Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the recipients of our People’s Choice — APAC & EMEA title, Team EFU Life. I asked the team about the process of developing their innovative solution and invited them to reflect on their experience and success at the global ideathon.
Team EFU, first of all, congratulations on winning the crowd vote at SummerHack 2021! Before we dive into how you made it happen, let’s do a quick round of introductions.
Arshad: Hi everyone, my name is Arshad Iqbal and I’m the General Manager Operations at EFU Life. Apart from running the operations of the company, I’m responsible for the transformation process, including ideas, workflows, and processes. I’m both a lawyer and a business manager.
Danny: My name is Danny Su. I’m currently student at the University of Toronto, studying Actuarial and Statistical Sciences, and I enjoy hiking lot.
Ashfaque: I’m Ashfaque Ahmed and I head technology and IT at EFU Life. I manage digitalization processes, keep an eye on industry trends, and am involved in a lot of technology-based initiatives in my company, such as the BLISS (Bio-Metric enabled policy acquisition system), the first RPA in the Pakistani insurance industry, and more.
Sam: My name is Sam Xu and I’m currently in my final year at the University of Toronto’s Statistical and Actuarial Sciences program. I love learning about the insurance industry, and in my free time, I enjoy outdoor activities.
Jane: I’m Hui Jen Yang and I’m also a final year student at the University of Toronto, where I’m double majoring in Economics and Actuarial Science. I love baking and hiking a lot, too!
Raza: I’m Raza Hasan. By profession, I’m an actuary, and I oversee the group insurance department. Prior to Pakistan, I’ve also worked in San Francisco and Toronto, Canada. I love sports, and these days golf has become a passion.
Yuqing: Hi everyone, I’m Yuqing Liu and I’m currently in Australia. I’m a first year Actuarial Science student at the University of Toronto. I like to play basketball, bushwalk, and I’m learning how to ski now.
Thank you for those great introductions! Now talking about the event, what inspired you to get involved and how did your team come together?
Yuqing: Danny brought us students together! We’re both in the Actuarial Science Club at the University of Toronto, and we’re so like-minded that we actually reached out to each other to ask if we wanted to be on a team together. We’re very grateful EFU Life chose us to join their team, and it was a great learning experience for us, especially on the collaboration side!
Raza: Being a tech-driven company, SummerHack itself sounded like a very interesting proposition. We learned more about the event and really liked what you (Cookhouse Labs) were doing. We also felt working with students would be a great experience.
And was it a great experience?
Raza: It was intense, but definitely an excellent experience!
Arshad: We really enjoyed how it was packaged and organized. Everything from the creation of the ideas to the execution was amazing.
Ashfaque: This was the first time that we were involved in something like this. It was organized well, and it was a great learning experience for us, especially because it was hosted virtually.
We’re happy to hear that! Staying with the theme of things being virtual, we know that EFU Life was able to sit together and ideate, but the rest of your team is actually in several different countries and time zones! How did you all work together and overcome the time difference to create your solution?
Jane: Good question! The first thing we did was to brainstorm together, and soon we had a general idea of what our solution would be. Afterwards, we split the work up and scheduled regular meeting times, so our teammates were able to work in different time zones and no one had to stay up late to work on the solution. We all did our parts of the project and then met to prepare the pitch video. Communication, respect, and teamwork are so important, and since everyone on our team is considerate and proactive, we were able to efficiently develop our solution despite the time difference.
We love that kind of collaboration! We love it when there are different perspectives on a team, and everyone finds a way to work together. Speaking of perspectives, we have quite a range of experiences on this team, from first year students to industry veterans with over 20 years of experience. How did you harness these diverse experiences when creating your solution?
Yuqing: We all come from different cultural backgrounds and have different levels of engagement in the insurance industry. Personally, I’m a first-year student and EFU Life is full of experienced insurers, and our other teammates have already participated in similar events, like the StudentHack. The big advantage for us is diversity, and for us that means creativity and being able to learn from each other. I learned how insurance companies operate and how getting involved in more industry events will help shape my future as an actuary.
Arshad: We were lucky to have such great students and energy on our team, and we weren’t expecting that. Even at midnight, they were working on the solution as if it was daytime. Based on the input we received from them, you would have never guessed that they were students!
Ashfaque: The coordination and level of communication was amazing. We broke the ice within minutes of meeting them, and as soon as we started working together, it didn’t feel like we were working with the students for the first time. Once you have a great team, the ideas just flow, and we got fantastic support from the students on our team.
That’s often the toughest part of working virtually — to meet somebody for the first time and instantly have that level of communication, understanding, and respect, so congratulations on achieving this! Coming to how you worked together, which of the four challenges did your team select and what was your solution?
Raza: Our challenge was to develop a solution to cater to the underserved population. Our solution was “Bread Protects”, and it comprised of 2 parts. The first part aimed to spread insurance awareness using a drone that would target specific underserved populations by sending customized messages to their smartphones, and those messages would contain insurance information, videos, and promotions. The second part linked that promotion to bread, a staple for every family. By making frequent bread purchases, underserved populations could get free life insurance coverage. Premiums would be funded by bread companies, whose objective would be increased sales of their product. It’s a win-win-win solution for the consumer, insurer, and bread company.
Very cool idea! “Bread Protects” was voted the People’s Choice for APAC and EMEA. In your opinion, what aspects of this solution made it a crowd favorite?
Raza: Drones! The fact that drone advertising is a fairly new and exciting concept resonated with the audience.
Arshad: The best part was definitely the drone being used for something constructive and positive.
Ashfaque: It’s a new concept, and we found value in it. One, because of the low-cost advertising and two, there is a huge reach.
Sam: Anyone can look up at the sky, but not everyone has great internet coverage, so it was definitely the broad reach.
Yuqing: The ‘bread’ part is very cool. We wanted to make it fun but also send a message that insurance can be protective, for example, by printing informational stickers to add with the bread. You can feed your family and still protect them, instead of just paying premiums. It makes the concept less terrifying and increases the penetration of insurance to underserved populations.
Jane: What Yuqing said is true. Bread is something people buy every day, so it engages them, and the drone works well to attract attention.
It was a very well-thought-out solution! Looking back at the entire experience, how would you describe it?
Danny: My overall experience at SummerHack was amazing because we, as a team, were encouraged to come up with crazy and creative ideas, and that’s how innovation is born. I see ideas as Lego bricks, because when you put yours out there, someone else could pick it up and build a spaceship, a rocket, or even a castle. And I had a really great time working with my team because they were so supportive, and we had a very strong team spirit. It was fun!
Yuqing: This is my first time participating in SummerHack. I’m really grateful to have worked with such a supportive and professional team.
Ashfaque: As I mentioned earlier, the whole process was digital, and it was new for us. We picked up a lot of tools during the Design Thinking breakout sessions and the experience was fantastic. I’ve been working for the past 20+ years with insurance companies to digitalize them and introduce new technology, but to ideate digitally was new for me, as well.
Raza: The opportunity to see different solutions from all over the world was pretty cool. It gives you insight into how other people think and what issues they’re working on.
Sam: It’s one thing to learn the technical side of insurance in school and it’s another to be in this massive ecosystem, collaborating and developing innovative solutions with professionals in the industry. I was happy to work alongside with them to see how wild ideas can be incorporated into an actionable plan. I enjoyed that and it was awesome!
Now that you’ve been through this process, what advice would you give teams coming in next year?
Raza: Probably not to underestimate the work involved and the intensity of the challenge. Oh, and have lots of caffeine, that helps!
Arshad: You should have a bunch of crazy ideas and not limit the thinking process. That’s how you become more creative.
Ashfaque: You need to be committed. It’s difficult to participate alongside your everyday work activities; you need to step away from work to focus on the process. There are a lot of ideas that need to be developed into a solution. There’s a lot of learning involved, so you need to be committed.
Sam: And for the incoming students who will hopefully be attending this event next year, I would say don’t be shy to speak up. Sometimes great ideas are hidden when you don’t speak up, and you never know how much impact your ideas are going to have, especially for students.
Danny: Have fun! It’s a really great event.
Yuqing: Danny said this to me, too. The main point of this event is to have fun and I did have a lot of fun. Hello to all the incoming students, and my advice to you would be test out the tools and platforms before the event starts. Once you dive into it, you won’t have the energy to learn how to use them and if you get stuck, it can be very stressful.
Jane: All crazy ideas are acceptable at SummerHack. Your idea could be the winning idea!
We can’t wait to share this advice with next year’s teams! Final question for the team now: As you know, Cookhouse Labs is all about making insurance better and that’s the objective of these types of events. So, in your opinion, how can an event like SummerHack help make insurance better for the global community?
Raza: Innovation is something every insurance company needs to be conscious of, especially in the digital age that we’re in. I think events like SummerHack provide the inspiration and motivation that we all need. We get too caught up in our daily routines, so SummerHack was the right thing at the right time.
Arshad: The way that insurance is being sold today should not continue. We all know we need to transform. SummerHack is a good platform for us to share our experiences and decide how we should transform, and everyone can benefit from this.
Ashfaque: In our region, insurance digitalization is very limited. We’re one of the top innovative insurance companies in our region. We took a lot of value out of this experience, and it definitely helped us. I encourage other insurance companies in our region to get involved and see how digitalization can help improve processes here in Pakistan.
Danny: As an aspiring actuary, SummerHack is where I realized how actuaries can help the underserved population. In the past, I always wondered how to help people with low income, because I thought that insurance was only for the people who could afford it. SummerHack is where I found the answer because it’s the actuaries who execute those crazy ideas that we came up with.