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CIO50 2021 #11 Greg Emsley, Maurice Blackburn

  • Name Greg Emsley
  • Title General Manager, Digital and Technology
  • Company Maurice Blackburn
  • Commenced role June 2019
  • Reporting Line Deputy CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 50 staff in IT function
  • Related

    News of the mistreatment of youths detained within the NT correctional system through 2006 to 2017 dominated headlines a few years ago.

    The revelations triggered a class action representing up to 1,200 young Australians, with law firm Maurice Blackburn reaching a settlement of $35 million from the NT Government this year on behalf of two primary litigants.

    But as the company’s general manager digital and technology, Greg Emsley tells CIO Australia, there were considerable challenges engaging all the young members of the class action group, seeing as so many were located in remote communities with limited access to computers and unreliable internet connections.

    “The Digital & Technology (MB D&T) team needed to think creatively in how to engage these young Australians in the claim settlement process,” he says.

    The team quickly established a gateway that dynamically integrated SMS, MMS, Email, Facebook and back-office services, that allowed the Maurice Blackburn settlement team to engage group members in a two-way dialogue via their mobile phones. 

    “Using this platform group members can provide their banking details by simply taking a picture of a bank statement and sending that via MMS on their phone,” Emsley explains.

    “The Maurice Blackburn settlement team can then engage them in a two-way exchange via SMS to ascertain all other pertinent information related to their claim.”

    While still in the early stages, it’s expected that the majority of group members will use this function to progress their individual claims.

    The innovation has been celebrated within Maurice Blackburn as demonstrating how digital technologies can be applied in enforcing the ages-old quest to deliver justice for all.

    Faster claims

    The Superannuation & Insurance practice within Maurice Blackburn represents the interests of clients making claims for illness or injury against the insurance coverage within their superannuation fund.

    Such cases typically involve a complex array of policy documents and in-force conditions in place at the time of a client’s event.

    Previously, Maurice Blackburn staff would simply write to individual funds to establish the terms of cover and sum insured. But this usually meant having to wait several weeks before being able to confirm whether clients had a valid claim, and their likely compensation.

    Seeking a better way, the firm's Superannuation & Insurance practice approached Emsley and his team, asking whether it could create a database where they could establish a register of policies and key policy conditions that could be maintained and used in the initial triage process.

    On closer examination they saw an opportunity to apply artificial intelligence in solving the problem.   

    “We were able to design an AI-based solution that could ingest hundreds of complex policy documents and endorsements, extract the key terms and conditions that directly influenced a clients claim, and surface that information as a searchable index that can be included in the initial client triage process,” Emsley explains.

    “The AI engine uses natural language processing and key phrases to extract the relevant terms and tabulated coverage data, overlayed with any post-policy endorsements, to provide an accurate assessment of our clients entitlements.

    "Using this tool, our staff can simply enter the name of the superannuation fund and the date of the client’s event to see all relevant policy and coverage conditions at the time of that event, and relay this with confidence to the client on their first call."

    The Superannuation & Insurance team is now able to deliver in minutes something that could previously take as long as six weeks, transforming the client experience and significantly reducing the time to realise their claim.

    Digital enablement

    MB has embarked on a major business transformation that has digital at its core, leading the way from a legacy-centric model to a cloud-native world, Emsley says. 

    A strong focus on digital enablement and process and capability development across the organisation is enshrined in three core pillars:

    • Modern digital foundations defines progression to modular cloud platforms and open architectures that allow rapidly configuration and evolve the technology base to meet the needs of the business.
    • Information fuelled intelligence places data and information as a critical enabling capability in the digital journey, that creates an intelligent enterprise and fosters business innovation.
    • Future fit with purpose establishes the need to develop the digital talent, skills and capabilities that contribute to meeting digital business ambitions. It includes the adoption of best practices around agile, devops and cybersecurity, as well as SFIA for digital talent management and career development.

    “All of our operational planning activities and initiatives are linked to these three pillars so that we can demonstrate how we are populating our end-state vision and contributing value to the organisation,” Emsley says. He adds that the model provides a framework to “simplify the narrative” with business stakeholders presenting complex technology concepts in ways  the business can understand and consume. 

    Emsley and his tech team now engage more deeply and frequently with executive leadership teams than ever before. 

    Quarterly updates are delivered to divisional and shared-services leadership forums, allowing for engagement with the next levels within the organisation.

    “In addition, fortnightly meetings with my deputy CEO and bi-monthly meetings with the CEO ensure that we remain in-sync and aligned around priorities, as well as maintaining their support and advocacy for our program,” Emsley notes.

    Rising cyber security risks have reinforced the wisdom of this greater engagement, with Emsley now meeting with the MB board bi-annually and quarterly with the audit and risk sub-committee to demonstrate the strategies and initiatives put in place to continually progress maturity in this area.

    “This provides the ability to have a risk-based conversation at the board level to assist them in developing an understanding of technology risks and the approaches to mitigate those risks,” he explains.

    David Binning

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