FIS Fintech Founder Feature | With Nicholas Piel of Surfly

Posted on September 2, 2020
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Editor’s Note: The 2020 FIS Fintech Accelerator features ten high-potential emerging fintech companies from around the world. Through the accelerator program, FIS explores these companies as potential partners to help how the world pays, banks and invests, and founders have a unique chance to grow their businesses everywhere in the world. Today, we’d like you to meet Nicholas Piel with Surfly. Learn more about the cohort at

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It’s All About How You Finish

By Nicholas Piël, Founder + CEO, Surfly

At the end of March, the world was trying to understand how COVID-19 would impact our personal and professional lives. Just after FIS and The Venture Center selected Surfly to be part of the 2020 FIS Fintech Accelerator, I began to see a drastic uptick in companies turning toward technology to quickly solve all the new challenges they faced as a result of Covid-19. My biggest concern was these companies would focus on technology for “quick fixes” without thinking about a long term strategic impact for their businesses. I published an article on LinkedIn sharing my thoughts, which came down to this: the race to add technology that solves these unprecedented issues is a marathon, not a sprint.

Here at Surfly, we provide co-browsing and video chat technology to over 90,000 users worldwide. So when the global lockdown began, we had a front-row seat to this fundamental shift in customer support, as well as a firsthand view of how different companies were tackling other challenges. From AXA, one of the world’s largest insurers, to Suitsupply, a global retailer, and many companies in between, we saw a variety of customer journeys, use cases, and technology solutions used to digitize and rapidly transform the customer experience. Below are a few things I learned.

Don’t Overthink It

For most companies established in the last 20 years, digitizing systems and processes haven’t been an issue. They started up in a time when there were inexpensive, easy to use, off the shelf digital tools and platforms that could help them run every part of their businesses seamlessly. There was no need to build in-house tools, and with the introduction of “the cloud,” there was no need for capital investment in robust technical infrastructures. When the world went into lockdown, many of these companies already had a digital customer journey that supported both remote employees and customers. These digitally native businesses were more about building an infrastructure to support a fully remote workforce with tools that already existed to support remote customers.

But for companies that have been around longer, or are part of industries that have particular security and compliance regulations to follow (e.g., Insurance, Financial Services, Healthcare), the road to digitalization proved to be much steeper. Whether it was legacy systems that didn’t talk to each other, technology built in-house, or a combination of the two, progress was slow. “Digitization” has been the buzzword in analyst reports across industries like Insurance and Financial Services over the past decade. While most companies in these industries have plans in place, they tend to stretch over five to seven years. So what happens when it needs to happen in five months?

Don’t Overdo It

Even though you may feel the need to rush, it’s important to distinguish between action and results. Moving fast is important, but not at the expense of your overall customer journey or your business’s overall success. Most companies devote quite a bit of time to mapping out the customer journey and integrating it with various technologies to make it as seamless as possible. And if it was working well before COVID-19, how do you justify tearing it down and starting from scratch?

This was the case for AXA in Singapore. Before COVID-19, when an agent wanted to sign a new customer, it happened in person. The tools the agent and customer used to customize the policy, sign it, and make the initial payment were all digital but executed in person and side-by-side. This journey worked, both for the customer and the agent and especially in high-value transactions. But the lockdown made this impossible and required a quick pivot to digital to service customers effectively. Instead of completely changing the customer journey, AXA realized they could add a co-browsing component to the flow and keep the customer journey the same.

Keep It Simple

Keeping it simple has been my most important lesson from the last months of seeing different companies try to improve their customer journey to a fully-remote, digital experience: keep it simple.

The companies who were most successful in improving their customer journeys were not the ones who tried to take a three-year digitization project and do it all in five months.

Instead, they focused on the core pieces of their journey that were essential to success, pinpointed the easiest technical solution, and then implemented it. This allowed them to enhance a journey their customer was already used to, instead of asking customers (and agents) to learn a new way to interact with them. It kept customers happy while giving those same companies time to implement broader changes in a more measured and thoughtful way.

The End of the Race 

We’ve all heard the saying: it’s now how you start a race, but how you finish. And it holds especially true today. No one knows what new challenges companies (and people) will face in the year ahead, or even the next quarter. We will likely be asked to continue to adapt and change the way we work and interact with our customers. That is why we cannot look to the process of digitization as a quick sprint – it truly is a marathon, with the winners able to make quick, in-race adjustments that keep them moving toward the finish line.