Digitization and technology transformation are taking top priority for property and casualty insurers in 2021, a recent survey reveals. But while many insurers are meeting consumers’ demands for a more efficient and convenient experience, they may be leaving money on the table by failing to expand strategies to address B2B needs, including around digital payment.
Certainly, investing in infrastructures to support consumers’ desire for a more modern, retail-like experience is an important first step toward embracing the digital age. As COVID-19 accelerated the move toward contactless payment, leading insurers aren’t just going digital. They are also diversifying their payment offerings to include mobile and push-to-card payments.
Yet, many carriers stop there without considering the big-picture benefits of a more holistic strategy that incorporates digital B2B payment offerings. However, change is on the horizon: A recent Association of Financial Professionals (AFP) survey found that one-third of organizations primarily use electronic payment for B2B transactions, while 60% say they are very likely or somewhat likely to convert the majority of B2B payments from check to electronic. These findings suggest that both vendors and suppliers see the value of digital payment—and so, too, do the insurers that work with them.
B2B Digitization: Trends and Benefits
The advantages of B2C and B2B digital payment processes are similar, but the priorities are different. Both options create economies of scale by improving operational efficiencies and lowering costs associated with processing paper checks, and both lay the foundation for better consumer or client experiences.
Yet, while the need to respond to consumer demands has served as the primary driver for B2C digital payments in the insurance space, the AFP survey suggests that operational considerations are the drivers for B2B payment:
Nearly half of respondents point to the benefits of straight-through processing to accounts payable or accounts receivable and the general ledger.
Cost savings came in as the No. 2 priority for 45% of respondents, and both improved cash forecasting and speed to settlement tied for third at 42%.
While vendor relations ranked lower in priority, the potential to elevate partnerships certainly exists as digital adoption is typically a win-win administratively for both the insurer and third-party. For example, in the healthcare space, remittance data that is electronically linked to payment from insurers to providers is critical to easing the administrative tasks associated with payment reconciliation. Digital payment infrastructures exist that can support creation of the remittance data, creation of the payment, reconciliation of the payment and treasury management services. The impact: reduced potential for error, improved visibility and increased productivity.
The COVID-19 pandemic also upped the ante for B2B payment digitization. Faced with the need to quickly pivot to remote operations, insurers with electronic payment infrastructures already in place were at a distinct advantage. A Mastercard study suggests that COVID-19 became a significant force propelling adoption and use of B2B electronic funds transfer to address payment delays and improve security and transparency.
Holistically Addressing B2C and B2B Digital Payment
Automated clearinghouse (ACH) represents the entry point for many insurers taking the plunge into digital payment. It’s a good first step, but there are many reasons why a broader portfolio of options makes sense when considering B2B payments.
The insurance industry is heavily reliant on payment data. While ACH can address remote operations and speed of payment, it lacks the framework to support immediate visibility into remittance data. For this reason, electronic payment options such as virtual cards hold great promise for B2B.
Like ACH, virtual cards are efficient, cost-effective, secure payments and reduce administrative costs. For B2B transactions, these options require no enrollment or IT investment, and there are no complex remittance reports to reconcile. Characterized by a randomly generated card number, expiration date and security code, virtual cards are loaded with a specific payment tied directly to the payment request generated in the payer’s adjudication system. They also reduce administrative complexities and eliminate the need to share bank account information—and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen.
As a complement to ACH, solutions such as virtual cards and mobile payment options can work in tandem to improve payment to businesses while also addressing consumer preferences. In a recent Engine Insights/VPay survey, more than half of respondents said payment choice was important to the claim experience.
Time for a More Modern Approach
It’s a new year for growth and positioning in the insurance industry, and many lessons have been learned from 2020. As trends point to accelerated adoption of frictionless, contactless payment for consumers, vendors and service providers, the right digital payment strategy will give insurers a competitive advantage on many fronts. Forward-thinking insurers will consider how to holistically address digital payment strategies to support B2B and B2C.
The pandemic has changed everything. Well, not everything… but it has changed many aspects of the lives of individuals and families and has had far-reaching effects on businesses in every industry. The patterns that represent the ebb and flow of daily life have been altered significantly. Where we work, travel, eat and buy are quite different than what they were in early 2020. This upheaval of society has important, long-term implications for the P&C insurance industry. Customers, risks, operations and the workforce all have undergone rapid transformations over the last year. This makes strategic planning a challenge for insurers.
As the new decade dawned in 2020, many insurers began thinking about what the world would be like in 2030 and, by extension, what it would mean for their business. Enter scenario planning.
Scenario planning is a time-tested tool in the strategic planning toolkit. SMA has been quite busy facilitating scenario planning sessions for insurers over the past couple of years. The beauty of scenario planning is that, even though the timeframe is often 10 years out, the result of the process is the identification of strategic actions that should be taken in the near term to position for the possible developments in the future. Before the pandemic, many were able to envision the state of their customers and their business model 10 years out. Even though there were many uncertainties, there was still a relatively clear line of sight to the future.
Although mid- to longer-term planning should never be based on straight line projections, they still form the basis from which various alternate future scenarios can be developed. Now, it is fashionable to say that 2025 is the new 2030. The predominant theme is that the pandemic, economic lockdowns and work-from-home mandates have accelerated digital transformation. There is no doubt this is true, but the reality is more nuanced than just an acceleration of trends in a straight-line manner. It is not just that the future we envisioned will arrive more quickly than we originally thought – it’s that the future will be different than we all thought it would be. In other words, the future isn’t what it used to be.
None of us can predict the future. But that makes scenario planning even more valuable. Evaluating different alternative futures in the context of the insurance enterprise stretches our thinking, opens up possibilities and identifies foundational capabilities that are required for success in any of the possible futures. Every dimension can be explored in a holistic way, looking at factors external to the insurer such as the industries and customers they serve, the potential changes to the landscape of risk, the nature of the workforce and the role of automation and advanced technologies. The whole value chain is in play – from how products are conceived and designed to how they are sold, priced and serviced – along with every part of the business that supports those activities.
What will the world of 2025 or 2030 mean for your business? For that matter, how do you need to adjust your strategies and plans now and for 2022?
Social inflation is a term you frequently hear in risk management these days. It refers to a public, anti-establishment sentiment that has a far-reaching impact on businesses and the insurance industry. Last year, Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark discussed the impacts of social inflation with a panel of experts. Our guests were:
Mark Bennett, vice president of large casualty claims for Safety National
Oliver Krejs, partner for Taylor Anderson
Aref Jabbour, senior consultant for Trial Behavior Consulting
Andrew Pauley, government affairs counsel for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC)
While only 5% of lawsuits result in a jury trial, knowing the potential outcome for a defendant shapes the future of underwriting and pricing risks in the industry. Because of the impact on rising costs, it is critical to explore what is causing the public to shift sympathy in support of the plaintiff.
Over the last five to six years, we have seen a steady increase in awards by juries. We have also witnessed an increase in the number of cases going to trial, especially in cases valued up to $1 million.
What is happening with liability juries to drive these large reports? One of our experts breaks down the major areas of concern.
The perception of the value of money has changed since the financial crisis. Juries believe that defendants can pay out larger sums of money to a plaintiff. Much of this is based around our daily exposure in the media to larger verdicts, desensitizing the public and making such verdicts appear more common and acceptable. Juries also believe defendants should pay even if there is substantial evidence they were not at fault, because the plaintiff deserves compensation.
Media outlets and social media are affecting public opinion.Anyone with a social media account can attest that ideas expressed there are more extreme and less filtered than what someone would be willing to say in person. These publicly expressed ideas become validated in people’s minds, which are hard to change. For example, we are seeing an increase in jury awards against police officers, even in cases where the evidence supports that the officer acted appropriately. There is a true struggle to overcome these types of societal prejudices as media-based opinions become more prolific.
Bad Faith, Litigation Financing and Other Challenges
Expansion of bad faith claims, litigation financing and the statute of limitations also challenge insurers. One of our guests summarized these issues:
Bad Faith — The original intention of bad faith was to hold an insurer responsible when particularly egregious acts have been committed and when a worker has been intentionally put in harm’s way. However, some states have lowered the standards for claims. Insurers can get hit with punitive damages after one minor claim. Often, the claim can simply result from missing a statutory deadline, so no one was harmed, but the claim is used to punish the insurer. One of the most common effects of bad faith litigation is added costs to the system. Florida, for example, has long been known as one of the most challenging jurisdictions for insurers in the context of bad faith, and vehicle owners recently paid $1.2 billion in added costs based on outcomes of bad faith litigation.
Litigation Financing — This has become a regulatory vacuum where companies or individuals finance litigation in exchange for a percentage of the settlement/verdict. This results in longer litigation and more cases going to trial, and can also create a conflict of interest among parties. It creates a major concern for expansive litigation and furthers the need to investigate the motivations behind these cases. We see more instances of hedge funds getting involved simply because of the return on investment it provides them. These situations don’t always mean the plaintiff will be better off. For example, in one case in New York, the plaintiff was allowed to borrow $27,000, and the case settled five years later for $150,000. The lending company took $100,000, the attorneys took the rest, leaving $111 for the plaintiff.
Statute of Limitations — The guidelines for when a claim can be filed have been changing rapidly on a state-by-state basis due to loosening laws across the country. These changing laws significantly affect public entities, school districts or other institutions, specifically relating to the ability of a claim to be filed retroactively in a childhood sexual assault case or abuse claim. Some states have expanded the limitations beyond expiration dates, some allow for a period of discoverability and some allow for a lookback period. California, for example, passed a law allowing for a lookback period that extends the time a file can be claimed up to five years. The law has extended previous claims of viability from the age of 26 to the age of 40. However, the court’s interpretation will determine whether these claims can be filed based on current policies.
Although we often cannot avoid litigation, there are measures we can use to prevent excessive jury awards. While none of these guarantee a favorable outcome, our guests suggest them as a general approach.
Change how cases are worked up from the beginning.A specific case that came out of Texas’ fifth circuit sought to change a law to closely mirror a direct action state like Louisiana, allowing the layers below an insurer to settle out and fund the case, leaving the excess carriers above them with the obligation to defend the case. Litigation changes like this will result in excess carriers having to completely adjust due to changing defense costs and exposures. Understanding how to educate the jury, providing expert testimony and getting all parties on the same page will need to be in the basic setup of a case.
Advocate for early intervention and get all parties on the same page. Before litigation begins, you should ask yourself what your discovery process looks like. Are you interviewing all potential witnesses and figuring out what the fact pattern may look like? Do you know the answers to questions that the jury may seek later on in trial? Do you have the facts that will allow you to empower the jury? Ensure that there is a consistent message and always take more of an anticipatory approach than a reactive one.
Educate the jury on what is reasonable and factual.Because of social inflation’s impact on a jury’s prejudice, it is imperative to empower jury members with facts and reason. For example, do you know what the jury views as a reasonable award that would properly compensate the injured? In hospital charges, billings are often inflated up to 300% to 600% higher than what the facilities regularly accept from insurance companies.
Tort reform is a key element in combatting these rising jury awards. Stakeholders need to educate legislators on the societal costs of these large awards. This is no easy path. Businesses need to get involved with state and local bar associations and work with PACs on legislative efforts.
The awards being seen today are from accidents that happened several years ago. That means the industry is probably looking at several more years of accident year combined ratios above 100% before rates are adequate for the reality of the exposures being faced.
As the jury got set to begin deliberations in the trial of Derek Chauvin this week, the judge told them that they would have to rely on their notes from the three-week trial because no transcription of the testimony would be available. Someone tweeted that the lack of a transcript made perfect sense — if the year were 1821.
He has a point. Natural language processing has advanced so much that using artificial intelligence to produce an instant, highly accurate transcription has become trivial, The advancement has broad implications, ranging from the number of meetings that we’re all subjected to, to the interactions that agents and customer service reps have with clients.
Let’s start with meetings. I hate most meetings. I was so disappointed to realize years ago that someone had written a book called “Death by Meeting,” because I considered writing a book with that exact title.
But meetings are hard to stamp out. When a colleague and I facilitated a long-term strategy session for a major medical organization a few years ago, we asked for a list of things that the top team wanted to stop doing. Almost everyone said the organization held far too many meetings — and recommended a long series of meetings to tackle the problem. (The CEO had quite the chuckle.)
Automatic transcriptions provide at least part of a solution. Many meetings are held just to distribute information — even though the orthodoxy is that meetings should focus on making decisions. But transcriptions make distributing information trivial. Those not attending a meeting don’t even have to watch or listen to a recording; they can just skim the transcript in a tiny fraction of the time. If they want to catch all the nuance, or if the transcript seems unclear, they can click on the links that the AI provides to that part of the recording and listen to or watch the actual session. (This article in Wired provides some detail on the advances. My favorite service is Otter.ai.)
No one has to take notes at a meeting any longer. Those wanting to forward details to their staffs can just highlight the important points, or, if some information or interactions are considered to be confidential, can simply cut and paste what they want to share from the transcript.
Many people who now feel their time is sucked away via meetings will be able to avoid them while not missing out on any of the information. The problem won’t entirely go away, because many want to be included in meetings even if they don’t want to actually attend — status depends on being invited to certain meetings. But at least there’s now more flexibility, and smart organizations will find ways to use the advances in transcription to free valuable time for executives and staff.
The capability should be cranked into the deliberations that companies are going through now as they consider how much work-from-home will be part of their future. We’ve all learned how to “attend” virtual meetings without being 100% present — I’ve pretty much lived in gym shorts for 14 months now. Knowing that meetings can be automatically transcribed gives us a backstop so we can be productive during the times when our full attention isn’t needed. Smart companies will note that the definition of a meeting has become fluid and will plan accordingly.
AI-based transcription won’t just reduce the number attending meetings at senior levels of insurers but will also affect how agents and customer reps interact with clients. While it’s long been easy to record conversations, the interactions are now searchable because they can be turned into text. That makes a huge difference.
I remember a colleague at the Wall Street Journal’s nascent TV operation cataloguing video back in the early 1990s, trying to document all the key words and topics that might make the video of use years later. He was a bright fellow who went on to be CEO of a multibillion-dollar communications company, but he soon found that the work took too much time and yielded too little return. Today, he could search transcripts in seconds to see who was interviewed, what the person said, etc.
This searchability will increase accountability for anyone offering advice. That’s not a huge issue at the moment, because it’s largely those giving advice who are recording calls “for training purposes,” but clients will increasingly record calls, too, and will have text that they can easily search and present as evidence if they feel they’ve been ill-used. Look at how seemingly every public interaction is caught on camera these days — and recording audio is even simpler.
At the same time, agents and insurers are increasingly able to search transcripts to see what is puzzling clients, so they can smooth out kinks in the customer experience. Agents and insurers can also see what bigger issues might need to be addressed.
We don’t live in 1821. It’s 2021, and, after a year of COVID, we deserve all the breaks we can get.
I’ll start us off by skipping four meetings this week.
P.S. Here are the six articles I’d like to highlight from the past week:
It was 1999, and everything about business was changing. The internet was hot and growing! Ebay and Amazon launched within the previous four years. Napster debuted the peer-to-peer music file sharing network – the precursor to iTunes. E-business!
Fast Company magazine was putting out 300-page monthly issues that covered the most innovative companies and people imaginable. Every time you turned a corner, you found a Starbucks that you hadn’t seen before. Apple had just created berry-colored, egg-shaped computers called iMacs. The economy was hot. IT departments were busy with Y2K preparations. The future was coming fast and furious! Could life get any better?
With all of the optimism for the future in the air, the time was ripe for people to “discover their working selves.” Two Gallup researchers, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, wrote a managerial book, “First, Break All the Rules,” that had us thinking about how to do things differently using our individual strengths. They used interviews with over 80,000 employees to identify practical insights regarding managers. Some of the insights for individuals and managers are highly relevant when carried to insurers and systems. For example, in their chapter on “How to Manage Around a Weakness,” they discuss how managers can devise a support system that keeps an individual’s strengths operational while rendering their weaknesses irrelevant. The exact same principles can be applied to insurers that find themselves with weaknesses that seem to be rendering their strengths ineffective. There are support systems that can make those weaknesses irrelevant.
In a 2001 follow-up book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” Buckingham and former Gallup chair Donald O. Clifton built on that idea by helping individuals identify their strengths so that they could focus on what they do well. This concept also works well in the macro sense for insurers. How well an insurer knows its strengths and weaknesses will determine its ability to aggressively make the right strategic and operational moves.
If we think about what has transpired the last 12 months during the COVID-19 crisis, we see a pattern emerge that is crucial for insurers to re-visit.
There is great opportunity in the COVID and post-COVID economy.
Insurers need to know their organizations well enough to know whether they are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities. Insurers need to know which strengths and talents they are missing and which ones they have firmly in hand.
They need to focus on their strengths while they seek assistance from others to shore up weaknesses.
They need metrics. They need to pursue continuous evaluation of where they are against competitors because that landscape is constantly shifting. They need to know: “Are we Leaders, Followers or Laggards?” They need to use that position, no matter what it is, as inspiration to move forward.
For the past five years, Majesco has been helping insurers look in the mirror and to gauge their efforts in light of the marketplace shifts and trends and other insurance organizations. In what ways are these companies leading? Are they doing enough to be considered Leaders? Are they Followers, still in the race, and trying to close the gap? Are they, perhaps, Laggards…desperately needing to look in the mirror and reconsider their activities in light of their strengths and weaknesses?
This year’s comparison and analysis has been tinged with the presence of COVID-19. How are companies reacting? Has it modified their plans? Majesco’s latest thought-leadership report, Strategic Priorities 2021: Despite Challenges, Leaders Widen the Gap, sheds light on how COVID-19 has hurt and helped insurers and their plans for the future. We’ll share some key insights from Majesco’s report below.
We have seen the significant impact of the COVID crisis on the growth and strategic activities last year for all three segments; even the Leaders were not immune. But what distinguishes Leaders from the others is how much better they were prepared and responded to the crisis. Our research suggests the pandemic could be an inflection point that redefines every company in the industry – by pushing Laggards into further irrelevance, testing Followers to recommit to a new digital future, and providing Leaders a springboard to accelerate innovation, competitive differentiation and growth.
Leaders are able to take advantage of the unique conditions of the crisis that can create the springboard which sparks innovation. A recent article in MIT Sloan Management Review helps explain these unique conditions, highlighting “five interdependent conditions that characterize a crisis and boost innovation.”
A crisis provides a sudden and real sense of urgency.
Organizations can drop all other priorities and focus on a single challenge, reallocating resources as needed.
Teams come together to solve the problem with a greater diversity of perspectives.
The importance of finding a solution legitimizes what would otherwise constitute waste, allowing for more experimentation and learning.
Because the crisis is only temporary, the organization can commit to a highly intense effort over a short time.
Leaders are undoubtedly viewing these conditions as an opportunity to seize a competitive advantage, which is reflected in their stronger optimism for the future compared with Followers and Laggards.
When assessing the outlook over the next three years, the impact of COVID is clear, as seen in Figure 1. Both Laggards and Followers have the same level of decreased optimism for the future as they had in the assessment of their companies’ growth and strategic activities in 2020 vs. 2019. However, Laggards also had nearly a 25% decline in their outlook for both last year and the next three years whereas Followers, while less, still showed smaller declines of 10% in both.
Leaders, on the other hand, show much more optimism. Despite a 5% decline in their future expectations compared with last year’s survey, this is less than half of the 12% decline in their assessment of their companies’ performance in 2020 vs 2019.
Figure 1: COVID-19’s impact on outlooks for company growth and strategic activities over the next three years
The most compelling result was astaggering, game-changing 103% gap between Leaders and Laggards in how they envision their companies over the next three years, a significant increase from the alarming 64% gap on their assessment of the past year (Figure 2).
While less, Followers’ 28% gap does not bode well for their future and contradicts earlier evidence suggesting they are keeping pace with the Leaders. While initial appearances may have been encouraging, digging deeper highlights that the breadth and impact of what Followers are doing is not enough for the future. The gap is slowly growing, and with another crisis it could substantially affect their future. Given that we have seen multiple major events or crises nearly every four or five years over the last two decades that have accelerated change – dot.com, 9/11, 2008 financial crisis, emergence of insurtech and COVID – the likelihood is great!
Figure 2: Gaps between Leaders, Followers and Laggards in assessments of company growth and strategic activities over the next three years
Even more discouraging for these two segments is the continued growth in the gaps with Leaders in their optimism for the future. This is especially alarming for the Laggards, whose gap swelled by nearly 40 percentage points.
Followers and Laggards must remember that every challenge has an opportunity or solution, some of which are incredible and give hope for an exciting, new future. They just need to plan for and execute on these to create an optimistic future.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Instead of asking the famous quote by the evil queen in Snow White – “Mirror, mirror, on the wall — who’s the fairest of them all?” … insurers should ask themselves “Mirror, mirror on the wall – am I a Leader, Follower or Laggard?”
This is where Majesco’s high-level analysis is meant to help answer that question. The most important analysis happens at the individual insurer level. Some form of introspection and analysis must occur within each insurer to confirm their locations within the realm of Leaders, Followers and Laggards. For a quick review, assess your own company against these definitions, below.
The Leaders: Companies that understand the market dynamics and have rapidly moved to planning and execution across most of the key areas. They are focused on a two-speed strategy by investing in modernizing and optimizing today’s business, while also investing in the future business nearly equally. They are or have moved from legacy or non-platform core to cloud platform core solutions, leveraging an array of platform, digital and emerging technologies to elevate customer experiences, launch products, expand channels and embrace ecosystems to transform the business.
The Followers: Companies that understand the market dynamics but are not moving as quickly or broadly into the various areas for planning and execution. They are solidly focused on modernizing and optimizing today’s business, but less so than Leaders on the future business. While they are relatively close in many areas to Leaders, the pace of execution when looking out three years is not the same, meaning that the gap will steadily increase. Because of this, Followers may not recognize the danger in the gap until it is too late.
The Laggards: These are companies that generally understand the market dynamics but are clearly stuck in the past and have failed to rapidly move to planning and execution across the array of strategic areas. They are not moving to new cloud platform solutions, or incorporating platform and emerging technologies. They are keeping their business solely focused on the current business model, which lacks the level of automation, digital capabilities, and more, needed to meet the rising demands of a new generation of buyers. If not already there, they are approaching a downward spiral of relevance that will be nearly impossible to reverse.
Because Leaders are so far ahead, their investment will be substantially less than Followers or Laggards that have waited, hesitated or just moved too slowly. Playing catchup is expensive – both in outlay of resources and in lost opportunities. The key is to confirm where you are, then never lose focus on it. Your organization deserves to know where it stands.
Fast-Tracking Transformations That Play to Your Strengths
The significant gaps between Leaders versus Followers and Laggards are becoming so great that there is a danger of Followers constantly trying to play catchup rather than their own game to win, and for Laggards entering an accelerating downward spiral. If you are still relying on the past and pre-digital age, pre-pandemic business models, now is the time to reevaluate.
It is time for bold moves. It’s time to skip some of the traditional steps involved in transformation and pull in support systems that will help your organization play to its strengths. It’s time to ask the hard questions to the Mirror on the Wall!
Begin by assessing where you are in the Knowing-Doing Gaps, from our Strategic Priorities research, that defines Leaders that are accelerating digital transformation with resilient digital business models. Rethink and reprioritize your strategies to take advantage of the shift and opportunities unfolding. And execute on these priorities with a sense of focus and urgency.