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WHY THE WORLD OF INSURANCE NEEDS AUTOMATION

Josh Ayres, head of emerging technologies, IPI


A big challenge for the insurance sector is maintaining customer loyalty. With competition fierce, the key to market differentiation often lies in the experience customers have with a brand. As the mouth piece of an insurer, the contact centre – the go-to place for claims, complaints, renewals and cancellations – should be a focal point in the bid to improve customer service.

In order to keep customers happy and loyal, insurance contact centres should look to adopt technological advancements such as automation which are revolutionising the service being offered to customers in the insurance sector. The likes of chatbots and other automated tools will not only speed the customer’s journey to an efficient resolution, but this technology will also improve the employee experience. Since happy agents make happy customers, it would be unwise not to seize the opportunity that automated technology presents.

Fear not the chatbot

Whilst there are some fears that automation could jeopardise jobs, adopting new technology is actually one of the best ways in which insurers can improve both the customer and employee experience.

Automated technology in the insurance sector is already seeing widespread adoption. With a distinct rise in the volume of emails received, it’s estimated that 94% of insurance providers will enable an online chatbot by 2020, up from 44% in 2018. By speaking with a chatbot on the insurer’s website, customers can update their address, for example, without having to pick up the phone, and even if they do, AI tools can guide them through the easy parts of the call.

These automated tools are also able to take on some of the contact centre agent’s workload by completing the more mundane tasks, such as updating contact details. Not only does this reduce the overall call handling time – a key metric in the contact centre – but it also frees up the agent who will have more time to spend with the customer on the more complex matters.

Having their journey simplified and more efficiently dealt with will not only ensure a happy customer, but also reinforces their loyalty, a key marker of success in the insurance sector.

Better customer service

The customer experience is the top priority in the world of insurance, especially when a customer is calling regarding a claim. If the customer has been in a car accident, or there’s been some damage to their home, for example, chances are that emotions will be running high. In these situations, the response of the agent in the insurer’s contact centre is critical not just in dealing with the customer’s immediate concern, but also can influence that customer’s future loyalty.

Dealing with calls efficiently and resolving problems effectively the first time around should be the main goal of insurance call centre agents. In fact research has shown that customers don’t like to be kept waiting on the phone, and 76% of consumers admit that they are likely to switch brands due to a bad customer experience.

By allowing the agent more time to interact with the customer on complicated matters, staff are encouraged to provide a better, more personalised customer experience, especially if they are rewarded for their efforts. Customers will appreciate this attention to detail and will feel like they are really being heard, rather than being pawned off to a robot.

By improving customer service on intricate matters, combined with a shorter wait time thanks to the bots, insurers develop a good reputation amongst customers, encouraging loyalty in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Happier agents

The customer experience is, however, no longer the only important factor to consider. The employee experience is another facet of the industry that automated technology can help improve.

Keeping up morale and productivity can be tough and employee engagement has become a top priority for contact centres. In an effort to boost the mood, some insurance providers are trialling a four-day working week with no loss of pay for its staff in an effort to improve productivity, staff wellbeing and, as a result, the customer experience.

Introducing automated technology can also help achieve these goals. Speech analytics is a tool that can be especially beneficial to lightening an insurance agent’s workload. Voice recognition software and speech analytics are capable of unearthing useful information that might not have been spotted at first sight – particularly beneficial when dealing with insurance claims. For example, thousands of hours of call recordings can be analysed in seconds, with metrics such as phrases, anomalies and errors identified instantly. In short, speech analytics can help improve the employee experience by doing everything from reducing stress on agents and improving their job satisfaction, to highlighting the strongest performing agents and increasing employee retention rates.

Whilst automation technology can be used – and is being used – to support and improve the customer experience in insurance, it can also help achieve a more well-rounded contact centre. The employees are one of the most crucial aspects of the insurance contact centre, especially in delivering that all-important world-class customer experience to a customer calling with a claim or complaint. Helping employees with technology such as speech analytics that makes their job easier and more satisfying will not only make for an overall improvement in the working environment and office culture, but will also ensure that they can deliver on the customer front to keep customers loyal to their insurance provider.

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ENTERPRISE BLOCKCHAIN: DRAGGING INSURANCE OUT OF THE DARK AGES

Ryan Rugg, Global Head of The Industry Business Unit at R3

 

The history of insurance traces back to the development of modern business and insuring against its risks; property, cargo, medical and death. Insurance helps mitigate losses, wary of the financial losses a capsized ship could cause, forward-thinking vessel owners established communal funds that could pay for damages to any individual’s ship within the group. While this basic concept holds strong to this day, insurance is now a multi-trillion dollar industry that impacts almost every other sector of business, from healthcare to capital markets and aviation.

Despite the insurance industry’s image of being a conservative sector, insurers have been consistently innovative in the property and perils they protect against, but the supporting technologies and infrastructure have remained antiquated and unfit for purpose. Operational inefficiency is the single biggest threat facing the insurance industry today, and insurers are now taking steps to tackle this challenge head-on with purpose-built enterprise blockchain technology.

 

Ryan Rugg

Inefficiency and fragmentation

Blockchain provides a solution to drive efficiency and security that would allow private data to be shared in a secure manner. Many policies are still sold over the phone rather than online, and the policies themselves are then processed on paper contracts, introducing huge potential for manual errors in claims and payments. This anachronistic infrastructure is even more surprising when you consider the complexity of the insurance ecosystem and the amount of parties involved in a transaction, including consumers, brokers, insurers, reinsurers and more.

The costs of this inefficiency and fragmentation are well documented. Inaccurate, disparate sources of data acquisition lead to long underwriting cycles and inaccurate risk profiling. Extensive manual intervention is required across the insurance value chain, ranging from contract placement to claims settlement. Archaic billing systems and complex billing processes lead to high reconciliation costs. Ambiguity in loss conditions, assessment procedures and claim settlement delays leads to increased litigation risk. It has been estimated that as much as 60% of customer premiums is consumed by these inefficiencies.[1]

In addition, increasingly stringent and dynamic regulatory requirements continue to impact areas such as renewals and claims assessment. Insurers often have a complete lack of visibility of their liabilities and obligations, and a lack of transparency across the entire business. In today’s regulatory climate, it is unsurprising that authorities are beginning to demand more from insurers.

Blockchain technology is not a panacea for all of these problems, but with the right architecture a platform can address and reduce inefficiencies.  There are also new revenue and growth opportunities in cutting-edge sectors such as cyber insurance that blockchain technology can help enable.

 

Tackling the blockchain privacy challenge

Blockchain offers insurance firms a new way to coordinate information between each other, by using a pre-agreed technology solution instead of relying on a third party’s bookkeeping. The technology enables disparate parties to connect via a shared platform environment. While this premise may appear simple at first glance, the insurance industry has specific requirements in relation to privacy and security that only certain blockchain platforms can fulfil.

For example, if a blockchain has the appropriate data privacy architecture in place, each insurance firm can maintain the same amount of control over their data as today, but with more flexibility. Unlike the traditional permission-less blockchain platforms – in which all data is shared with all parties – Corda shares information with those who have a “need to know,” ensuring the confidentiality of trades and agreements while also capturing the benefits of a shared distributed ledger infrastructure.

Blockchain platforms such as R3’s Corda have been purpose built for enterprise usage in industries such as insurance and tackle issues such as data privacy, scalability and security head-on. Following a period of experimentation with multiple consortia and technologies, insurers are now consolidating their blockchain efforts around Corda.

Testament to this is the recent decision of the industry-leading B3i consortium to port from IBM’s Fabric to Corda or RiskBlock decision to port from Ethereum.  All the major insurance groups and ecosystems are coalescing on Corda in order to effect change and form standards. As Metcalfe’s Law states, the value of a network is proportional to the number of connections in the network squared – the more insurers that build upon on a common platform, the more valuable the platform becomes to all participants due to the interoperability of applications. The consolidation around Corda creates network effects industry-wide.

 

Contract placement: leveraging the network effect

To more tangibly examine the benefits of these network effects, we can look at a specific insurance use case that involves a network of many different entities and counterparties – contract placement.

Contract placement is the process of negotiating a potential insurance contract between a broker and an insurer in order to issue the contract to provide coverage for an end customer. For most commercial and specialty insurance scenarios, except for small commercial and some mid-market products, this is an arduous, complex process involving several entities – a broker, one or more insurers, and potentially a reinsurer and reinsurance broker. Furthermore, outsized risks generally mean that multiple insurers come together to insure the risk at the requested limit price, resulting in additional complexity for the broker in managing the placement process.

Contract placement, with the extensive negotiation cycle between a broker and insurers, as well as between an insurer and reinsurers – with or without a reinsurance broker thrown in – has several inefficiencies related to inter-firm coordination. Extensive manual intervention and reconciliation is required for brokers, insurers and reinsurers to keep track of requests and responses; high IT spend is required for all participating parties to maintain an audit trail of the negotiation history between different entities; and each firm must make heavy investments in document storage systems to maintain separate contracts over the policy lifecycle.

Leveraging the network effect by connecting brokers, insurers and reinsurers onto the same blockchain platform can deliver numerous benefits. These include:

  • Near-instantaneous communication between participating parties to eliminate delays associated with reconciliation and coordination;
  • Real-time consensus among all parties involved in the contract on coverage, price, terms and conditions;
  • Complete audit trail from all sides of negotiations and data exchanges;
  • Greater regulatory compliance throughout the insurance industry due to instantaneous communication of in-force contracts to the regulator;
  • Eliminating the “double spend” problem of having the customer buy the same policy from different insurers by involving the notary (regulator);
  • Reduced IT spend for individual firms, with eventual decommissioning of legacy document storage systems and reducing spend on document generation systems.

 

A brighter future

Blockchain technology offers great promise across many avenues, not only contract placement. Platforms like Corda can add value to many insurance business segments – commercial and specialty insurance, life insurance, personal lines and health insurance, along with niche areas like marine and trade credit.

The industry’s recent consolidation around Corda reaffirms that data privacy is pivotal for a network of enterprises and that the platform’s peer-to-peer data sharing approach matters for insurance blockchain applications going into production. For a highly regulated industry like insurance, only Corda can ensure that the entire supply chain of brokers, insurers, reinsurers and consumers can interact in a seamless, secure and private manner.

From contract placement to insurance as an industry, we are excited to see the new opportunities and efficiencies that blockchain technology will enable between this wide ecosystem of participants now that the right network – Corda – is in place.

[1] https://marketplace.r3.com/solutions/Blocksure%20OS/448484fb-ad8d-40c1-8a1f-47e76381fb85

 

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THE EVOLUTION OF THE TECH CFO

CFO

Gavin Fallon,General Manager, UK, Nordics & South Africa Board International

 

Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) have traditionally been seen as behind the technological curve – the luddite of the boardroom, too attached to their Excel spreadsheets to move with the times. But the role of the CFO is now shifting and becoming more strategically significant to the business, putting them in the ideal situation to make much needed changes in the boardroom.

Despite many business functions being transformed by data, the boardroom remains a place where paper presentations are annotated around the table and, when it comes to finance, the focus is placed on the traditional statutory profit and loss structure. This may remain useful for reviewing historical performance but provides no insight into what may happen in the future. As global events – from political upheaval to health crises – have an impact on organisations, the ability to react in real-time becomes more important than ever. It is here that CFOs have the opportunity to make seismic changes in their business.

 

Gavin Fallon

CFOs now sit in a unique position

CFOs now sit in a unique position, where the traditional responsibility of keeping an eye on the bottom line is wrapped with analytical and operational knowledge to create a far more strategic role. It is by sitting at this unique crossroads and holding a huge amount of knowledge about every area of the organisation that CFOs have the potential to change many aspects of how the boardroom operates. However, in order to fully realise the potential, CFOs must be empowered to take a digital lead.

A lot of the CFO’s most important work takes place on Excel and Essbase, systems that remain rife with risk. In fact, 56 percent of finance professionals believe the spreadsheets they use in their reporting processes are well-controlled and error free, which may well be why 40 percent also believe their reporting is based on potentially inaccurate information (FSN 2018). Not only prone to human error, spreadsheets are also static and do not allow for real-time forecasting or modelling. While CFOs are well aware of this challenge, the fact they have for too long been tied to legacy systems has led to an unintentional knowledge gap about the technology available to enable them to move away from making decisions based on what happened last year, quarter or week.

 

Seeing the bigger picture

With a greater understanding of the technology available comes an evolution and expansion of the CFO’s role within a business. It is no longer enough to make decisions based on static reporting, focusing on the traditional statutory profit and loss structure. Instead they need to use the tools available to play a strategic role with a keener eye on the future, seeing the bigger picture, anticipating what is next, and having the correct contingency plans in place to mitigate risk.

Technology can provide CFOs with full visibility of the entire company at a single glance, with data at their fingertips enabling them to take into account everything from KPIs to operations, distilling instant insights. This offers a level of clarify that means the answer to ‘what happened’ is obvious, allowing for more attention to be placed on ‘what will happen?’.

Consider a board meeting that is discussing headcount requirements based on the launch of a new product. Using traditional methods, a business may well make presumptions based on experiences when previous launches took place. But since that time, there is likely to have been a whole host of changes, both within the company itself as well as in the wider market – from market conditions for the product to the salary expectations of potential recruits.

The use of such technology, however, does not solely require the buy-in from the CFO, or even the finance function. To fully realise its potential in fundamentally changing how an organisation operates, the value will need to be seen by the entire board to, in effect, create a digital boardroom. While such technology has an impact on all areas of the business, allowing senior leadership to understand the impact of a factory in the supply chain closing, for example, it is the finance function that is best placed to show the value and drive adoption.

 

Primed to integrate the business like never before

The CFO is becoming more strategically important, combining analytical, operational and strategic value into a single role. They are primed to integrate the business like never before, acting as the central thread that ties all aspects of decision-making together in a single, unified process. To do so, requires a radical transformation of their role, as the pioneers of new technology. Already a trusted advisor, CFOs can now elevate their role with the ability to effectively forecast and help spearhead the organisational culture change that is required for the shift in mindset that comes with such digital transformation. To maximise the potential of this unique position, the CFO must be equipped with the technology that provides them with the full visibility of the company and clarity in decision-making they require.

 

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