Sun Life Introduces Intelligent Digital Coach ‘Ella’ for Clients

Sun Life marked a Canadian life insurance industry first with rolling out Ella: a friendly, interactive digital coach for the company’s clients.

The smart yet caring persona integrates with Google Home and uses advanced analytics and big data to help clients get the most out of their benefits and pension plans. Ella was built on Sun Life’s Digital Benefits Assistant, a client engagement platform launched in 2016.

In a demonstration at Sun Life’s new global HQ in Toronto’s financial district, the digital coach was asked for a status on a claim. Ella politely replied, providing the asker with an update.

Alice Thomas, Sun Life’s chief digital technology officer, explained how Ella also prompts clients about their healthcare spending and wellness accounts.

“The whole idea is to be helpful. A lot of people don’t know what their balance is. You might have $500 in your massage therapy account, and you spent $200. Wouldn’t it be great if you could talk to Ella and say, ‘Hey, what’s the balance on my massage therapy?’ She can tell you that you have $300 left,” said Thomas.

Leveraging analytics, Ella learns client behaviour and makes suggestions to clients, whether that’s a credit that could expire or that an employer will match an RRSP fund.

Thomas also explained that Ella will learn patterns, evolving over time through artificial intelligence to become more interactive. She used the example that Ella may pull up an address for an optometrist near a client’s home if that client is likely to use coverage for new eyewear.

“Just think of all the things we could do. We know who you are, you are asking questions, we can connect the dots for you,” said Thomas.

Knowing that personal finance can be difficult to navigate, Ella also keeps an eye on clients’ insurance plans, offering smart suggestions after learning a client needs and options.

“Clients–all of us–want only the information we need, when we need it and through the channel of our choice. Ella was developed to respond to that need,” said Dave Jones, senior vice-president of Group Benefits at Sun Life. “She will help you get the most value possible from your plan, so you don’t leave money on the table, make the smartest decision with your health benefits dollars, and get the coverage that’s right for you.”

The technology is currently available online to Sun Life clients and soon will be available through the insurance company’s mobile app.