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Keeping up with the Social and Digital Evolution in Insurance

By Ursuline Foley, Corporate CIO, XL Catlin

Ursuline Foley, Corporate CIO, XL Catlin

There are at least five key competing drivers of Change at play in today’s Insurance Industry, those being;

1. Highly active M&A activity driven by the need to grow
2. Globalization
3. Regulatory Changes
4. Alternative Capital
5. Technology

“Technology can affect change in Insurance both directly and indirectly, all of which could redefine Insurance partnerships, processes and culture for the future”

For an Industry that has earned a historical reputation for being a technology laggard, Insurance is now paying close attention to the threats and opportunities provided by emerged technologies of Mobile, Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), Robotics, Wearable’s, Drones and Analytics, to name a few. This is largely due to the dramatic disruption caused by the high-choice digital market-place in other industries. The Insurance industry is bracing for this change to happen to it and is working hard to try to anticipate what it might mean to its business products and operations.

The Insurance industry is already seeing the usage of technologies like; driverless cars, drones, telematics, Cybersecurity, Usage Based Insurance (UBI), Insurance aggregators, Big Data and extensive mobile dependency in emerging markets and therefore many Insurance CEOs are already adding Innovation and Technology as their business strategy. CEOs are keen to understand the value of these new technologies to their operations but more importantly they want to prepare for the impact on the overall Insurance Ecosystem; products, sales cycles, and partnerships.

Of course, technology has always offered major strategic competitive advantages—streamlined processes to boost internal efficiency, better data to make better underwriting decisions, more efficient claims handling and real-time data-sharing to improve the customer experience. But since technology is providing such a seismic change in many industries, it is there even more vital that (re)insurers also look to technology in their quest to find profitable growth in a highly competitive insurance market.

Technology can affect change in Insurance both directly and indirectly, all of which could redefine Insurance partnerships, processes and culture for the future;

Indirect Change—driven by consumers’ increasing demand for digital market places, leading to disruption/change in other industries;

As consumers and insured industries advance in their adoption of these technologies, then their products, processes, and data will become more enriched. This, in turn, can result in newer and more sophisticated products for consumers.

In my view it’s the insurance company who is staying aware of this technology and social evolution, preparing its workforce and sales teams to see opportunities in it—is more likely to survive it and growth with it.

Ignoring this dramatic social, digital and industrial evolution could be a detrimental outcome for any Insurance company.

Changes that companies will need to anticipate/prepare for:

- New Underwriting Products: Such as those resulting from Usage Based Insurance (UBI), Drone, Robotics, advancements in Cyber, wearable devices, impact of driverless cars, etc. Risk modeling and analytics will also become richer, supported by more factual and sophisticated data resulting from mobile, IoT, social media, etc.

- New types of Data and exchanging methods: Due to the larger and richer volume of data available by the insured, the frequency and way in which data is exchanged between parties can also become far more advanced leading to changes in processes with more reliance on B-B ecommerce messaging exchange with more third party aggregator and data subscription services.

- New Partnerships: The dramatic reliance on mobile and smart phones in some countries has led to partnerships between telecoms and financial services companies (including Insurance companies) to help expand customer reach. This has the potential to lead to an expanded and different insurance ecosystem over the long-term.

Direct Change—Internally driven by the need to grow, scale, and manage expenses, Insurers are embracing new advancements in technology:

The search for growth remains a dominant factor in current M&A activity which in turn is driving the need for scalability resulting in transforming operations and relying more on technology. Hence, never before was it more important for CIO’s and I.T. leadership to partner and help prepare the business processes and platforms for sustainable growth.

Opportunities where advancements in technology are leveraged to support the business growth are;

- Leveraging Technology Advancements: Cloud, mobile and analytics provide a faster and more flexible approach to solving traditional operational problems in infrastructure and in reporting/analytics. Insurers no longer have to bear the full burden alone of managing the infrastructure and application—quite a number of general applications are now available via Cloud where insurers can subscribe for the services needed and not bear the full support costs themselves. In addition, leveraging offshore technology expertise can provide scalability and cost efficiency for both proprietary and packaged application support.

- Data Management and Analytics: Just as consumers have become more demanding of the internet, so have Insurance clients and those that service them. There is a general expectation and even urgency in having accessible, valuable and easy to use analytics. More advanced data management disciplines in data conforming, mastering and governing are no longer optional, but a mandatory fundamental enabler to be able to service reliable management information. This can be complimented by newer and more integrated tools in dash-boarding and visual analytics, which can reduce the speed to market/implement.

- Flexibility: A favorite phrase at XL Catlin is that change is changing; and it’s changing quickly. Nothing stays the same for very long. Consequently, we need to build flexible IT platforms that can change quickly, with the rest of the organization. Agility is an important and distinguishing characteristic in how we meet the needs of our commercial business customers.

- Attaining Flexibility and scalability via consolidation and standardization May sound like a paradox—however it’s far more efficient to respond to a change in one application than it is to drive the same change to multiple of the same type systems. Hence we often say at XL Catlin, that we must be rigid (standardized) in order to become flexible! While source system rationalization can be a lengthy and expensive proposition for policy admin systems, look to standardize smaller systems and processes surrounding the core first to gain credibility while you make the business case to tackle the core. Examples that we have seen value in at XL Catlin are; Finance close processing, revenue planning, HR processes, pricing and reserving.

- Ensuring Corporate Culture prepares for and enables the technology seismic shift and opportunity: The cultural impact of this newer technology cannot be ignored in the workplace as employees (especially Gen-Y!) require; more self-service applications, more intuitive user interface experience in legacy applications, ability to work from anywhere (managed via hoteling capabilities and with the appropriate security of course!), information and video services on demand—as the competition for good talent increases, insurance companies must also prepare themselves for these internal changes so that they can attract and retain the best for their business. Smart companies are preparing their workforces for this in parallel with focusing on external changes with their customers.

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