As a pension provider, AZL manages the administration of various pension funds, helps with transparent communication and provides legal and actuarial advice. The company has been doing this for over 50 years, for more than 50 pension funds with 13.000 affiliated employers and nearly 1.5 million participants. AZL is constantly looking for ways to make their IT systems, processes, and organization more flexible and future proof. Over the last couple of years, AZL and Bizzomate have developed various successful solutions with Mendix, but the real eye-catcher is the new pension planner option in the portal for participants.
The purpose of this portal is to inform all pension participants about their pension in a customer-friendly and transparent manner. The pension portal is used by 1.5 million people, and in time, the planner option will be available as well. “Employees want to know at any time what is in their pension pot and what a change in legislation or in their personal situation means for them. It’s no longer sufficient to inform them once a year with a complicated letter, they want to be in control – anytime, anywhere,” says Edward Heijkers, CIO at AZL.
The pension portal is very user-friendly, participants can log in with their DigID. They can upload all kinds of documents, which are immediately processed in the back-end. In addition, a participant can calculate all kinds of pension scenarios in real-time. Despite the fact that this requires enormous computing power, an individual participant can calculate this using his own device and without the intervention of an AZL employee. “Previously, four employees worked full time on calculating pension scenarios, but with the participant portal that’s no longer necessary. The traditional question-answer communication between an AZL employee and a pension participant is also changing as a result. Our employees are becoming much more pension consultants than administration specialists.”
An optimal customer journey for the pension participant was key during the development phase of the participant portal. Extra attention was paid to the group of people who are approaching their retirement age. “The most complex process is ‘retire’, the moment that you actually need to receive a pension. That process is way more complex than entering a pension fund and sending in the correct documentation”, explains Heijkers.
To improve the customer journey during this process, AZL commissioned a customer survey. Heijkers: “One of the striking things, for example, was that if someone had completed his paperwork, he then heard nothing for six months and had to wait, biting his nails, whether he would actually receive a pension when he left the company. Now we use a notification system: ‘In 100 days you will receive your first pension payment’. And we repeat this, for instance, 50 days and a week before the retirement date. This is one of the simple functions we built into the portal, which contributes to an improved customer journey.”
The portal is set up generically but can be used multi-client. Therefore it isn’t necessary to develop 50 separate portals. Administrators can, for example, adjust their front-end themselves, so that the pension participant logs in to the portal of the brand he’s familiar with.
AZL and Bizzomate have been working together for over eight years now. During this period both parties improved their cooperation capabilities and pushed each other to achieve better results. For AZL, the right balance between reliable computing power and a customer-oriented approach is key. Therefore, Bizzomate advised AZL to build a flexible layer for functional applications on top of its base layer of important core systems for pension administrators. To build this top-layer, they selected the low-code platform from Mendix. “We were used to working with extremely reliable systems and to carefully design and test every step in the process. As you can imagine, this is a timely and costly process. Our traditional development processes did not fit the modern requirements of building applications at speed, adding functionality in an instant, or applying customer feedback directly into the solution”, says Heijkers.
AZL uses Gartner’s well-known PACE Layered Application Strategy. The core accounting systems for the pension administration in Oracle PL/SQL are the ‘systems of record’, and low-code is used to develop ‘systems of differentiation and innovation’. This may sound very logical on paper, but in practice, this turned out to be more complicated – especially in the first years. Heijkers: “Low-code is a wonderful technology, but it doesn’t work if you use it in a traditional way. Our developers had to adapt to a different working method. With the help, experience, and expertise of Bizzomate, we implemented agile teams and a strategy that was suitable for the rapid delivery and production of a minimal viable solution.”
Furthermore, the budget, and the number of manhours within this budget, is now a real benchmark. Heijkers compares it with purchasing a new car: “For our customer-oriented solutions we previously delivered a brand new sportscar at the first try, totally perfect, right down to the color of the last screw under the hood. However, we only need to build a small family car that drives safely to meet our customer demands. If there is no money for tinted windows on the car, that extra option can easily be added later. This is one of the great possibilities of low-code.”
As for the pension planner functionality within the pension portal, ING’s pension fund will be the first live customer. Heijkers: “About 125 people are retiring each month, so at the beginning of the next year we can assess how we’re doing and measure customer satisfaction properly. In the meantime, we will of course continue to work in the background on improving the participant portal and the other projects we are working on, such as the invoice portal for directors and the employer portal. Full steam ahead!”
Financial Services - Pension
Administration, communication, legal and actuarial advice of various pension funds.