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Digital Dynamic Application:

An Insurance Advisor Tool



Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash


The digital application that Manulife advisors use to create and submit insurance applications for their clients was being retired. A new application had been launched. To ensure a smooth, seamless transition from old application to new, the team recognized that it was essential to engage with insurance advisors to learn about their experiences with both applications. This would allow us to ensure that any features that advisors loved about the old application​ were retained in the new, and any features that advisors didn't like about the old or new application were adjusted or removed at the next launch to better meet their needs. 

My Role 

I worked closely with the Project Owner, UX Design Lead, and UX Director, to learn about the project background and goals; this informed development of a comprehensive research plan. I also coordinated access to a previously inaccessible audience of insurance advisors and their assistants. I developed all communications to potential participants, scheduled and conducted in-depth interviews, and directed the data analysis and synthesis. I also compiled all insights into a report that was widely shared throughout the organization.


Prior to this project, the Canadian Human Centred Design (HCD) team had been denied by the business multiple times from engaging directly with insurance advisors for research purposes. The reason that was provided was that insurance advisors were too busy and did not want to talk to us. The HCD team had also never previously been able to develop reliable channels to connect with the advisors' marketing assistants for research purposes - these were people essential support roles in the insurance business, who aided in inputting and coordinating applications for their advisors and often had more direct experience working with Manulife's digital tools than the advisors themselves. 


Because insurance advisors and their assistants are not reliably represented in the panel of participants on, this posed a significant barrier to gaining the required insights for improving the digital application experience. To overcome this, I worked with the Project Owner and Director of Sales to understand the reservations around contacting advisors directly, and eventually secured their buy-in to reach out to a select segment of advisors in a controlled way that would ensure advisors were not contacted repeatedly in future - one of the primary concerns of the business. As a result, I developed a small panel of approximately 40 insurance advisors that I personally managed to ensure research-related requests were spread out evenly among panelists to avoid over-asking them for participation.


Budget was also a challenge as there was no reserve to provide a financial incentive for participants, so we had to rely on those who did respond to our recruitment call to participate on a voluntary basis. Finally, since the research was conducted in the early summer, there were also some delays in scheduling the interviews with participants, which delayed the research by a few weeks. Our team had a sense that this may occur, so we had budgeted extra time in our timeline and communicated regularly with the project team and stakeholders about our status to ensure transparency in the process.


This research included a multi-phase recruitment process that began with a "call to action" email sent from insurance wholsalers to select insurance advisors, asking them to complete a short survey about their recent experiences with both old and new digital applications. In this survey respondents were asked to identify their role, provide some brief information about what they liked and disliked about either application, and indicate if they would be open to scheduling a 45-minute in-depth interview to provide further details about their experiences. 


We received over 40 responses to the survey, and ultimately scheduled 9, in-depth interviews with insurance advisors and 2 interviews with marketing assistants.


42 surveys provided basic details about application experiences and enabled participants to opt-in for an interview

In-Depth Advisor Interviews

11 participants in total (9x advisors, 2x marketing assistants) were interviewed about their experiences with the digital applications

Digital Probes

During the interview, participants shared screen and walked through the application process, live, to demonstrate pros and cons


After analysis of the data, a comprehensive insights report was created to highlight areas for improvement in the digital application experience across four categories: A, B, C, D. In addition, I developed a design task list to communicate the specific items that required attention within the application; this helped stakeholders kick-start the task of prioritizing actions to improve the overall user experience.


This research provided insight into advisor experiences that had not previously been explored, and enabled data-driven design improvements that simplified the digital application process.


More broadly, the positive response from advisors and marketing assistants during these research sessions has prompted a change in the business's mindset when it comes to engaging directly with insurance advisors and their teams. Almost all participants told us - unprompted - how happy they were to be included in the feedback sessions, and all participants indicated they would be open to participating in similar sessions in the future. This has had a ripple effect across the business, and the HCD has consistently been getting requests to include advisors in the research process to ensure we're solving the right problem and getting feedback from the right users.


Recently, I met with one of the participants from this project for a different research session; he indicated that the reason he was so quick to participate in the new session was because he saw how quickly we had taken action on the pain points he indicated in 2023 with the digital application. This improved his daily work experience but also elevated his belief that the company took his concerns seriously and was genuinely looking to support him in his business. 


Since joining the team, I had been consistently told that it was not possible to speak directly with the advisors for our research purposes. Getting access to them and their marketing assistants was a huge win, and was made possible by a coordinated approach by me and my team to gain a deeper understanding about why there was resistance to providing us access in the first place. Once we had better knowledge of the risks involved in working directly with advisors: fear of them being contacted too frequently and getting upset at the company, and fear that we would be setting an expectation that all their feedback would be immediately incorporated into the designs, we were able to provide greater transparency into our process and establish an approach that would mitigate those risks. Gaining buy-in from stakeholders to carry out this research took some time but the value of the insights we've gained from the effort has been significant: it has caused a shift in how this research is perceived by the business teams, and has organically built more company-wide trust in the HCD process.

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