Insurance technology: is this very conservative industry finally ready for its close-up?

I’ve worked with insurance clients for a long time, first helping them with automation in their underwriting, policy administration and claims processes, and now helping them with digital transformation to create new business models and platforms. One thing that has always struck me is how behind the time most insurance companies are: usually old companies (by today’s standards), they trend far on the conservative end of the business and technology innovation scale. However, new entrants to the market have been stirring the pot for a couple of years – such as Lemonade for the urban consumer property insurance market – and it seems that everywhere I look, there’s something popping up about innovation in insurance.

Capgemini has a significant insurance practice, and writes an annual World Insurance Report that is about to be updated for 2018; a couple of their consultants write about different aspects of how insurance is changing and the technology enabling that change. They’ve just started a three-part series on the insurance customer of the future, which echoes some of the points that I made in my recent post on the Alfresco blog about transforming insurance with cloud BPM, and although they use the apocryphal “millennial” definition to describe who these customers are in their first post, they point out four main characteristics:

  • Smart shoppers
  • Lower loyalty
  • Self-centred
  • Caring consumers – which appears contrary to the previous point, but check out their post for a description

They have another post on how new InsurTech models can decrease risk for the insurer, which explains more about the social risk pool models that are used by companies like Lemonade, and how risk can be proactively mitigated through the use of connected devices.

We’re also seeing platform innovation for some insurers, such as Liberty Mutual moving their documents to Alfresco on AWS cloud. As I’ve experienced for many years, just getting insurance companies to move from paper to digital files can provide huge operational benefits, and moving those files to the cloud allows a global insurer to allow access wherever required. There are a lot of regulatory issues with data sovereignty, that is, where the content is actually stored and what laws/regulations apply to it because of that, but the vendors are starting to solve those problems with regional data centers and secure, encrypted transport. With digital content comes the issue of digital preservation, which John Mancini on the AIIM blog points out is a big issue for financial and insurance companies because of the typically long time span that they are dealing with customers: consider that a personal injury insurance claim can go on for years, requiring that all documents be retained for future review. After hearing about one former insurance customer of mine that had a flood in their basement storage, destroying years of customer files, I wished that they had decided to move a bit faster on my advice about digital documents.

Cutting edge technologies such as blockchain are also getting into the insurance mix: blockchain can be used to show proof of insurance, improve transparency and reduce risk of fraud, and speed up claims with smart contracts. I can also imagine that as cars get smarter and insurance companies can tie in directly to the on-board systems, there may be less opportunity for auto repair shop fraud, which reduces overall costs to the insurer and consumer.

If you work in insurance and know that you’re behind the curve, there are a lot of things that you can do to help bring yourself into at least the last century, if not this one:

  • Convert all of your files to digital format at the front end of the process, that is, when they arrive (or are created). This will allow you to automatically extract data from the files, which can then be used for classifying and routing content as it arrives. Files can now be shared by anyone who needs to see them, and there will be no piles of completed documents/files waiting to be scanned at the end of a process. This is a big cultural shift as your workers move from working on paper to working on the screen, but if you give them a couple of big screens and a properly-designed workspace, it can be just as productive as paper.
  • With all of your content arriving in digital form, or being converted to digital immediately on arrival, you can now automate your processes:
    • New policy application? Look up any previous information for this customer, create a new business case, and route to the appropriate underwriter if required. If this is a simple policy, such as consumer renter insurance, it can usually be automatically adjudicated and issued immediately.
    • Policy changes? Extract information from the policy administration system, classify the type of change, and either complete the change automatically or forward to a policy administration clerk.
    • A first notice of loss arriving for a claim? Use that to automatically extract information from your policy administration system, set up a claim in your claims system, and route the claim to the appropriate claims manager. Simple claims, such as auto windshield replacement, can be settled automatically and immediately.
    • Additional documents arriving for a claim? Automatically recognize the document type and claim number, and add to the claim case directly.
  • Find the best ways to integrate your digital content and processes with your legacy systems. This is a huge part of what I do with any insurance customer (really, with any customer at all), and it’s not trivial but can result in huge rewards. This will be some combination of exposing APIs, digging directly into operational databases, RPA to integrate “at the glass”, and other methods that are specific to your environment. In the end, you want to be sure that no one is re-entering data manually from one system to another, even by copy and paste.
  • Automate, automate, automate. In case I haven’t made that clear already. There should be no such thing as manual work assignment or routing, except in special cases. Data exchange with legacy systems should be automated. Decisions should be automated where possible, or at least used to make recommendations to workers. Incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to learn how your most skilled workers make decisions, align that with your policies and regulatory compliance, and use as input to automated decisions and recommendations. The workers will be left doing the work that actually requires a person to do it, not all of the low-level administrative work.
  • Use some type of low-code application development platform that allows semi-technical business analysts – there are a ton of these working in insurance business areas – to create their own situational apps.
  • Now that you have your operational processes sorted out, start looking for new ways to leverage your digital content and processes:
    • Interact with reinsurers and other business partners using digital content and processes, not paper files and faxes.
    • Provide customers with the option for completely paperless policy application, issuance and renewal. Although I’m far from being a millennial in age, the huge stack of paper sent by my previous home insurer on renewal was a key reason that I ran directly towards an online insurer that could do it all without paper.
    • Streamline claims processes, automating where possible. Many insurance companies don’t spend a lot of time fixing their claims processes, preferring to spend their time on attracting new customers; however, in this age of online consumer reviews, an inefficient claims process is going to hit hard. Automating claims also reduces operational costs: claims managers are highly skilled, and it can take 6-12 months to train a new one.
    • Automate and streamline your ancillary processes that support the main processes, such as recovery of assets, and negotiating contracts with preferred repair vendors.
    • Build in the process monitoring, and provide automated dashboards and reports to different levels of management. As well as giving management a real-time view of operations, this reduces the time of line supervisors spent manually compiling reports. It also, amazingly, will reduce the amount of time that individual workers spend tracking their own work: in many of the insurance companies that I visit, claims managers and other front-line workers keep a manual log of their work because they don’t trust the system to do it for them.
  • Tie your process performance back to business goals: loss ratio, customer satisfaction, regulatory SLAs (such as communicating with customer in a timely manner), net promoter score, fraud rate, closure rate. It’s too easy to get bogged down in making a particular activity or process more efficient when it shouldn’t even be done at all. Although you can use your existing procedures guides as a starting point for your new digital processes, you really need to link everything back to the high-level goals rather than just paving the cow paths.

This started out as a short post because I was seeing a flurry of insurance-related items in my news feed, and grew into a bit of a monster as I thought of my own experiences with insurance customers over the past couple of years. Nonetheless, likely some useful tidbits in here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *