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4 Trends in Insurance in the New Year

The pace of technical innovation continues to be top of mind in the insurance industry. About 96% of insurance executives say innovation at their companies has increased over the past three years. And global investment in insurtechs hit a record $3.26 billion through the first three quarters of 2019, according to Deloitte.

It’s clear 2020 will see a continuation of technology advancement within the industry. Following are four trends we are seeing on the horizon:

1. User Experience — Carriers, agents and consumers all want the same thing: for the insurance buying process to be fast and easy. Consumers want to research plans, compare options and buy insurance products when they need them on the device(s) they choose, often on their mobile phone (more than half of all search queries in 2019 came from mobile, Google says). And consumers prefer a tailored experience.

According to Accenture, 90% of insurance executives say that integration of customization and real-time delivery is the next big wave and competitive advantage. Additionally, nine out of 10 insurance executives believe a tailored approach will give companies a competitive edge. The firm says the ability to fulfill consumers’ needs at the “speed of now” will be the way to stay competitive, with the world available at consumers’ fingertips via smartphones.

Digital expectations have evolved, and there’s an opportunity to deliver a much better customer experience in the insurance industry. Technology has enabled a world of extreme customized and on-demand experiences. The insurance industry must harness this technology to deliver the superior customer experience that consumers are quickly coming to expect, to stay competitive.

This mobile-first, real-time delivery approach has influenced our marketing, design and development teams to focus on a highly mobile-optimized user experience in every aspect of our operation. We expect a mobile-focused push for the insurance industry in 2020, from both the carrier and broker/agent sides.

See also: Insurance Innovation’s Growth Challenge  

2. Analytics — Data analytics is growing across industries, given its potential to help businesses get ahead. Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times more likely to retain them and 19 times more likely to be profitable, McKinsey Global Institute says. The insurance industry is no different.

The one constant across all our largest and most successful partners is their obsession with data and reliance on specialized technology. One such example is with customer relationship management (CRM) companies. CRM companies (Salesforce, and others) are developing industry-specific integrations, such as conversion endpoints, to track performance metrics, allowing for more real-time recording of important metrics. Insurance companies that take advantage of these tools have a major competitive advantage over those that do not, due to their ability to accurately measure and track important metrics like customer long-term-value (LTV), conversion rates of lead data and marketing return on investment (ROI).

3. Sales Enablement — Increasingly, carriers and agents are seeking more information, content and tools to engage buyers and help them to move to purchase, as well as address future needs post-purchase. Use of sales-enablement tools is on the rise, with only 20% of organizations reporting using them in 2013 and over 60% using them in 2019, according to CSO Insights. Agents want to understand who the lead is, what the person needs and how agents can best help drive more effective communications and fuel analytics and future programs. Agents also need these systems to work with other technologies—from mobile app, to CRM—to enable access to real-time information and a more seamless process.

4. Compliance — Compliance will and should remain a top priority for the industry. As consumer data protection becomes more of a focus in the media, we can expect to see more states moving toward a more European GDPR type data protection policy. California is one of the first states to adopt such a policy with the recently adopted California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which came into effect Jan. 1, 2020. With more legislation focused on protecting consumers, we expect a stronger push toward industry-standard software to verify a company’s right to contact consumers.

See also: Blurring Boundaries Drive Innovation  

In a world that is moving toward better technology solutions daily, it is important for carriers, brokers and agents to keep up with these changes and constantly look for ways to interact the way that digitally savvy consumers want to interact.

Insurers’ Imperative to Modernize

McKinsey recently published a paper titled IT Modernization in insurance: Three paths to transformation, in which the report authors say: “Insurers too often treat systems transformations as IT projects rather than acknowledging them for what they are: overall business transformations.”

For insurance, the transformation at hand is moving from a disconnected, product-centric sale to a hyper-connected, consumer-centric buying experience. The challenges are well-known and include analog processes, siloed data and a distribution strategy — consumer-adviser-insurer — that has traditionally left carriers one step removed from their own customers.

As McKinsey said, overcoming these challenges takes more than an IT project or two. Insurers need a framework for evaluating opportunities to modernize, and the best place to start is by taking a deep dive into the market drivers: customer acquisition and retention, as well as operational effectiveness and cost reduction.

Consumers Are the Key

This observation comes as a surprise to no one, yet a survey of insurance customers by Accenture found that declining loyalty and poor customer service has resulted in $470 billion in insurance premiums “up for grabs.” Clearly, our ability to meet modern consumer expectations is a business imperative.

There are two sets of consumers to keep top of mind as the insurance industry takes steps to modernize: the customers you already have and the consumers you are trying to convert. Both types are online (90% of adults in the U.S. use the internet, according to The Pew Research Center), so leveraging digital channels in our efforts to acquire and retain customers is a classic no-brainer.

Customer acquisition in the digital age presents an unprecedented opportunity to deliver an online, consumer-centric buying experience no matter what channel the sale converts through. In fact, agents continue to have a very important role to play in the insurance buying journey, so the more we can arm them with consumer data, collected from online interactions, the better. Moreover, by tracking client behavior and measuring conversion, companies are also learning about what works, and what doesn’t, which is increasingly imperative to maintaining competitiveness.

Likewise, digital channels and data are critical to retaining customers and building brand relationships. For example, car insurance companies track driver behavior, and health insurance companies are providing fitness trackers BECAUSE THEY WANT THE DATA to help manage and reduce risk. At the same time, these trackers are also enhancing customer relationships with the brand and potentially benefiting the customer by reducing rates based on behavior – a classic win win.

See also: Thinking Big for True Transformation  

When it comes to acquiring and retaining customers in the digital age, building relationships is critical, and data is how it’s done. Today’s consumers have different expectations, and there are typically many more touch points, resulting in more data that can be put to work in service of these relationships.

Operations: Managing Risk and Reducing Costs

Cost reduction and operational effectiveness are, for many businesses, the main driver for modernization, and the insurance industry is no different. When evaluating opportunities to modernize operations, consider where you are likely to get the biggest return.

Insurance professionals are in the business of reducing risk, so it stands to reason that risk management is an integral part of the business of insurance as well as a great example of where modern technology can deliver meaningful ROI. Data analytics makes it easier to identify riskier populations and customers, improve product development, targeting and underwriting and ultimately share risk more effectively. Data that isn’t available and actionable slows the pace of business, increases the chance of human error and limits the ability to make data-driven decisions.

Other opportunities to modernize and deliver savings include tackling distribution challenges, specifically reducing the cost of customer acquisition and improving agent efficiency. Another McKinsey report noted that the individual insurance companies that will outperform competitors over the next decade will do so, in part, by “using analytics to build competitive advantages in distribution.” Superior distribution networks enable insurers to reach new customers while keeping costs low to ensure profitability.

Next Steps

Perhaps you are on one (or more) of the three paths McKinsey describes: modernizing the legacy platform, building a proprietary platform or buying a standard software package. When the question is build vs. buy, conducting a thorough build-vs.-buy analysis is a great way to compare costs, timing, flexibility and user experience. It’s an effort, but worth it when you consider the cost of missed opportunities.

For example, insurtech disruptor Lemonade wrote $57 million in premiums in 2018 thanks to its consumer-centric buying experience — a $57 million missed opportunities for carriers that sell renters and homeowners insurance. Another much larger example is the middle market opportunity, which Accenture estimates to be around $12 trillion in missing coverage potential and $12 billion in revenue to be gained by serving it.

See also: How to Evolve the Business Model  

For some companies, the build-vs.-buy choice is easy. Partnering with an insurtech to address critical opportunities is typically much faster and less risky than other approaches. Regardless of the modernization path you choose, start with your top business challenges and identify opportunities for quick wins. Remember, modernization isn’t an IT project. Meeting modern consumer expectations is a business imperative; exceeding them is how insurers can stay relevant and competitive.

Do Consumers Trust Their Agents?

I just read this article, which includes this:

“According to an Accenture study, only 27% of consumers consider insurers to be trustworthy. And Deloitte found that only 11% of people have strong trust in insurance agents and brokers.”

I’ve seen studies like this over the years. What is usually missing from these statistics is the Q&A related to the insurer or agent OF the consumer. If you ask consumers if THEIR insurance agent is trustworthy, the numbers are almost always WAY higher than those above.

The same is often true of politicians…when the question just refers to “politicians,” polls imply that they are universally despised, But ask people what they think of a politician they voted for and the statistics are completely different.

As has been said, “Torture numbers, and they’ll confess to anything.”

The driving force behind insurance policy evolution is litigation and regulation where the difference in coverage, according to the courts, can be the tense of a verb or a punctuation mark.

See also: Insurtech and the Law of Large Numbers  

Berkshire just came out with a policy called “THREE” that combines property, business income, general liability, auto, professional liability, workers’ compensation and cyber liability (I’m probably forgetting something) insurance…IN THREE PAGES. And it’s going to be clear to business owners what is or isn’t covered?

Inarguably, the most important “customer experience” is the one that takes place at claim time. Insurance policies are complex, legal contracts whose terms and conditions have often been interpreted over decades. And the reality is that virtually no consumers read them…. Far too many insurance practitioners don’t even read them. I doubt that reducing dozens of pages to two to three pages will change that metric. When it comes to making contracts understandable, less is not necessarily more.

By the way, there is no such thing as “fine print” in regulated insurance policies.

The Revolution Is Finally Here

We are finally beginning to experience a long-awaited revolution in the insurance industry. Historically, insurance has been one of the last and slowest industries to embrace technology as a means of modernization and process innovation. The insurance industry is fragmented, without common standards, and until very recently did not attract many investment dollars, which exacerbated the general lack of incentive to modernize. However, in the past few years, we have seen signs of revitalization in the industry, and it is becoming an exciting time to be a part of the insurance community.

According to a report published by the National Institutes of Health, “Healthcare costs in the U.S. now account for 16% of the country’s gross domestic product, and per capita healthcare spending is approximately twice that of other major industrialized countries. Inefficiencies persist within the healthcare system because—in contrast to other economic sectors in which competition and other economic incentives act to reduce the level of waste—none of the healthcare system’s players have strong incentives to economize.”

It has been said that 40 manual workflows make up 25% of an insurer’s cost of doing business. A recent report by Newsweek–sponsored by Salesforce and Deloitte, which included a survey of 300 C-level insurance IT executives–found that in the quote-to-enroll process, only 4.5% of new business is “mostly” or “extensively” low-touch. About 52% of the processes used are achieved manually. When taking time to dive deep into their process, John Hancock discovered that even for one line of coverage, 120 steps could be condensed to seven and turnaround time reduced from several days to a few minutes.

See also: Key Technology Trends for Insurers in 2019  

Those of us who have been in the industry for some time are all too familiar with the time-consuming processes that have been used for decades, and there are a variety of players who have decided to do something about it. The past few years have seen an unprecedented amount of investment money flowing into the insurtech industry, which is beginning to change the market outlook as well as boost competition, which in turn is motivating startups and established companies alike to embrace change. We are beginning to see new partnerships and the building of the infrastructure necessary to overhaul the industry, enabling a new focus on user experience and connecting APIs instead of the endless custom work typically required in this industry.

There’s a new optimism in the insurance industry that is catching fire. According to a recent report by Accenture, “In five years, nearly all the insurance executives in our survey expect the industry to be transformed by digital technologies.” Further, the report found that 90% of insurance executives state they have a coherent, long-term plan for technology innovation in place. Quicker turnaround times, automated processes and good user experience translate to more new business, higher retention and lower employee frustration and, arguably, could help bring down the costs of healthcare overall.

There are at least three areas that need to be addressed to help the insurance industry to modernize and innovate. Insurance professionals would agree that the most common problems in the old processes are the incessant need to copy and paste, the aggravating issue of double entry and the frustration of having to cross-reference multiple sources to get accurate information. We need to break down silos, open up data and replace legacy systems to get these processes running more smoothly and quickly.

Breaking down silos

In Accenture’s report, “47% of survey respondents also say lack of collaboration with the IT function is preventing them from realizing their technology investments’ value.” From our own experience and years working in the benefits industry, I cannot tell you how many hours, days and months have been lost simply copying and pasting information from one Excel file into another, having to log into multiple systems to manually log information or to simply verify that the information needed to accomplish the task at hand is indeed accurate. Unlike other industries, there are very few APIs available that allow systems to communicate and connect with each other. Because of this lack of connectivity, many employees at insurance companies end up using up to five to 10 systems simply to complete their everyday tasks.

Automating

Once there begins to be a focus on modernizing and upgrading core systems, a carrier can begin to think about real efficiencies, including automation. Automating even a few of the top 40 manual processes would increase productivity and performance. Imagine the ability to:

  • Automate the confirmation of group information for a master data store to automatically verify its accuracy
  • Auto-ingest census information by machine reading
  • Consolidate account information into a single record
  • Provide one point of entry to populate multiple systems

Automating these processes not only leads to quicker turnaround times and better efficiency, but it also enables insurance professionals to close more new business and gives them a competitive edge and a way to stand out from those companies that may be slower to adapt to new technologies.

See also: 3 Steps to Succeed at Open Innovation  

Partnerships

Working with possible competitors, as well as vendors, is becoming increasingly important, and new levels of collaboration are necessary for companies that wish to thrive in the digital economy. There is no one system that does everything that an insurer needs; it simply does not exist at this point and may not exist for several years. McKinsey says that “ecosystems will account for 30% of global revenues by 2025” and that, “to succeed in ecosystems, insurers will have to take a hard look at their traditional roles and business models and to evaluate opportunities to partner with players in other industries.”

We are still facing an uphill climb to transform the insurance industry from stodgy to streamlined, but there are signs of a renewed energy and drive that show promise. As more and more insurance companies and partners see the value of digitization, automation and collaboration, everyone will benefit from a more connected ecosystem, and the insurance industry will do its part to make healthcare a more manageable, and possibly even satisfying, experience for the consumer.

How to Use AI in Claims Management

How do you increase quality in claims assessment, management and administration? We share insights into an end-to-end, AI-powered, claims-automation approach to increase quality, improve processing efficiency and reduce cost.

In this blog series, I’ve spoken about how AI increases process efficiency, reduces costs and helps business solve problems. I also showed how it enables smart business transformation by creating intelligent processes at every step along the value chain and intelligent products and services in the market.

In my previous post, I illustrated how insurers can use AI-related technologies in underwriting and service management. Now, I’ll explain how AI helps insurers to manage claims more effectively and efficiently.

How can insurers use AI in claims management?

AI technologies make information systems more adaptive to humans and improve the interaction between humans and computer systems. By doing this, AI gives insurers an edge on how they manage claims—faster, better and with fewer errors. Insurers can achieve better claims management by using the intelligent technologies in some of the following ways:

  • To enable a real-time question-and-answer service for first notice of loss;
  • To pre-assess claims and to automate damage evaluation;
  • To enable automated claims fraud detection using enriched data analytics;
  • To predict claim volume patterns;
  • To augment loss analysis

What are the benefits of using AI for claims management?

In our  2017 Technology Vision for Insurance , we highlighted how Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance in Japan is using the IBM Watson Explorer AI platform to classify diseases, injuries and surgical procedures as well as to calculate claims payouts.

See also: Insurers: Start Boosting Your ‘AIQ’  

Our research has shown automated machine classification can be 30% more accurate than manual classification by humans and has the potential to increase productivity by 80%. AI-related technologies can enable higher quality in claims assessment, management and administration. It also supports improving the predictability of reserves and fraud.

Smart machines can pre-assess claims and automate damage evaluation. Machine learning enables insurers to classify claims via email in the case of an accident or if medical care is required. It’s fast, accurate, efficient and simple to use.

Case Study 1: Cognitive health insurance claims process management

We have conducted a pilot with one of our insurance clients on the application of AI to its health insurance claims processes. This insurer’s health claims management process took about 11.5 minutes from receipt of the claim to updating it and closing the record. Scanning the paper documents and uploading them into the portal where they were categorized were the first manual steps. It took roughly five minutes to analyze the data, another five to verify rejection rules and one and a half minutes to accept or reject the claim.

With our machine learning solution in place, a fully automated process was enabled and took only three minutes to do the same amount of work. This represents a 74% reduction in the claims settlement time.

Furthermore, the machine learning technology applied was able to process health claims with 80% accuracy. The other 20% are incorrectly processed owing to spelling errors or database limitations. However, machine learning technologies are able to store and recall those errors for more accurate claims processing in the future.

Case study 2: AI-powered automation of automobile claims processing

Accenture was recently part of a major client initiative to identify technologies and partner for an AI-driven automation journey. We proposed and built a solution to automate processes to extract and classify data from commercial automobile claims PDF documents.

The client faced many challenges, including having fewer than 400 records to classify 55 unique cases, and these records were mismatched and labeled inconsistently. The client also received scanned images containing text, owing to the redaction process followed to ensure data privacy.

We developed an on-premise solution using a combination of IBM offerings and open-source technologies that enabled a detailed analysis of training data. The solution also helped the client to identify quality and sparse/skew data and to test various approaches to maximize performance.

In the end, a blind data set of 207 claims documents was processed within a four-hour assessment window, and we were able to process claims PDF documents with scanned images as well as text, including several formats and layouts not part of training data.

See also: How to Use AI, Starting With Distribution  

We identified several pain points in the current claims management process:

  • Error-prone manual data extraction;
  • Inconsistent claim classification;
  • The need for additional downstream validation;
  • Increased time and cost for processing and resolution.

Solution proposed:

In the next post, I’ll look at how AI-related technology can be used to improve customer services and policy administration. Get in touch to find out how you can use AI in the entire insurance value chain, or download the How to boost your AIQ report.