August 3, 2022
There is one thing that drives Daniel Jinga in his role as a Consulting Director at Softelligence. His focus is to help financial services companies enhance their customer and employee experience through Business Transformation. This is easier said than done, with over 70% of such projects failing regularly. However, if a company can get it right, there are hundreds of millions of dollars in incipient Value to be generated.
Daniel set up Softelligence’s Consulting practice four years ago, has 15 years of experience in the insurance industry and his team has successfully delivered many transformational projects during this period.
In this interview, Daniel talks about the importance of embracing transformation through technology, the pitfalls that can occur during the process, but also how tangible Value can be realised once a proper structure is put in place.
He also reflects on the key components of building an effective team and shares with us the most important leadership lessons he has learned over the years.
Interesting fact: When he’s not advising companies on redefining business strategy, Daniel loves to prepare some of the most delicious and good-looking tartes in Bucharest, under the Piper și Mentă brand. The secret of his success? Persistence!
Over the last 15 years, I have been serving the global Insurance and Banking markets. I have been lucky to view the market from different perspectives. Firstly, working with Eureko (an Insurer), then working with the biggest risk management consultant and insurance broker worldwide (Marsh McLennan Group). Prior to Softelligence, I worked with the biggest payment service provider: PayU.
In March 2018, I joined Softelligence. The company used to focus on Business Transformation within specific verticals. Whilst the company has proprietary software solutions, transformation cannot happen in a vacuum, so I liked the fact that Softellience had forged a number of technology partnerships.
This leads nicely to what I liked most about Softelligence. It was their focus. Transformation across many industries, geographies, and technologies can be a step too far. Softelligence decided to use its 14+ years’ experience in Financial Services to go deeper and be the Tier 1 partner for many of its 15+ global insurance customers. This has naturally evolved into Banking in more recent years.
The first pillar of our consulting arm is real expertise. Our professionals have normally 15-20 years of experience in financial markets.
In the early days, I have noticed a trend. More customers were approaching us without prescriptive solutions. The number of customers who approached us with their problem statements and wanted to engage in a dialogue seemed to increase each time. Our ability to propose solutions and determine the value that could be generated seemed to win hearts and minds.
“The main difference from other big consultancy companies is that we are not focusing only on advising, but we are advising and implementing the solutions. We walk the talk from the very beginning.” Daniel Jinga, Softelligence Consulting Director
Business Transformation is widely regarded as an optimal mix between people, processes, and technology.Our mission is simple: we see ourselves as the human link between technology and business. We act as enablers for our customers to generate real tangible value from each implementation. It does not matter whether we build a purpose-built Claims system, augment a legacy platform, or change existing processes to streamline the Customer Experience.
Even if we use the term Digital Transformation, I like to redefine it and call it Business Transformation. The industry seems to stress the term digital because transformation occurs through technology, but we don’t do digital for the sake of digital. I like the term Business Transformation through Technology. Both types of customers that we are working with within banks and insurance companies are struggling, and their real struggle is because they are used to conducting business in the current constraints of legacy systems. Moreover, many are unaware of the numerous pitfalls from a technical, business, and cultural perspective.
Transformation is never easy. Most of the time it seems that we are starting with creating a new piece of software, a new solution, or a new frontline application; in reality, we are changing their organisation and the way that people are working.
There is a natural resistance to change. The vast majority of digital transformation initiatives are either failing, going over budget or they are not delivered in time. I have noticed that many Financial Services companies imagine that this process is simpler than it actually is. What we are telling our customers is they should build budgets that allow them to be nimble and make changes where required.
There is a project lifecycle for each platform we build; especially as many of these are mission-critical. We don’t build the application and then leave it there. That’s why we talk more and more about platforms – because platforms are living creatures that are evolving and they are trying to keep pace with the realities of the market.
I might have designed a business process yesterday, but I am still going to redesign it and implement it over and over again throughout the years. This is where the technology part and the right expertise could help our customers: because we create solutions that must evolve. What we are trying to do is be able to embrace change throughout the entire process.
“I was asked at some point if it’s worthwhile pursuing the digital transformation journey. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but if you get it right, one can generate tremendous value.“ Daniel Jinga, Softelligence Consulting Director
It is accelerating now. What is clear is this world never stops; mainly due to the changing business needs and value if it can be calculated and used in prioritisation.
Also – we often talk about the technology of the future, but what we can tell you is that the technology of the future is already with us today. For example, in 2021 Softelligence won an Innovation Award. The technology used was Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which is approximately half a century old. However, the way it was implemented was innovative and we realised tangible commercial quick wins.
The technology landscape is dynamic. There are many things to consider when technology is procured – especially the need to future-proof. That’s why we always recommend our customers to consider a combination of technologies based on the over-arching business objectives.
“On the other hand, we are making use of low-code, no-code platforms because most of the time we want to be able to digitise faster. The reality is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We could use platforms that are out there in the market very well to accelerate things.” Daniel Jinga, Softelligence Consulting Director
We’ve seen two major trends in the banking area. For the customers, there is also a lot of buzz around buy-now-pay-later solutions where basically customers could get products now and pay for them without interest afterward. This trend was started by a big fintech, named Klarna.
Before that, there was the idea of being able to onboard new customers in a digital manner from the comfort of their sofa. And we’ve had several projects and endeavors there, where we enabled banks to onboard customers online in a matter of minutes and provide a paperless customer journey. Then there was this trend of being able to provide credits using a fully digitised process for happy path customers, and we’ve done that since 2017.
One of the biggest customers of the insurance companies are the brokers, who are key to their business as an important route to market. They always think about how they should improve and what type of services or solutions they could provide to enable the brokers to act and serve their customers better and faster. There is also a lot of work in there on both sides, on the underwriting and distribution platforms, the claims handling platforms, and making sense of the end customer data.
The biggest challenge starts with the people. I mentioned experience being the first pillar. The second is for the project to start with just one close-knit team. It doesn’t matter how many suppliers we see out there; to have success in our journey, we should see ourselves as part of only one team. There is no such thing as the customer and services provider. In the end, it should be a successful partnership, it should be only one team.
Our customers are treating us as partners, and we are looking at success as a collective thing. When challenges occur, we should look at them like this: we are just one team that is working for the benefit of that company. We don’t work as a supplier, but rather as part of their organisation.
Our customers also focus on pace nowadays, not just on changing their business. For example, we could do that change in 18 months, but could we achieve the same results in 12 months or even nine months? Therefore, I like the approach of Proof of Concepts (in three months), and Minimum Viable Products (in nine months) where immediate returns can be measured through this journey.
The real value is something imperative in the digital transformation journeys; this will help industrialise transformation as the lessons learned and the data gained from the experience will provide firm foundations for growth.
Firstly, Innovation without a Business Transformation process is an approach that is less likely to succeed.
An example of wide-scale innovation has been happening during the loan journey: few of my customers made a decision not to “manage the problem” but to “transform it” and realised tens of millions of dollars in tangible value.
IBanks have realised the “Time to Drawdown” is crucial in the Customer Experience and achieving strong Customer Lifetime Value. I remember when loans would take weeks to arrive. This can be a problem if you need to buy a new car urgently. We used to build solutions with Time to Drawdown between 2 and 8 hours, but the exigent customers expected returns in minutes. Therefore, in 2021, we reduced the Time to Drawdown to 10-12 minutes.
We like to look at this differently: we need technology and we do digitisation not to replace people, but to be able to retain them or to attract them. We see insurance companies challenged with employee recruitment and retention, so the need to have employees focusing on higher-value tasks still exists.
Nobody wants to do repetitive tasks that don’t bring added value, so that’s where technology should help by saving time, not by replacing the employees.
There is no battle between technology and people. We need to optimize and digitise to retain and attract new people to the companies. Otherwise, they will leave.
Technology should also augment what we can do as professionals. Through technology, we could make better-informed decisions. Algorithms and AI are not going to replace our decisions.
I like the concept of self-managing teams, but we do need leaders – both formal and informal – inside each team. To have effective teams you need to instill strong, common values.
The most important thing is that our employees do an outstanding job, not just a good one. I would say this is the key ingredient that differentiates us in the market and helps us work as a team towards the same goal.
Another important ingredient is the humbleness of our team members because no matter how senior we are, we still learn every day. In some respects, no matter how much experience we have, we should behave as a junior, because that will provide us the humbleness to be open and to learn new things. We are working in teams with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds because that enriches the power of the team. Being diverse also helps a lot in providing better values and looking at the same problems from different angles.
The first of it would be that you need to treat each member of the team as a unique person. That’s why we allow our colleagues to be able to define their own job descriptions because they are unique. I tend to allow them to be able to define in which area they would like to evolve and then be able to sustain or support them throughout this process. We should embrace this diversity and support it because this will bring better results overall.
The second one would be that you should act as a servant leader. The leader is not necessarily the one that knows all the things. I’m acting rather like a facilitator or the one that can create or provide the right context for others to come up with ideas and move the team forward. I would say that a leader should be empathic and should act rather like the glue of the team and not the one that necessarily is providing the direction. It’s rather providing the context for the others to glow, perform their best, and act as a team.
And the third one is that you need to keep yourself open. We should take everything into account, because otherwise we can lose not only good people, but also opportunities. We need to remain very open in an authentic manner.
Despite the challenges, it’s incredibly rewarding when you succeed in introducing a new product to the market, when you see its effects and quantify them. That’s so gratifying not only for the project manager, for the consultant or for the CEO, but it’s also so rewarding for the entire team. That also fuels you with enthusiasm and with trust, because you nailed it. And you will definitely do it even better next time.
“It’s better to launch something faster that is imperfect than something perfect that will never happen. Go out there, launch something, see the impact, and next time you improve it is based on tangible measures, not on assumptions.” Daniel Jinga, Softelligence Consulting Director
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