Get to know the judges: Nick Astwick

Seven leading experts have joined the judging panel for C-Prize 2017. We’ve asked each of them the same five questions, so that you can get to know them better.

Nick Astwick is the Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Cross Health Society. As a former COO of Kiwibank, he has more than 20 years’ experience in financial services. Nick was one of the Kiwibank team behind the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator, a three-month business growth programme in the financial technology sector, and is delighted to be on the judging panel for this year’s C-Prize. 

  • Why is your organisation involved?

Southern Cross is a customer driven organisation, so we’re driven to meet the needs and expectations of our members and customers. And like most markets, customer expectations are rapidly changing, largely due to the diffusion of data and digital technology. To us, the C-Prize provides us with an opportunity to join up with a fantastic incubator environment to enable new wearable tech propositions.

While we operate in the health insurance market we are actually in the business of health assurance.  We are in the business of assuring Kiwis of their health and wellbeing. Working with innovators to achieve this outcome is a core part of our strategy. We're also seeing a lot more people who want to take accountability for their health and wellbeing – there is a growing market demand for it, and its where our members are expecting us to play, so this is an obvious fit.

  • What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about entering this competition?

The first bit of advice is, if you're thinking about doing it, do it! Mainly because, through Callaghan, you’ll have incredible access to specialists, frameworks, other entrants, and health research centres, and all in a supportive environment, purpose-built to help you. Ideas are one thing but actually partnering with people who know how to bring them to life is pretty priceless!

The second piece of advice I’d offer is be sure that you have a clear vision of the problem you want to solve, and then, keep that the proposition brutally simple. If you can't very quickly explain what you're solving for, then the solution will soon become too complex. Related to that, don’t just look at this as a tech problem – think about your ultimate customers, and the problem or value you’re delivering for them. This should be the north star that guides the innovation.

  • How do you think NZ stacks up internationally on the development of wearable tech?

I know that there's lots of wearables research out there, but my impression is that as a market in NZ, it is still in the earliest stages. We don't develop a lot of wearable health tech ourselves – most of it comes from overseas. Even then, it’s often technology looking for an application, rather than us looking for problems that need to be solved and then asking how technology can help? The genesis of Sir Paul Callaghan’s thinking was that while we need multiple verticals that scale globally, we must be very clear and discrete about the problems we can solve, and be very smart about how we deploy our solutions. Ultimately, I think this could be a wonderful opportunity for New Zealanders to lead health tech propositions.

  • What impact do you hope (or think) that wearables could have on life in New Zealand?

Our vision at Southern Cross is to build a healthier society and data and digital propositions could help us to deliver that. So, while we're not directly in the business of wearables, it is in the insight that they produce and then how this translates into propositions that assure and empower our members and customers that their health and wellbeing is being looked after. Wearables have a role to play in empowering people, which can ultimately lead to a healthier New Zealand. Consumers want to understand their health better, so health tech is riding a favourable wave. But, the question will always be, is this a nice-to-have accessory, or does it influence my decisions? That’s ultimately what wearable health technology must do to be transformative.

Recording my heart rate might be useful, but the real power of wearables will come when they are augmented to provide advice which is highly personalised and relevant. At some future point, I might have a wearable that collects data on my health, as well as sensors that monitor the environment around me. Combined with screening that lets me understand my genetic makeup and my predispositions, I could receive personalised health advice based on real science!

  • What excites you most about this competition?

Fundamentally, I'm fascinated to see what ideas the entrants will come up with and in particular understanding their mind-set; how they think and innovate in order to push the innovation boundary.

As a customer-driven business, it’s our job to constantly reinvent ourselves in response to customer need. Working with people from outside, looking at opportunities from a different perspective is what excites me.