Holding a BSc in Zoology from the University of Reading (1990 to 1993) and an MBA from the University of Kent (2000 to 2001), Dave Priestly’s previous have included Senior Corporate Underwriter for Norwich Union and UK Sales Director at CIGNA Healthcare.
Priestley started with Vitality early on as a Sales Director for a joint project launched between South African company Discovery Ltd and the US-based Prudential Ltd. Now in his 16th year at Vitality - taking on the role of CDO in 2017 - Priestley says that what inspired him about the organisation was its aspiration to do something fundamentally different within insurance. “The industry had remained relatively unchanged for a long time,” he recalls. “It was an uninspiring marketplace really with very similar product offerings. When I joined the company it was clear right away that it had a very different proposition for health insurance.” That proposition was integrating insurance with the wellness industry, something which he remarks has started to scale exponentially since 2004. “Now, almost all of the players in the market have some kind of wellness component in their proposition. However, at the time, I would say we were amongst the first to introduce it.”
The evolution of technology is another key development that Priestley has observed, specifically the ability to monitor peoples’ health remotely, conduct video consultations, utilise AI-powered diagnosis tools, symptom checkers and more. Far from being simply restricted to a GP surgery or hospital, modern healthcare can be brought directly to people’s homes and the insurance industry has followed suit. The balance in incorporating these exciting new possibilities at Vitality, he continues, lies in the unification of its digital and overall business strategies. “It's less about delivering a digital strategy in isolation and more about considering how the digital team can support the company in achieving its goals.”
Although 2020 has been a catalyst year for change across so many aspects of life globally, Vitality retains the same level of commitment to making people healthier that it always has. There can be no mistake: the insurance industry is changing, with or without COVID-19, but the desire for digital transformation which the pandemic’s restrictions have introduced is here to stay. “Things will be different to how they were,” says Priestley. “For Vitality, that's a good thing because we’ve always thrived on evolution.” When asked to summarise what has enabled him to spearhead such a successful digital-business strategy, he emphasises that customer-centricity is always at the forefront of his mind and always yields the best results. “People always show a lot of interest in talking about particular technologies, but what's more important is focusing on how to support customers to achieve their goals. That’s what keeps Vitality so grounded.” Ultimately, Vitality demonstrates that an insurance company’s worth is derived from its ability to improve the quality of its customers’ lives and devoting itself wholeheartedly to that goal. “If you just concentrate on trying to deliver value for your customers and creating an exceptional experience, more often than not, you're going to do the right thing.”