here for our customers over the long term. This links back to investing in technology, improving systems and processes, and making sure our products and services are meeting our customers' needs."

Further, it means tailoring and delivering great outcomes and experiences for customers. In terms of growing the business, Beer says this is done via strategic acquisitions of other life insurance businesses or portfolios of customers who can benefit from its focus on existing customers.

Resolution will also leverage contemporary technology to become a data-driven business, one in which customers, advisers and its partners will benefit from. Beer is making this possible via substantial investments in digital infrastructure.

She is a big believer in the potential of artificial intelligence, technology, and data to transform the customer experience and many business processes, such as more efficient triage of claims, accurate and timely benefit calculations, straight-through processing and automated payments.

"What AI, technology and data will enable us to do is to focus on where humans can have the biggest impact," she says.

"There will always be a need for us to provide the empathy and the connection that links AI capability with improved customer experience. I think this holistic approach to protect human spirit is a trend that is available to the industry to improve customer experience. We are capitalising on that trend. When we look back in a few years, that's one way we would have shaped our industry."

Recently, the life insurer defined its purpose - which is "to protect the human spirit".

"This energises me and our people and is what I find meaningful. I see day in and day out, examples of what our people are doing to deliver on that purpose. We exist as an organisation to help customers have peace of mind about their insurance, superannuation and investment policies - that they are in safe and trusted hands for the long term. When something happens to them, we're enabling them to have that confidence and trust in us," she says.

For employees to keep this mantra in mind, it gives them a point of engagement and motivation and inspiration to be there for customers in that way. It also helps motivate them to bring their whole selves to work.

"It's important for me as a leader that everybody can show up and bring their human spirit to everyday work. It is such a privilege and joy to be able to lead a business knowing that that's what we're here to do, and I have countless examples of how we do that," she says.

The life insurance industry has reached a difficult juncture in recent years. Many products are not sustainable, profitability continues to plummet while the pace of consolidation swallows up jobs.

Beer has many ideas on how Resolution can face some of the challenges head on. One example is tackling more sustainable living benefit insurances.

"We have to adhere to the fundamental principles of insurability, where we can see a financial loss and can insure against that. I think we are going to see, and we need to see, products that work better with each other, not the siloed outdated products that work independently and do not indemnify customers for financial loss," she says.

Another example is keeping abreast of rapid medical advancements, which requires insurers design products that can recalibrate over a long-term contract to consider such advancements.

Finally, there is the issue of long-term sustainable contracts.

"Today, the industry works in a way that it cannot alter contracts even with customers' full knowledge and the support of advisers. This is something that does not lead to long-term sustainability and holds us back from being able to meet customers' needs," Beer says.

These are important areas that will underpin the future of the life insurance industry.

Beer doesn't like to label them as 'predictions', rather areas that insurers will deal with in the next few years.

"For me, it is more about identifying the trends that we need to be thinking about. We need to pivot and respond to change because the world is exponentially changing, the rate of change is increasing faster and faster," she says.

"We need to be more agile about responding to what's happening. I think that's something that we have embraced as part of our transformation."