by Byron Connolly

RACQ overhauls digital strategy following QT merger

Aug 09, 2017
Artificial IntelligenceAugmented RealityRetail Industry

Queensland-based motoring club and mutual organisation RACQ is overhauling its digital strategy just eight months after completing its $3.9 billion merger with QT Mutual Bank.

The new merged organisation is gearing up to go live in the fourth quarter of this year with new core banking, insurance and digital platforms for a combined 1.7 million members, RACQ’s CIO and executive for digital and innovation, Greg Booker told CIO Australia.

“We’ve picked up the QT organisation en masse so we are using the Fiserve core [financial services] system, and local vendor TSWG to provide our digital banking platforms,” said Booker.

RACQ has been on a digital transformation journey since 2013 when it completed a core system replacement to help improve the member experience and its websites. The organisation introduced ‘click to chat’ facilities and a mobile ticketing app that provides member discounts across Queensland.

“Up until late 2015, we were very much focused on establishing those sales platforms across our insurance and assistance business,” said Booker. “This has given us a stellar outcome – when we started this journey [in 2013] we were doing about $35 million to $40 million in online sales. This year, we will do $150 million.”

But now it’s time to move onto the next phase following the merger, which is enabling RACQ to enter the domestic loans market.

The ‘click to chat’ capability used across its sales channels – which has driven up to 170,000 chats – will soon be replaced by a chat bot backed by an artificial intelligence engine. The company is also in the final stages of piloting the UiPath robotic process automation platform to assist with its straight-through processing. This will go live next week.

“Where we’ve had things fall out from straight through processing on our digital channels, we are using the bots now to pick those up and sort out whatever issues there are and continue that automation process,” he said.

“We are also looking at other [bots] to assist in our online claims processing. We are not doing anything with chat bots from a member-facing perspective, it’s all in the back office,” he said.

An expanding digital team

Meanwhile, RACQ now has a digital team with 40 staff and an innovation team with five staff, which are both separate from the IT group. Booker said 25 developers are moving across to the digital team, which leaves 163 staff in the organisation’s IT department.

Craig McDougall, who has been with the company since 2010, has been appointed as general manager of digital payments. McDougall was previously executive manager, operational services. Suneth Mendis has stepped into the role of innovation manager at the company.

Preparing for autonomous vehicles

RACQ doesn’t expect genuine autonomous vehicles to be on the road in Queensland until 2025, said Booker.

“But we do expect to see, inside that window, inner suburban ‘Uber-type’ models utilising autonomous technologies,” he said. “We are watching this market very closely.”

The rise of autonomous vehicles will most certainly impact the insurance sector, said Booker. One vehicle accident currently occurs worldwide every 60,000 kilometres and as semi-autonomous vehicles and new braking and lane assist technologies become more popular, that figure will move out to one accident for every 6 million kilometres, he said.

“So that will have an impact from an insurance perspective. All insurance companies are asking the question. What does it mean when we go full autonomous and the car has no driver?

“Current legislation is saying manufacturers will be responsible for insurance and that makes sense but that’s a huge shift in the marketplace that is going to probably be one of the biggest disruptors in insurance across the next 10 years,” he said.

Still, it will be quite some time before every vehicle on Australian roads will be autonomous, and when this does occur, these vehicles will still have their challenges, said Booker.

“It will be a different kind of roadside assist model but make no mistake, we work in technology, we know the stuff breaks and so we need to look at how we adjust our roadside model to cater for that. It’s going to be a fascinating 10 years,” he said.