“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change,” – Charles Darwin.
For almost three decades, illustrate has been serving the needs of insurance and financial service professionals with stride and pride. Over the course of its action, the company has grown steadily and evolved as a reputed organization in the finance industry. The organization’s ability not only to identify coming industry changes but to embrace and adapt to them has served them well over all these years. As has maintaining a primary focus to address the industry need for efficiency, effectiveness, and speed to market.
In 2015 Kevin Netterfield joined illustrate as President. Under Kevin’s leadership illustrate had 2 of its most innovative and successful years of its history. Here’s what he attributes it to.
Keeping Customers at the Forefront
There are numerous factors that contribute to the enormous growth illustrate has seen in the past couple of decades. The first and foremost factor is – illustrate keeps its customers at the forefront and is driven to empower them to be relevant and mobile-ready in the insurance and financial service industries. “Every client is looking to have our software solve a particular problem for them. We make it our job to fully understand every aspect of the issues they are facing and to provide a customized solution to resolve them all.” says Kevin Netterfield, President of illustrate inc “That thinking is the force behind everything that we do. We don’t think of ourselves as a product company. We’re a solution company.”
Every decision that’s taken at illustrate is based on the benefit of its customers opposed to features of its products. “Client-centric has become a bit of a cliché but far too many FinTech/InsurTech companies are still trying to fit their clients into a boxed solution.” Added Jennifer McLean, VP of Business Development & Controller. “Much of which has been built around assumed client needs. We believe boxed software is dead and we’ve thrown out opinions. We value data over opinions and client feedback over everything.”
illustrate backs this up by calling on their clients to join their product advisory boards, Evergreen processes or simply using one of their several client feedback loops to help define future features of their OPUS solution set. Their clients have the ability to add, remove or even re-order rollouts within their product roadmap. Collaboration at a true partnership level.
illustrate’s solutions are developed as independent modules supporting their needs-based product bundling concept and have been built to plug and play with each other. That means illustrate can provide what you need, when you need it and in the future, even if you need to add something else, it won’t break the bank.
At illustrate, the team understands that it’s important to help its clients use its software in whatever format best helps their sales teams. illustrate goes to great lengths to make sure that every application establishes a new level of excellence in UX from mobile to monitor and its modular eco-system allows for every application to be deployed in a multitude of formats: Stand Alone app, Web Application, Native Mobile application or widget.
Industry Experts who Lead from the Front
With most financial sectors starting to realize that change is coming, illustrate’s continuous research of both industry and technology trends provides tremendous strategic value to their clients.
“The technology that drives the industry is at the top of its “s”-curve” added Tom Murphy, VP Client Services & Product. “We’re helping our clients move into the start of the next technology swing. Most of them understand that coming late to the show may have a huge negative impact on their business.”
illustrate broadcasts this change with their clients, through speaking engagements and conferences. Running with the tagline of “Super charging engagement models and personalizing the journeys for the consumer,” they are often brought in to map out engagement strategies for both clients and prospects.
Understanding the Field Better than Everyone Else
The success of illustrate comes on several fronts. More than anything, it comes from understanding the field, understanding the customer, seeing opportunity and seizing that opportunity. That means illustrate can assess and adapt anywhere, anytime.
At illustrate, they have a four-pronged approach to their solution sets. To begin with, they have first-hand advisor background and experience. “We like to say, “we speak advisor” meaning we’ve been there and have the same shared experience as your field reps. Because we’ve been there, we’ll work to identify the tailor-made solutions to solve your distinct challenges,” Kevin asserts. Kevin has the background to back up that statement. Before joining illustrate Kevin twice hired illustrate during his prior senior field leadership roles and spent much of his early career as an advisor himself. Now, along with his team, he helps other senior sales executives to create and deploy powerful and effective platforms to get results and achieve efficiencies.
illustrate also takes its expertise in process efficiency and business model implementation to the table. They work with you to understand your specific business plan and infrastructure because they know that one size does not fit all. It’s through this understanding of your business that illustrate is able to ensure that everything developed at illustrate, is set up to meet and exceed your business objectives.
Enabling Solutions to Integrate Seamlessly into Workflow
Understanding the many touchpoints of their solutions, illustrate immerses itself into the whole workflow and life cycle of their clients. Understanding the technology their software will integrate with, how it will be governed, what the expectations are of the head office teams as well as those of their advisors and their end client’s prospects as well. It all needs to be considered as far as illustrate is concerned.
“You have to know the touchpoints” added Tom. “We may create software for sales departments but they’re not the only ones who will have to work with it. Even if it’s only the outputs of the software that get passed along from system to system. A solution isn’t a solution unless you thought it all the way through.”
It becomes easy as they take the time to understand the demographic of the customers, which makes them ensure that the offering they develop and design has a look and feel of a lifestyle product for the end client. Going beyond, illustrate believes customization is the key to every need of clients. The company’s needs-based product bundles let you build your own box. And they also help you provide solutions to your advisors that integrate seamlessly into your workflow. When you pull all these aspects of our model together, they are left with an approach that truly understands and addresses the needs of their clients.
Firm Believer of Innovation Drives Innovation
illustrate has always stood firm on the fact that it is innovation that drives transformation. Its ability to identify and surround problem states and provide rapid, modular, mobile-first solutions has made them a unique player in the industry.
“I love the mobile first paradigm. Too often it is understood to mean the solutions work on your phone or tablet but it’s so much more than that.” cited Tom. “Mobile first means the simplification of everything. Do the thinking so users don’t have to. Understanding that most people use their devices as an extension of themselves. It’s the last thing they look at every night and the first thing they look at every morning. You have to delve into the Whys on those behaviours. Software at its core is understanding the behaviours of the user and providing support for them. Innovation is adapting to them and coming up with better, faster, bigger understandings.”
illustrate creates models that address the current needs of its clients while also being able to anticipate and adapt to their future needs. This comes naturally, thanks to its industry insight and thought leadership.
Apart from the thought leadership, illustrate has in-house actuarial staff, which allows the company to work directly with the actuarial teams of its clients to fully understand their products. The team fully analyzes and reviews how the end user is going to use the software, and Kevin believes understanding that is almost as important as what the software does. “We work with them to fully understand what they expect and require from each tool so that what we build provides them the simplest and most direct path to achieving their goal,” Kevin affirms.
In the end, everything that is designed and developed at illustrate has been built to plug and play with each other. It means illustrate is quickly able to deploy the modules. This rapid deployment ensures its clients are up and running without downtime that debilitates operations and ensures the modules best suit their project needs.
Ensuring Long-Term Relationship with the Client by Giving them What they Need
illustrate ensures the long-term relationship with the client by giving them with what they need, whenever they need it, in a customized platform which works in a way that works for them. However, that’s not all; there is more to it. Kevin believes clients’ trust comes back to the company’s shared experience – speaking the same language. “We share the values of our clients and their customers and intuitively approach their business challenges, committing to them as partners that add longterm value. Every decision we make is based on the benefit of our customers over features to our products. We value client feedback over everything else,” Kevin answers to how illustrate works on the long-term relationship with the client.
One standout amongst their key factors is that they actively listen to understand well beyond just the use of the technology. They want every fix, change or revision to further expand the business objectives of their client partners, with decades of knowledge and practical experience to leverage from. Kevin thinks once they fully understand the issues, they can effectively assess and implement strategies for clients’ growth objectives and operational efficiency needs. This, in return, allows them to offer services from which capability and effectiveness are born – for both the field and the home offices.
However, in the end, everything comes down to their employees who are the true reason illustrate has grown at such a pace. At illustrate, they empower all employees, which is the model for creativity and innovation. It’s about assembling the right team and giving them the freedom and autonomy to excel, and that’s what truly allows illustrate to address the complex and ever-changing needs of its clients. Kevin considers himself proud of the team they have assembled and of the way in which they address the needs of their clients.
Continuing to Push Innovation into the Future
illustrate aims to continue to push innovation and will continue to be drivers in mobility. That’s where the industry is moving into the future, and illustrate wants to stay at the forefront.
“We’re disruptive to ourselves on a daily basis. Our teams challenge every feature, product and technology choice. We see opportunities everywhere right now with the emergence of technologies like wearables, blockchain, A.I., voice recognition and IoT and we’re playing with all of them. It’s exciting.” Tom concludes.