Celebrating partnership

Telesure Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd, is the holding company of some of South Africa’s leading financial service providers. Their portfolio includes short-term insurers, a long-term insurer, health insurance as well as an insurance and  personal finance comparison platform. Their origins go back to 1 June 1985, when Auto & General Insurance was launched to the South African market.

They have since grown into a group of subsidiaries that includes some of South Africa’s most loved and recognisable brands including: Dial Direct, 1Life, Verseker, Auto & General, Hippo, Budget Insurance and First for Women as well as world renowned property developments including Steyn City and the Saxon.

When Retro Rabbit started working for Telesure in 2015 they were a direct to consumer brand that relied heavily on call centers to market, sell and service their customers. Their digital channels were used purely as a marketing and branding tool, with a big focus on lead generation, content management and search
engine optimisation. This strategy set them apart from the other major short term insurance brands in South Africa who were mostly selling their products and servicing customers through brokers and financial intermediaries.

In 2013, recognising the potential that new web and mobile technologies brought to the table, Telesure embarked on an audacious project to launch a completely digital insurance product where the whole customer journey can be fulfilled online all the way from lead generation, through to onboarding, self service and even claims. By the time Retro Rabbit was engaged, this project was 2 years in the making, already behind schedule and fraught with issues, clunky user experiences and stability issues.

Retro Rabbit was pulled in with the mission to get the solution into production, in other words to fix the remaining issues and stabilise the system.

After two weeks of long hours from an experienced Retro team we notified the client that the front end bugs and issues they were experiencing were due to core design and architecture mistakes and that in our opinion the solution cannot go live without major rework. The legacy back end systems were simply not designed to be used in the way the development team integrated it into the front end. This
news was not received well by the client and it ended the initial engagement with Retro.

Telesure’s internal team continued to battle for another 2 months before they conceded and came back to Retro with a mandate to take the system to production within 4 months. To achieve this mandate we were provided complete freedom to  redesign and rebuild everything from the integration layer to the front end user experience. This resulted in the successful delivery of the Dial Direct online web portal, featuring state of the art middleware built by Retro to bring legacy terminal systems into the cloud and open up a whole new era of digital channel development at Telesure.

The success of this project opened many more doors in Telesure and we are now celebrating 7 years of partnership, where we continuously help them to re-envision the user experience and keep them on the forefront of relevant new technology.

In the two years before Retro was working at Telesure, they struggled to build and release a single digital channel, in the two years after Retro joined we have successfully taken implemented digital channels for all of their biggest brands including:

  • Auto&General
  • Dial Direct
  • First or Women
  • Virseker
  • Budget Insurance
  • Hippo Insurance
  • 1Life

Telesure is now one of the leading digital insurance providers in South Africa, with the majority of new customers being onboarded through digital channels and a significant portion of self service requests and claims handled through either the  app or web solution built by Retro Rabbit. Telesure’s success has been recognised and celebrated widely through numerous awards and recognitions including: highest ranked financial services app in South Africa and Consumer Product of the year award in 2019.

Since then...

Since the initial success of the rebuild and launch of the Dial Direct online portal, Retro Rabbit has become a trusted partner in Telesure's ever evolving digitisation journey. Our teams are constantly working with the client to continue to monitor, analyse and improve the user experience as well as rolling out new products and solutions. Some notable projects that we've been engaged in at Telesure include the digitisation of all Telesure's major short term insurance brands. This included building out all web and mobile user interfaces and integrating them into the legacy back end systems:

Re-engineering of Hippo - a personal finance and insurance aggregation and comparison platform.

Dial Direct telematics app
Retro Rabbit was tasked with designing, building, launching and support for the dial direct telematics app.

This driver behaviour platform uses phone sensors to create real-time driver profiles. These profiles are used to reward safe drivers and provide customised  improvement prompts to poor drivers. In 2022 the app logged an astonishing 10 million trips, which provided invaluable data and insight to Telesure. The app also won the accolades for being the highest rated financial services app with a 4.8 average rating across appstores. In 2019 it also won the prestigious product of   award in South Africa.

First for Women mobile app
Retro Rabbit was tasked with designing, building, launching and support for the First for women mobile app

The app started off as a simple mobile website and through continuous
improvements it evolved into one of the most comprehensive self service mobile applications on the market which included groundbreaking functionalities such as automatic crash detection through Telematics, “Uber”-like Roadside assistance, Straight through claims processing and rewards management.

Telesure assessor app
Retro Rabbit was tasked with designing, building, launching and support for the Telesure assessor app.

This app enables assessors to gather photo and video evidence of the vehicles related to an insurance claim. This data is integrated into a web portal that is accessible by both assessors and call center agents. This data is not only used for claims processing but also used to detect and reduce fraud.

Project Con-fusion
The project will form the backbone of all future sales channels for Telesure’s short term insurance brands. Its aim is to codify all shared brand rules into an easily manageable, configurable platform that can serve frontend and front end business rules across all brands. This product will be key to the maintainability of the Telesure brands in the next 5 years.

Challenges faced

A brief look into the biggest obstacles we encountered and how we overcame them.

Legacy systems

Legacy systems were not built for modern web applications and extensive work had to be done to enable their functionality to be exposed through mobile applications and web portals. These systems were typically green screen terminals  for single user access and therefore had significant performance/latency issues and data integrity issues when used in a concurrent/multi-user environment.

Integrating unconnected systems

The client had numerous unconnected systems, which needed to work together in harmony to perform the tasks required by the digital channels. Single user requests could require coordination and orchestration between multiple unconnected systems. Integrating these systems were hampered by fragmented data silos, resulting in no simple way of establishing a single view of the truth.

Antiquated infrastructure

On premise infrastructure of the client was unstable and unsuitable for a modern web application. Consumers expect online solutions to be responsive and available 24/7/365. A huge amount of work had to be done to change Telesure’s mindset from hosting and maintaining all infrastructure themselves to a cloud environment where everything is managed and controlled by a third party.

Security and information privacy

Security and information privacy is always at the forefront of challenges that need to be resolved when building digital channels. When launching a new self service portal you introduce a large amount of risk by potentially opening up data that was  inaccessible or locked up in some obscure back end system.

User expectations

User expectations for digital channels are extremely high. They are accustomed to slick, decluttered user interfaces which are fast, stable and secure. They have very  appreciation for the complexity of the task they are about to perform and want a consistent experience regardless of size of data or the number of interconnected systems required to perform said task. This user expectation has been continuously reinforced by their interactions with global online brands such as Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Results Achieved

Successfully designed, built and launched 7 digital channels in a span of 2 years.

Dial+ Direct was the fist shot term insurer in South Africa to offer end to end online sales though their web portal. They were also first in  launching fully online self service functionality which includes claims submission, claims tracking, document submission and management. Another first to market was their telematics app which won over consumers' trust with its rewards and cash back features.

The digital channels are now Telesure’s primacy channel for lead generation, customer onboarding and self service. On average the channels have led to a reduction of more than 5000 call center interactions per day. Significantly improving the efficiency and bottom line of the client.

The Telesure digital channel technology stack built by Retro is one of the most stable and best performing tech stacks in the insurance industry in SA, with some
notable technical achievements listed below:

  • 100k Unique visitors per month
  • 10k Interactions per hour
  • 10 Critical threats stopped per month
  • Fewer severs needed: Significant reduction in load on legacy systems. 98% of requests that would historically have been serviced by the legacy systems are served from cache. This leads to direct savings in terms of infrastructure requirements and licensing cost.
  • Bandwidth saved: Significant reduction in bandwidth usage on the client’s infrastructure. Monthly on premise bandwidth usage were reduced from >100GB to less than 1GB per month.
Retro Rabbit’s services are technology agnostic which means that they are able to provide services on various platforms or technologies. I can attest to the quality and professionalism of their services throughout our continued engagement. I am completely satisfied with the cohesion of the Retro Rabbit personnel within our team as well as the level of knowledge sharing and contextual input provided to our personnel and projects. I can confidently recommend the consideration of Retro Rabbit’s services.

Grant Robins
Digital Development Manager
Telesure Investment Holdings

About the author

Theo Crous profile picture

Theo Crous

Theo Crous

I co-founded Retro Rabbit in 2003 with my university friends. In my spare time I like to raise my two kids, drink wine, hit the mountain bike trails and learn how to sail with my beautiful wife. Read more from Theo Crous...