Interview by

Bianca Ghose

Tzipi Avioz on how emerging technologies will redefine the financial sector, and how she is driving a culture of innovation and customer-centricity at AMP.

WOOL: You spent a decade guiding an Australian supermarket giant through its online retail development and you're now working in financial services. How are you amalgamating experiences and ideas learnt across both retail and finance to create new experiences/ideas?

Tzipi: It starts with culture and a passion to exceed customer expectations. Leading retail and financial services companies focus on customers’ needs through customer NPS scores. At AMP, we’re responding to customers by designing human- centered platforms, and creating customer-designed products and services. To quote MIT Sloan School Research Fellow - Michael Schrage, "Who do you want your customers to become?" Schrage sees innovation as being an investment in human capital and capabilities of one's customers. Our customers need to know we're investing in them.

To achieve this, it's important to create a culture that inspires employees from the minute they get up to go to work; that all they want to do is delight customers and exceed their expectations. This makes customers feel as much a part of the business as the employees themselves. At AMP, we have a culture where we truly care about our customers and their needs and desires. Our belief is that the revenue will take care of itself if we get this right.

Collaborative interaction is an ongoing process between customers and companies, whether in retail or financial services. Whilst technology may speed up these interactions and make visible who sees the issues and how they're responded to, the same is true when it comes to putting your customers' needs first and creating a culture that encourages customer-centricity. AMP’s research shows that once the customer knows this, he/she appreciates the fact that you listen, decide and act at every opportunity to improve the relationship with him/her. If you think about retail, look at how registers have been replaced with self-checkout options at retail stores. Similarly, in the case of online retail, the point of sale is completely in the hands of the customer.

Retail is all about experiences and choices for the customer, and this is where all financial services are heading. Value comes from the help we provide to our customers. At AMP, we've launched a range of technologies designed to make the experiences for our customers as seamless and intuitive as possible. We're doing this in banking through our new Better account which uses technology to provide clarity for our customers with their spending. And, we're also applying it to what has long been the core of our business, financial advice. We've just launched a new advice modelling engine which helps customers plan, track and achieve their goals. The engine is the most sophisticated and contemporary advice technology and experience in the industry, providing tailored cashflow, debt, wealth protection and wealth management advice strategies. These are generated in real-time and presented through an interactive digital experience.

WOOL: What role is Blockchain playing in transforming the financial services presently? And what does the future, say five years down the line, look like?

Tzipi: The disruption that started in retail a few years ago with online shopping, omni-channel and personalized promotions, is now hitting financial services with Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence. While there still are several hurdles to overcome before Blockchain transforms finance and banking as we know it today, the potential cost and labor savings it can create for the global financial market are so appealing that many major financial institutions are investing millions in resources that can research how best to implement it. I believe Blockchain is a technological advancement with wide-reaching implications that will not only transform financial services but many other businesses and industries.

We can look at a few areas where Blockchain can improve financial services:

Fraud Reduction

It has the potential to reduce fraud, such as in stock exchanges and money transfer services. Since most banking systems around the world are built around a centralized database, they have only one point of failure, rather than many, thus making them more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Blockchain would eliminate some of the crimes being perpetuated online today against our financial institutions.

Know your customers (KYC)

Financial institutions spend a lot of money every year on Know your Customer (KYC) and customer due diligence regulations. By allowing the independent verification of one client by one organization to be accessed by other organizations, Blockchain will ensure that the KYC process doesn't start all over again. This can result in a significant reduction in administrative costs for compliance departments.


Blockchain disruption can be highly transformative in the payments process by eliminating the need for a lot of intermediaries that are present in the current scenario. However, there won’t be any progress unless there is a clear repository of data.

The early adopters take risks, make decisions based on their own perception and judgment.

WOOL: What is your take on how these two industries approach innovation in the digital and data space?

Tzipi: Focusing on digital initiatives while improving data management to deliver products and services has a positive effect on organizations and their success. Every organization has several key assets and data is key. The interesting part is that while most organizations know this, their delivery is often hampered by lack of investment. A strategy focused on creating platforms and services that reflect trust and delight for both employees and customers is key to an organization’s success. Strong digital capabilities and a focus on data are critical in this age to drive growth and remain competitive. Today, competition is fierce. Organizations that are harnessing the value of digital capabilities and data will survive. If an organization lacks focus on digital and data, it’s already too late. We need to support the establishment of capabilities to adequately manage data, fix data issues at source, and establish closed-loop governance and control processes. This is easier to do on a single platform in order to increase efficiency, and avoid the risks and issues associated with multiple and unreconciled sources. Technology is developing at an extremely fast pace, and we are closely monitoring start-ups in the data space to be able to leverage it.

WOOL: Which brings us to start-ups! A strong thread in your career has been working with the start-up ecosystem. How, according to you, is the new-age ecosystem shaping up?

Tzipi: Yes, I've worked with start-ups, and on contemporary technologies with established partners.

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that I was born in Israel which is called 'the start-up nation'. The new tech circumstances and challenges that we face essentially mean that we need to constantly innovate. In order to do that, we need fresh ideas, open minds that learn from mistakes, better capabilities and constantly improving business cycles. Through the cycles of learning and partnering, and investments, I am working with my team to create a culture of improvement to meet our customers' needs.

There are many innovative network business models that are coming after traditional financial services and banking organizations. Big banks are beginning to realize that they must evolve if they want to remain viable in a digital-centric world-whether by acquiring, partnering or developing leading-edge technologies. With my passion for innovation, I keep a close watch on the Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Israel, and Silicon Valley start-up communities, and I'm always open for a discussion on something new. That's the only way to learn.

At AMP, we are working with start-ups on proof of concepts. I encourage my team to not only learn the technology, but to also understand the tools and the thinking behind them—even some of the early negotiations are opportunities to learn. The discussions that always intrigue me and those that I look forward to are the ones that start with a solid business plan and are able to look at different ways to cooperate with and to grow and mature.

WOOL: You talked about repositioning advisers as ‘goals coaches’ and pairing them with artificial intelligence at AMP. Tell us more about this.

Tzipi: AMP has created a goals-led experience for customers that has four major stages; explore, plan, track and realize. Our goals are based on deep, human-centered design research and actually, they are not all financial outcomes. Things like getting married, growing our family, starting one’s own business are non-financial goals, but underneath each of those goals, our financial resources are required to enable it to happen. These goals form the basis of advice strategies, and are shaping the development of products and services uniquely tied to the goals that our customers have in their lives. To deliver our goals based experience, we have built this as an integrated set of capabilities into a single operating platform which we call our 'digital spine'. Our digital spine is built to be omnichannel capable to power our face to face advice process, our digital engagement process and also our direct phone assistance, and it is a true omnichannel operating model.

WOOL: How are you nurturing the culture of innovation at AMP?

Tzipi: At AMP, we host a bi-monthly hackathon called 'Push It'. It fosters a culture of innovation and customer-centricity by empowering employees to solve customer problems quickly and creatively. Using Net Promoters Score (NPS) data as the starting point, employees are encouraged to redirect their time to solving a customer problem of their choice. Our people design capabilities in customer-centric, iterative ways through the use of agile and human-centered design techniques. We rotate between 'Pitch It' and 'Push It' every two months. 'Pitch It' is all about pitching the customer challenge you want to solve and getting the right skills and experience on your team to help you solve that problem a month later during ‘Push It’. The latter is when you get a self-forming, cross-functional team to work collaboratively to solve some of the biggest pain points of the customers. This encourages learning experimentation, collaboration, energy, fun and engagement amongst teams. The teams then, through 90-second compelling pitches, share with a broad audience how their innovative efforts helped solve a customer's pain points.

So far, this year we've enhanced 2 million customer journeys through 'Push It'. We also have 'Amplify', which is Australia's top business and innovation platform for exploring technology, thought leadership and customer culture with some of the world's boldest thinkers. In 2017, over 4,000 people connected with over 60 global thought leaders to explore the mega-trends that will impact business in five to 10 years, from now. In the near-term 'Amplify' delivers outcomes for AMP and for our customers by helping solve business challenges, informing our strategy, and delivering innovative prototypes that help transform our technology roadmap.

WOOL: Is your passion towards STEM an initiative to make the tech industry more inclusive for women? How can more women be encouraged to work in these fields?

Tzipi: I'm passionate about raising awareness around STEM careers and encouraging students to pursue them. This will help them build skills that will open up the scope of opportunities, and connect them with the in-demand digital workforce. I think it's important for leaders and parents to share their experiences and career journeys with the younger and less-experienced lot. When you become a mentor to someone, he/she gets a new insight into how things work at different levels, and will learn things that will make him/her a better manager and leader.

When I finished high school, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I did two years of (mandatory) service in the army with the Intelligence unit which was the first time I learned about computer processing. I led a team of 10 people at a young age of 18, which was a breakthrough moment for me. This was also key to developing my logical thinking abilities. By increasing the number of women in STEM, we are automatically adding diversity to STEM occupations. This ultimately results in increased creativity and innovation, fueled by diverse perspectives on issues and ways to solve them.

Let me give you an example of how women in STEM have made differences in people's lives. The airbags in cars were originally designed in such a way that they protected adult males but not smaller body frames of women and children. However, women engineers introduced changes that made a difference in this product safety feature. Programs like 'Day of STEM', from Life Journey which AMP sponsors, are critical to this journey. We need to promote more awareness around the value that women in STEM careers bring from a practical perspective-not just by talking about it, but also by sharing practical examples.

The value of mentorship is irreplaceable—teaming up with a mentor is a career strategy that can bring huge benefits, especially to women in unbalanced work environments like engineering. We need to expose young girls to STEM fields and encourage those who are interested to follow their hearts and minds. Correcting the negative perceptions that girls develop at a young age can lead them to embrace math and science when they reach high school, rather than avoiding the subjects. I was lucky to have my parents constantly encourage me to do what I love, not be afraid of trying new things and developing my logical skills.

By increasing the number of women in STEM, we are automatically adding diversity to STEM occupations. This results in increased creativity and innovation, fuelled by diverse perspectives on issues and ways to solve them.

WOOL: Today, tech companies are spending millions to improve the conditions for female employees. Yet there are biases and the 'bro culture' still exists. How is AMP maintaining a balance?

Tzipi: I personally draw a lot of inspiration from the movie, Hidden Figures, which I recommend for everyone to watch! I have learnt immensely from the women at NASA and there are nine key learnings on diversity, inclusion and leadership that every leader and organization can imbibe:

1. Remove obstacles for your team

2. Strive to be more inclusive to get access to a greater talent pool

3. Dare to be the 'first'!

4. Remember that small gestures go a long way in creating a sense of belonging

5. Understand that even with the best intentions, biases can make your team feel unwelcomed

6. Apologize when you mess up

7. Use your privilege to empower someone

8. Support others-it is the best way to help yourself

9. Focus on performance, and it will automatically give way to diversity

At AMP, our focus on diversity and inclusion is embedded in how we operate and how we make decisions. We're constantly iterating and trialing new methods to advance our work in this space. This includes regular events and discussions with leading organizations, mentoring programs, and ongoing communications, to keep inclusion and diversity "front of mind" for our people. I am committed to sponsoring individuals who I feel have the potential to grow and develop. They can be at any level of their career-they just need to be passionate about their work and be open to feedback! The reason for this could be attributed to the fact that I was fortunate to get sponsors in my career-leaders who believed in me and encouraged me through my successes and failures. I, too, was always open to guidance.

WOOL: Tell us about the Code Camp that you have recently had at AMP?

Tzipi: We recently hosted a Code Camp where employees could bring their kids to work for a day and help them learn to code. The class is a fantastic way to give young people a taste of technology and learn about the skills of the future. They gain an insight into what a career in STEM might look like. Moreover, kids develop transferable skills that can be valuable to any industry. So, not only do they learn about game design and user experience in a fun and creative way, they also develop their logical thinking and problem-solving skills.

WOOL: How did you create a culture of empathy and open feedback within the organization?

Tzipi: Leadership is key. You need to build a team, build trust and encourage high performance. But this can often be challenging as motivation is a tricky thing to nail down. What your team wants is real-time, heartfelt, consistent and timely peer-to-peer recognition and feedback. Receiving this recognition helps build morale and increases collaboration. I have championed and implemented a peer-to-peer recognition program/app called PLAY that ties back to AMP’s values. This program provides a platform for teams to recognize each other, and enables us to encourage a positive culture of reward and recognition. It provides an interactive, gamified recognition tool that encourages our teams to reward behaviors that are reflective of AMP values. PLAY is accessible both on and off-site using desktops, tablets or smartphones and allows people to recognize their peers by giving spot awards for great performance. Awards are real-time, and based on key activity.

According to Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook, there is one thing that leaders look for when considering whether or not an employee has the ability to grow with the company - "Someone who takes feedback well, because people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly"