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Inside AIA’s cloud adoption journey

The Hong Kong-based multinational insurance firm has moved 86% of its IT infrastructure to public cloud to drive growth, productivity and efficiency

Insurance firms tend be slower than others in embracing public cloud services, but not for AIA, a Hong Kong-based multinational insurance firm with a presence in 18 markets across Asia.

The company has migrated a majority of its business workloads to the cloud and through its cloud-first programme, it has implemented higher security standards and tapped newer technologies to improve controls, enabling it to scale its applications on-demand to achieve 1.3 billion policy transactions per month.

Underpinning AIA’s cloud strategy is its Technology, Digital and Analytics (TDA) initiative to drive growth, productivity and efficiency in areas such as customer engagement and lead generation, among others.

Vikas Bhandari, AIA’s director of group engineering and delivery for cloud and infrastructure, said the plan was to turn the insurer into a digital customer focused insurance company that leverages artificial intelligence (AI), analytics and other digital capabilities to respond faster to business needs.

Doing so, he said, would require a new technology foundation, prompting the insurer to move all x86 open systems to the cloud and eliminate the use of technologies that were reaching end-of-life in its technology stack. Today, just under 8% of those legacy technologies remain in use.

Bhandari said the fact that AIA was already running modern applications in its on-premise private cloud datacentres made it easier for the company to move workloads to public cloud without making changes in their underlying infrastructure. “For everything else, there was a lot of re-platforming where we moved away from databases running on VMs to PaaS [platform-as-a-service] services.”

Like many large enterprises, AIA has a multicloud strategy with Microsoft Azure as its main cloud supplier in most markets, except in China where it uses Alibaba Cloud. In choosing a public cloud supplier, the company considers factors such as regulatory requirements in various markets and whether a workload is fit for purpose for a particular cloud.

To mitigate any downtime that could impact its services, AIA architects its systems in a way that leverages multiple cloud availability zones and regions. While some supplier lock-in is expected, it minimises the risks of being too dependent on a single cloud supplier by tapping a wide range of open source technologies, including the Kubernetes container orchestration platform, beyond the Azure services it uses, Bhandari said.

The availability of talent and skills is key to the success of any cloud programme, which AIA recognised early on by training its people on new processes, technologies and ways of working. The company not only worked with a platform called Cloud Academy to train some 600 technology employees on cloud skills, but also built its own certification programmes to upskill its people.

At the same time, it relooked its processes to improve agility, employing automation and self-service capabilities to help project teams efficiently deploy infrastructure by leveraging infrastructure as code. It is also moving towards DevSecOps by integrating security into its development and deployment processes, Bhandari said.

AIA is already reaping dividends from its move to cloud. With over 86% of its IT infrastructure in the public cloud, it has gained about 195% growth in its technology capacity while improving cost efficiency by 18.5% compared to running legacy infrastructure.

Its re-designed claims processes have also resulted in faster and more cashless settlements with 63% of claims settled on the same day as submission, and 93% of claims paid digitally across the company.

“We are probably one of the leading enterprises in the insurance space with our level of cloud adoption,” Bhandari said. “The last two to three years was about getting into cloud with a defined programme and moving forward, we are looking to mature in how we operate in cloud, so there will be a lot of focus on FinOps and operational optimisation.”

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