LV= turns crisis into advantage with agile product development

We helped LV= create an MVP for a blended retirement solution in just 7 months, allowing the company to get a head start over rivals, establish market dominance, and fully integrate agile practices across the organisation.

  • Fully-functioning solution delivered in 7 months

  • LV= brings to market a seamless suite of IFA offerings, one year ahead of competitors

  • Zühlke collaboration translates business needs into technical solutions

Finding opportunity during a crisis

LV= is a UK-based insurance company that serves 5.7 million customers with a range of financial products. In 2014, the company faced unprecedented uncertainty when the rules governing UK pensions changed, plunging the financial services industry into turmoil.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that people would no longer be required to buy an annuity and instead have greater flexibility in accessing their pensions. LV= urgently needed to find another way of doing business, identifying opportunities to sell new products to new and emerging markets.

‘When the dust cleared, we saw that LV= was in a potentially strong place’, explains Richard Warner, COO at LV=. ‘We were one of the few companies to have a wide variety of “at retirement” products such as enhanced annuity, drawdown, and equity release schemes. The snag was, they had been developed as standalone products, not a unique set of single-stop solutions’.

Richard Warner
' We needed to find a way of presenting these options in one easy-to-understand platform. This was a hugely attractive goal. Get it right, and we could offer independent financial advisors [IFAs] instant access to a unique suite of solutions at a time of unprecedented uncertainty. '
Richard Warner
COO at LV=

LV= needed to deliver a new product platform to a fixed deadline, but the precise set of requirements was very unclear. The only certainty was that the waterfall software delivery methodology, traditionally employed by LV=, simply wouldn’t work in this scenario. It was too slow and ponderous to meet the immutable timeline. Agile product development was the only viable option.

Achieving this ambitious objective called for the support of an expert partner with a proven track record in agile delivery. A partner who could also lead by example and inspire cultural change within the LV= delivery teams. That chosen partner was Zühlke.

Embracing the agile product development approach

With the support of LV=’s CIO and senior leadership, a dedicated agile delivery team, combining Zühlke experts and LV= personnel, was formed in LV=’s Hitchin office. 

Agile delivery is based upon the principle of creating a working set of functions in a number of discrete and focused ‘sprints’. The working functions are then presented to business customers in ‘show and tell’ sessions. These sessions are a prime opportunity to share – at a very formative stage – the work produced by the project team. They also elicit vital feedback which helps to keep the project on track for delivery against clear business objectives.

Right from the start, it was agreed that this Hitchin-based team must be fully empowered and very inclusive. All stakeholders – from the IT areas right across to the business functions – were given a powerful voice at every stage of the process. 

Led by a product owner – the ‘ringmaster’ responsible for taking decisions and making statements about the project’s scope and criteria – and coached by our agile experts, the team’s first goal was to create the ‘walking skeleton’. Effectively, this was a top line representation of the end product which the team would ultimately deliver.

By agreeing on the scope of the project, the team could then create a list of prioritised requirements – the product backlog. While the ‘walking skeleton’ was being constructed, the working environment was being finalised. At the same time, our team delivered initial workshops which introduced LV= to SCRUM, the agile methodology that was used extensively to drive the project forward.

Agile team discussing a project

Agile development and technical know-how drive tangible impact

The pensions industry had just a few months to adapt to a radical set of new rules. LV= not only met this deadline but also created the first blended retirement solution supported by a bespoke ‘Retirement View’ platform.

‘Retirement View’ provided a super-flexible architecture – a versatile framework to support the company and its many thousands of IFAs for years to come. That is the lasting legacy of this project.

With Zühlke’s help, LV= got at least a 6 months’ head start over competitors, and an internal audit revealed that this development has delivered the highest ROI of any LV= project at the time.

growth and success ladder conceptual visualisation
' This project had an immediate impact on sales performance. Instead of single sales for isolated products, we were now getting multiple sales of connected products. But the benefits are much more than bottom-line. There has always been a healthy relationship and mutual respect between the business and technology areas but now this bond has grown even closer. '
Gavin Drescher
IT Director at LV=

Agile methodologies are now a central pillar of the company’s development culture and Zühlke was the catalyst that helped raise the profile of internal development and delivery. In some respects, this is a greater and more valuable contribution than any bottom-line consideration, as Gavin explains:

‘Zühlke brought the shrewd business management skills needed to translate needs into technical solutions. They looked beyond pure applications development to enabled us to build and create a new, bespoke environment. And they delivered it extremely quickly – speed was a key consideration'.

active business colleagues working together
' Zühlke showed us new, agile ways of approaching problems and building solutions. It was really inspirational. They were definitely the catalyst for change and this was possibly even more valuable than their technical skillsets. '
Gavin Drescher
IT Director at LV=
Contact person for United Kingdom

Maurice Roach

Managing Director Financial Services UK

As the Managing Director for the UK Financial Services, Maurice leads a team of talented consultants, engineers, and designers who deliver customer-centric digital products for ambitious clients in the financial sector. Maurice has over 20 years of experience across the entire range of the digital delivery domain, from design and development, server builds and cloud engineering, UX, team leadership, and programme delivery.

Maurice is dedicated to helping financial service providers transform and grow by leveraging data, technology, and design thinking. He is passionate about creating innovative, customer-centric digital solutions, solving real problems for real users.

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