CMO Momentum 2017: Why Suncorp's Mark Reinke sees platform-based business as the way of the future

​ Insurance and banking group's chief customer experience officer reveals why traditional businesses need to function more like digital platform ecosystems and how marketers lead the way

Suncorp's Mark Reinke
Suncorp's Mark Reinke

Marketers are all grappling with rapid change, but according to insurance and banking Suncorp Group's chief customer experience officer, Mark Reinke, it’s the customer-centric businesses that can operate more like digital platforms  that will ultimately survive.

“We are all grappling with change in customer behaviour, in technology, in regulatory and climate - at every single touch point,” he told attendees at CMO Momentum in Sydney. “But with that comes a hypothesis: As a large company, can we adapt and be resilient, or are we on a slippery slope to oblivion?

“Change has never been faster, but it has never been this slow again. So we have to do things differently if we want to build this business and move forward, and that means we need to fundamentally change our business.”

In 1960, the average life span of a fortune 500 company was 60 years, but today it’s 16. Reinke anticipated that in five years’ time, it might be closer to 10.

“What that says is that in five years’ time, many of our businesses simply won’t exist,” he said. “And if you don’t do anything, then we will just be another statistic, particularly in financial services, which is changing incredibly quickly.”

Reinke, who ranked number one in CMO’s top 50 in 2015, believes CMOs have to transform the business they’re operating in today. That requires technology, data and insight but most importantly, adaptability.

“Now our board is very interested in this, and it should be the number one thing boards need to think about – how can we enable our organisation to be resilient to change and how can we adapt, particularly, if you’ve been in business for a long time,” he said.

Turning traditional marketing leadership upside down

But in order to adapt to change, Reinke said marketers need to also shift the way they think away from traditional processes into a more agile and design patterned process.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’d love to say that it can be an advantage, but in reality it is a disadvantage, because while I think I am thinking differently, my pattern of thinking is actually everything I’ve already done,” he said. “That’s kind of scary. So one of the challenges we face - and I’m sure a lot of marketers do as well - is constraint of thought.

"It’s that inability to think differently, the pattern that exists that we just can’t break free of. We need some different tools, as chief marketing officers and chief customer officers, we have to do something different to change that patterning.”

Reinke stressed the bigger the organisation, the harder it is to implement change. The challenge with marketing leadership roles is you’re constantly balancing between investing for now and investing for later.

“You’re constantly challenged to balance between investing and spending time for incremental change, versus quantum change,” he saidd. “On top of that, there’s the balancing act between investing in product development versus customer development – all of us have these trade-offs and it’s very easy to get caught in the polarities. If we just invest everything for tomorrow - guess what happens? You don’t grow your business, your shareholders get very cranky, and you’re out of the job.

“But then if you only focus on today, guess what happens as well? You wake up in a couple of years’ time and you will not exist. So we’ve had to develop some techniques for managing that, otherwise we’d end up in the polarity, we end up doing nothing, or we just wheel spin.

At Suncorp, Reinke revealed his team uses a framework called’ enhance, extend, renew’, which makes the company think about the right balance when it comes to improving the customer experience and moving the efficiency of the current business forward.

“Many companies are also thinking about extending their capability to connect with new platforms, and most companies I think should be doing that,” he added. “And when you start thinking differently, you start to see those fundamental questions are really hard to answer.”

A platform-based ecosystem

According to Reinke, there is only one business model that is surviving at the moment and prospering and that is an ecosystem-based platform model, like AirBnB.

In 2016, Suncorp revealed a new operating model and platform approach, which was centred around elevating customer needs and set to help the banking and insurance group keep hold of some of the 125,000 members who churn each month.

“Those models reach beyond country borders, they reach globally and completely change markets,” Reinke said. “At Suncorp, if we don’t position our company to play in an ecosystem world, we don’t think we will remain relevant to our customers.”

The insurance giant’s efforts to re-architect its business away from vertical brands to a connected platform approach is about putting customers at the centre.

“We were a value chain business, which meant we were good, but our products were commoditised and customers found value online in price,” Reinke said. “So if we didn’t start delivering new value for customers, we wouldn’t be able to survive.

"As a result, we decided we needed to move to a platform-based ecosystem. We’ve moved from a series of vertical businesses to a platform, which is very bold for a financial services business. What that means in reality is we design one customer experience, rather than an experience per product, and we remove the barriers to a customer getting the services and solutions they want.”

But moving from a traditional business to a platform is harder for established businesses, Reinke stressed, as it means you need to change your internal operating model.

“Traditional businesses are complicated, we know how to break down complex problems into smaller ones, we know how to look at cause and effect,” he explained. “But in an ecosystem world, it’s not so easy to work out –because the future doesn’t look like the past and the new problems are inherently complex.”

As a result, Suncorp had to rethink setting up a new platform based model around the customer, looking at  customers want, designing the right experience, and offering the right solutions, Reinke said.

“Then, we’ve got to create function, we’ve got to create banking stuff, and insurance stuff, and very importantly now, a whole range of things that we need to source globally for the future,” he added. “It’s not easy, we haven’t done it perfectly, but we’re all about creating value for customers and easy, useful, insightful and personalised experiences.

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