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Future of P&C Tech Comes Into Focus

In a 2017 report titled “Drones: Reporting for Work,” Goldman Sachs estimated the addressable market opportunity for drones globally between 2016 and 2020 to be $100 billion, of which the insurance claims drone market was estimated to be $1.4 billion.

And the report did not address the wider opportunities in personal and commercial property insurance: underwriting, pricing, risk prevention, traditional and virtual claims management, fraud detection and product marketing. The report also didn’t cover the use of images from satellites and fixed-wing aircraft, including streaming video.

Whatever the actual size of the total insurance market opportunity, the impact of aerial and drone images in insurance will be enormous.

Industry observers are just beginning to recognize the transformation in property insurance underwriting and claims that is emerging through advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning tied to neural networks and integrated with data from aerial and drone images.

Property claims investigation costs the industry an average of about 11% of premiums – automated inspection can reduce that expense substantially. And automated property inspection cycle times can average two to three days, compared with 10 to 15 days using traditional methods – lowering costs and increasing customer satisfaction.

Providers will transform the property insurance industry through the convergence of these sources of better images, expanding numbers and types of connected home technologies, customer self-service and aggregated property risk data (historic and real-time).

Follow the money

Venture and private equity investment activity in emerging technologies is a good indicator of potential growth opportunities – these professionals typically engage subject matter experts and conduct deep market research and diligence in a highly disciplined and proven evaluation process prior to investing. Since 2012, almost $2 billion has been invested in more than 370 drone company deals, and the current run rate is more than $500 million in announced deals annually, according to CB Insights research, which states that ”19 of the 24 smart money venture investors have backed at least one drone company since 2012.”

See also: How Technology Drives a ‘New Normal’  

Within just the past two months, four such insurance-related transactions were announced;

  • Nationwide Ventures made an investment in Betterview, a machine learning insurtech startup focused on analyzing data from drones, satellite and other aerial imagery for commercial and residential property insurers and reinsurers. This follows a September 2017 seed round funding of $2 million.
  • DroneDeploy, the world’s largest commercial drone platform, raised $25 million of Series C venture capital, bringing total funding to $56 million.
  • Cape Analytics raised $17 million to grow its AI and aerial imagery platform for insurance companies, led by XL Innovate.
  • Clearlake Capital Group acquired a significant interest in EagleView Technologies alongside Vista Equity Partners, which had purchased EagleView in 2015. (Vista also owns the majority of Solera, parent of property and auto insurance claims services and information providers Enservio and Audatex.)

In 2017, Genpact, a global professional services and insurance claims solutions provider, acquired OnSource, which provides 24/7/365 full service on-demand drone property inspection claims and settlement services across the U.S. Earlier that year, Genpact acquired BrightClaim and National Vendor, providers of integrated claims solutions to the U.S. property insurance market

In 2016, Airware, a global enterprise drone analytics company, closed a Series C round of $30 million to bring its total funding to $110 million. Early in 2016, Verisk Analytics formed the Geomni business unit to specialize in image sourcing and analysis and has since acquired a number of U.S.-based aerial survey companies and their aircraft fleets. Verisk also owns Xactware, the dominant industry provider of property insurance claims solutions and third party products. The Geomni fleet is expected to include more than 125 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters by the end of 2018, operating from 15 hubs located throughout the U.S. Verisk expects to invest approximately $100 million in Geomni through 2018.

Competition and differentiation

The space has attracted a large number of participants in the past two years, and there are no signs of slowing. Competitors are taking innovative paths to differentiation, including: drone manufacturing, drone operating software for use by field staff and contractors, ground-based roof and wall measurement technologies and full-service, virtual property inspection and property damage reports using drones.

Insurance industry adoption and barriers

The insurance industry’s use of images from satellite and fixed-wing aircraft is fairly well-established, particularly in catastrophe response planning and claims. The North American property/casualty insurance industry has been cautious and conservative in its testing and adoption of drone use for property claims and in using aerial images for underwriting.

Until recently, FAA rules had made it onerous for carriers and industry vendors to obtain licenses and permission to use drones for property inspections. However, after extensive industry lobbying efforts, assisted by more pro-business policies, that obstacle has eased significantly, and several carriers have trained staff and hired contractors to use drones for property claims inspections. Obstacles remain, including restrictions on use near airfield perimeters and outside of operators’ line of sight.

Carriers are split into two roughly equal camps (by market share) on more recently introduced third party services that provide virtual property inspections: those that do not believe that drone image and damage identification technology is sufficiently accurate as yet to manage claims leakage as effectively as their own staff field adjusters – and those that do. Both groups acknowledge that drones are not appropriate for all property claims. Furthermore, customer satisfaction and therefore retention is thought to be higher when insurance company staff visit the property and the homeowner in person.

The future of property insurance

For claims, virtual methods of inspection will include not only drones but claims reporting that involves customers. Claim self-service, including smartphone images and video, which has seen impressive adoption and results in auto claims, is beginning to penetrate property insurance claims, particularly for reporting home interior and exterior wall damage. New, accurate 3D smartphone image measurement technology combined with higher image resolution and the expected expanded availability of much faster 5G wireless broadband will drive adoption.

See also: Secret to Finding Top Technology Talent  

Other methods of property inspection, particularly following extreme wind or hail events and catastrophes, will most certainly incorporate the use of drones, whether operated by insurance staff, managed repair network contractors or third-party inspection services. Also, autonomous drones performing roof inspections not requiring an operator on site may be expected soon.

Finally, on the property underwriting side, we expect high-resolution geospatial image data from multiple sources, artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform that process. Real-time feeds of comprehensive property attributes such as measurements and condition of roofs and other property on the target site will enable instant and more accurate pricing, quoting and binding/renewal of property insurance.

Aerial imagery, mobile technologies, artificial intelligence and computer vision will continue to transform property insurance products and processes, leading to better pricing accuracy, more profitable operations and, above all, better customer experience for policyholders.

‘Digital’ Needs a Personal Touch

The insurance claims process is rapidly being transformed from analog to digital as industry economics and customer expectations demand it and as technology enables it. Not only does digitization provide impressive cost savings and satisfy the expectations of a growing number of “always connected” consumers, but it delivers a host of other benefits. Insurtech providers of many types have emerged seemingly overnight to provide a dizzying array of new technologies to support claims innovation within established carriers and enable new insurance entrants at the same time.

See also: Let’s Keep ‘Digital’ in Perspective  

Examples include:

  • CCC Information Services, a leading U.S. information provider to the automotive, insurance and collision repair industries, is working to combine auto injury causation software with telematics expertise and overlaying casualty claims management assets to meet the needs of the rapidly transforming auto insurance claims industry.
  • DropIn provides an on-demand, live video platform for more precise underwriting, speeds claim resolution, enhances damage estimate accuracy and reduces indemnity and loss adjustment expenses. Users can access streaming video and high-resolution photos captured directly by customers or via a crowdsourced independent contractor network using commonly available insurtech tools, such as smartphones and drones, to achieve insight into the complexities of auto and property damage for enhanced decision-making.
  • EagleView provides aerial imagery, data analytics, property data and GIS solutions related to millions of residential and commercial properties for local and federal government agencies as well as the infrastructure, insurance, solar and construction sectors.
  • Livegenic provides cloud-based, real-time patented video solutions to property and casualty insurance organizations connecting every part of the claims ecosystem. The Livegenic platform streamlines communication between in-house and external adjusters, appraisers, contractors and policyholders, provides field video loss documentation capabilities, and delivers customer self-service solutions.
  • OnSource provides insurance companies with claims and underwriting photo inspections through intuitive smartphone apps and a mobile website. Policyholders and claimants use self-inspection apps, Instant Inspection’s chat website or its managed network of thousands of photo field inspectors and quality assurance analysts.
  • PartsTrader, an automated repair parts bidding and procurement platform, connects thousands of collision repair shops with repair parts suppliers of all types to reduce the cost and cycle time in the $15 billion U.S. repair parts market segment. The PartsTrader platform allows repair shops to search and compare multiple suppliers at the same time and to work with suppliers competing for their business.
  • Snapsheet uses proprietary technology to optimize virtual auto physical damage claims operations, giving insurance adjusters the tools they need to provide a seamless experience to their claimants.
  • WeGoLook, in which Crawford recently acquired a majority interest, provides on-demand field inspection and verification services. Using its web and mobile platform the company empowers a 30,000-plus mobile workforce, known as Lookers, to collect and verify information and fulfill custom tasks for businesses and consumers alike in insurance and other verticals.

While this is all good news – and inevitable – what is at risk of being overlooked in this rush to a more efficient, streamlined claim process are the individuals who buy and use insurance services and at critical times require the reassurance and comfort of a personal touch.

Auto claims are a case in point. Many claims processes, mainly those that take place in the background, are well-suited to the cold efficiency of technology, automation and digitization. But the auto claim is frequently preceded by a totally unexpected, disorienting and sometimes traumatic accident. This is the moment when the consumer most needs and depends upon the insurance carrier….and a human touch.

In 2016, there were about 190 million registered passenger vehicles on the road in the U.S. More than 15 million auto accidents occurred involving 18.5 million vehicles. Stated another way, about one out of every 10 cars on the road was involved in an accident. On average, every driver can expect to experience an auto accident once every 10 years, most minor in nature but others involving serious injury or even death. Sadly, there were 40,200 traffic fatalities in 2016.

We are never fully prepared, nor do we know exactly what to do when involved in a traffic accident. The experience is unfamiliar and confusing. A battery of questions immediately come to mind – how much is this going to cost me? – was this my fault? – could I have prevented it? – how will I get where I was going? – who should I notify first? – is anyone hurt, including me? And so on.

Historically, a police officer would typically show up, review the scene, ask the drivers several questions, make some notes and direct the vehicles off the roadway to a safe location or if necessary call a tow truck or an emergency vehicle.

Then you would need to follow an often frustrating, protracted claims and repair process; call your agent or carrier; get the car to a body shop, arrange for a rental car; make numerous calls to the shop and the adjuster to see when your car will be ready; and then reach into your pocket to pay your deductible even after paying your insurance premiums faithfully for all those years.

But this scenario will soon be a thing of the past. For one thing, police in many urban markets are no longer responding to auto accident calls. Law enforcement budgets are shrinking, and police officers are busy handling higher-priority tasks such as criminal investigations. We can’t rely on the police always showing up in the future.

Insurance companies are addressing some of their challenges by using new technologies to make the auto claim and repair process simpler and faster. Many carriers offer smartphone apps that include claim-reporting capabilities enabling drivers to take photos or videos of the accident damage at the scene (or later from home) and upload them to the carrier, which assesses the damage and schedules the repair, often in minutes. Some companies are paying drivers electronically on their smartphones and closing out the claim in mere hours.

However, for those who believe that younger policyholders prefer technology to human contact, the recent J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study reveals that only 7% of millennials prefer digital channels to report their claims and concludes that technology cannot fully replace humans during the claims process, even among millennials.

The one missing piece is what happens immediately after an accident occurs and before your insurance company starts to process your claim. Not everyone has a smartphone, is tech-savvy enough or understands the importance of reporting the accident immediately to the insurance company. Auto accidents can be traumatic. Many people can be involved, in your vehicle and in other vehicles. Differences of opinion between drivers about the facts or what caused the accident are not unusual. Without the presence and authority of a police officer, people are left to cope with all of these issues on their own. And, because almost 80% of vehicles damaged in auto accidents are safely driveable, there’s no logical reason to have to stay at the scene once your information is exchanged with the other driver(s).

See also: Do You Really Have a Digital Strategy?

To address these new realities, innovative programs have emerged to bridge the gap between the accident and the claim report. One such solution is the Collision Reporting Center (CRC). These facilities provide drivers with the assistance, advice and support they need at the critical time following an accident. The CRC is a partnership between local police departments and privately managed reporting centers. The model initially emerged in Canada 20 years ago when the insurance industry and police joined forces to solve a mutual challenge. Today, the operation manages 32 Collision Reporting Centers in partnership with 53 police departments across Canada and serves 80% of the Canadian auto insurance industry. Recently, the operator expanded into the U.S., opening its first Collision Reporting Center in Roanoke, VA, in the fall of 2016, with plans to open several more centers soon.

At the Collision Reporting Center, drivers involved in an accident provide their individual accounts of what happened and other information while professional staff take digital images to document damage. The information is reviewed by an on-site police officer at the CRC and is immediately sent to the driver’s insurance company, where a claim is initiated and processed. Drivers are provided with a customized instructional guide from their own carriers describing what to do next and a private room where they can make a phone call to their insurance company or family members. The Collision Reporting Center provides a comfortable and safe environment, eliminating the need for drivers to wait on the roadway.

As we move toward self-driving automobiles and the elimination of most accidents,, we will see many innovative accident and claim management programs emerge that can bridge the gap between the auto accident and resolution of the claim process. Collision Reporting Centers are an excellent solution to these needs – they provide personalized customer service and a human touch with the power of technology making the auto accident reporting process as non-intrusive as possible into our busy lives.