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Ceded Reinsurance Needs SaaS Model

Ceded reinsurance management is still a technology backwater at insurers that manage their reinsurance policies and claims with spreadsheet software. These manual methods are error-prone, slow and labor-intensive. Regulatory compliance is difficult, and legitimate claims can slip through.

Insurers recognize they need a better solution, and there’s progress. While quite a few insurers have implemented a ceded reinsurance system in the last few years, many more are planning to install their first system sometime soon. They want to have software that lets them manage complex facultative reinsurance and treaties and the corresponding policies and claims efficiently in one place.

Insurers looking to upgrade any kind of system have better choices today than ever about how and where to implement it. While licensing the software and running it on-premises is still an option, virtually every insurer is considering putting new systems on the cloud in some way. Nearly every insurer expects vendors to include a SaaS or hosted option in their RFPs.

That’s not surprising. A 2014 Ovum whitepaper said 52% of insurers it surveyed are currently earmarking 20% to 39% of new IT spending on SAAS, while 21% are spending 40% to 59%.

The definition of SaaS is not set in stone, but let’s try for a basic understanding. SaaS normally means that the insurer pays the vendor a monthly fee that covers everything—the use of the software, maintenance, upgrades and support. The software is hosted more often at a secure cloud provider such as Amazon Web Services that offers a sound service level agreement.

A ceded reinsurance system is an especially good candidate for a SaaS or a hybrid solution (more on that later). It’s an opportunity for insurers and IT professionals to get comfortable with SaaS on a smaller scale before putting a core system such as a policy administration system in the cloud.

SaaS is attractive for several key reasons. One is that it can save money. Instead of paying a large upfront fee for a perpetual software license, the insurer just pays a monthly, all-inclusive “rental” fee. The software vendor and the cloud-hosting vendor provide both the application and underlying software (such as Oracle or WebSphere) and servers. All the insurer needs is a solid Internet connection. And if your building is hit with a flood or earthquake and has to close, business won’t stop, because users can access the system from almost anywhere.

Having the experts run, maintain and upgrade the software is another big advantage. Instead of having internal IT people apply patches and updates, the vendor—which knows its own software better than anyone else—keeps the application going 24/7. Because it is doing the same thing for many customers, there are economies of scale.

Lower upfront costs and the ability to outsource maintenance to experts mean that even small and medium-sized insurers can afford a state-of-the-art system that might be out of reach otherwise. But even big insurers that have the money and funds to buy and staff a system can still find SaaS to be a compelling option. Whether the insurer is big, small or mid-sized, SaaS offers a platform that may never become obsolete.

Additionally, going the SaaS route can get your system up and running faster, as you won’t need to buy hardware and install the system on your servers. How long it will take depends on the amount of customization required and on the data requirements.

Scalability is another plus. When the business grows, the customer can just adjust the monthly fee instead of having to buy more hardware.

A 2014 Gartner survey of organizations in 10 countries said most are deploying SaaS for mission-critical functions. The traditional on-premises software model is expected to shrink from 34% today to 18% by 2017, Gartner said.

While these are powerful advantages, there are some real or at least perceived disadvantages with SaaS. Probably the biggest barrier is willingness to have a third party store data. A ceded system uses nearly all data from the insurance company, sometimes over many underwriting years, and executives must be comfortable that their company’s data is 100% safe when it’s stored elsewhere. That can be a big leap of faith that some companies aren’t ready to make.

A hybrid solution can be a good way around that. More common in Europe, hybrid solutions are starting to catch on in North America. With this model, the software and data reside at the insurer or reinsurer, which also owns the license. The difference is that the vendor connects to the insurer’s environment to monitor, optimize and maintain the system. As with SaaS, the insurer’s IT department has little involvement with continuing operations. All that is work is outsourced.

How much access does the vendor have to the insurer’s data and systems under a hybrid solution? There are various options, depending on the insurer’s comfort level.

What’s the right solution for a ceded reinsurance system to your company? Each company is unique, and the best answer depends on many factors. But whether you go the on-premises route, choose SaaS or use a hybrid solution, you’ll get a modern system that handles reinsurance efficiently and effectively. Your company is going to benefit greatly.

Unified Communications and Collaboration are Increasingly Important for Insurers

Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) capabilities are becoming increasingly important for insurers and companies in other industries in the rapidly emerging digital marketplace. To determine how enterprises around the globe are using or planning to use UCC, Ovum interviewed over 1,320 enterprise ICT decision-makers in 18 countries in 4Q12 and 1Q13. Ovum's report The Future of Unified Communications and Collaboration: Insurance presents an indicative view of current and planned use of voice and UCC tools in the insurance marketplace, based on interviews with 24 insurance respondents. Specifically, we discuss insurers' ongoing use of telephony (IP-PBX), the gap between insurers' views of employee demands and the reality of what employees want or are familiar with, and the fact that insurers realize that smartphones and tablets will have the largest impact on their operations in the next three years.
 

Telephony (IP-PBX) remains the most widely adopted UCC technology, but IM and web conferencing follow closely behind

UCC suppliers – telecoms and unified communications (UC) vendors and their value-added resellers (VARs) – need patience with the pace at which the insurance industry adopts technology. It is unsurprising that the survey shows that insurers currently use telephony (IP-PBX), instant messaging (IM), and audio/web conferencing as their key UCC technologies; indeed, insurers have decades of experience with telephony and web conferencing. IM might be considered late to the insurance scene, but claim adjusters can use this communication tool to interact with one another and the claims department in the home office, while life and property and casualty (P&C) insurance agents can use it to interact or send quick messages to clients to confirm a meeting time and place, for example.

Insurers believe their employees inhabit the same time warp as them

Our survey asked insurers to indicate their employees' familiarity with nine UCC technologies. Unfortunately, the list of UCC technologies that employees are familiar with and have a significant interest in is, according to insurers, short. Only 42% of insurers state that their employees are familiar with and have a significant interest in consumer applications such as Skype, Twitter, and Facebook. Only 38% of insurers state that their employees are familiar with and have a significant interest in IM. The proportion of insurers stating that their employees are familiar with and have a significant interest in seven other UCC technologies (shared UC such as unified messaging, UC client on smartphones and tablets, audio and web conferencing, personal video, room-based video conferencing, business social media applications such as Yammer, and team workspaces and content tools such as SharePoint) ranges from 3% to 17%. Ovum is incredulous at this. We believe that insurers are wrong, and to improve their accuracy in this area they should periodically ask their employees which UCC technologies they are familiar with and are significantly interested in.

For insurers, cost both poses a challenge and drives investment in UCC

Insurers say they want to determine a business case or identify a path toward the use of UCC to assist with decision-making before investing in it. They believe they need to overcome the hurdle of lack of user demand. But Ovum wonders if insurers have asked their users about their desire to use various UCC technologies generally and which applications specifically; we are skeptical that such employee surveys have actually taken place.

Cost is also driving investment, along with employee productivity and business flexibility. However, Ovum believes these drivers will prevent insurers from investing in UCC as soon as they should; they could even be considered barriers to UCC adoption.

Insurers believe the next three years will see a shift in important UCC developments

Looking ahead three years, insurers believe that smartphones and tablets will have the biggest impact on UCC. We hope this is because they realize the devices represent platforms on which to expose insurance forms and functionality (e.g. claim forms, quoting/rating, and new policy application forms) as apps. This will enable more insurance employees in the field, whether insurance agents or claim adjustors, to be more productive.


 

Location, Location, Location – It Matters in Insurance, Too

Location plays a critical role in the insurance industry. The issue of place is central to business acquisition, channel management, underwriting, and claim adjudication, to name a few insurance business functions. However, most insurers are challenged by how to find, access, and use the requisite geographic information to improve decision-making, operations, and customer service. Fortunately, one potential solution to the challenge is emerging through the use of three groups of technologies – social media, location intelligence, and mobility – which some technology and telecommunication firms are beginning to support and/or package together into one set of interdependent capabilities called SoLoMo. Ovum's recently published report SoLoMo: Social, Location, and Mobility Join to Enhance Insurance Commerce and Service describes what SoLoMo is and discusses SoLoMo's stages of engagement, major capabilities, and revenue opportunities for insurers. One revenue possibility is offering telematics value-add services such as discounts at restaurants to reward good driving behavior.

SoLoMo is a set of capabilities that “knows” about the longitude and latitude of a geographic area and, to some degree, knows in real time about the tangible assets (e.g. buildings, vehicles, livestock) within it, whether those tangible assets have embedded sensors or not. SoLoMo creates and delivers its knowledge in a real-time, geographically defined context. The contextually determined knowledge is created by streams of information captured on a device as a person travels to or moves through a location. That information includes the needs of the person using the device, the device's location, and the location's tangible assets. The information also includes social media and business enterprise social network feeds about the location and its tangible assets. Currently, a SoLoMo device could be a smartphone, tablet, or vehicle with an embedded sensor.

There are four stages of real-time engagement between a SoLoMo device and its surroundings. SoLoMo devices can already support some of the capabilities of the first three stages of engagement:

  • Stage 1 – Passive engagement: This is the basic level of SoLoMo engagement, and it offers a “for your information” purpose about the location of homes or businesses.
  • Stage 2 – Active engagement: This level of engagement includes the commonly available turn-by-turn directional guidance with or without voice navigation. However, it could also include receiving information from other smartphones or tablets in the geographic area.
  • Stage 3 – Interactive engagement: This level of engagement enables insurance stakeholders to receive and incorporate information from sensor-embedded tangible assets in the geographic area concerning their state (e.g. damaged or destroyed).
  • Stage 4 – Autonomous engagement: This level of engagement enables the SoLoMo device to accomplish everything in Stage 3 but without human intervention.

SoLoMo will need to encompass six major capabilities to support insurance company commerce and service requirements as the levels of engagement evolve through the four stages. The objective of each capability is:

  • Determine: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to determine if a physical artifact exists in a given location, whether the person using a SoLoMo device is stationary or moving through the geographic area.
  • Share: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to share ideas with personal social media or enterprise social network (ESN) members about the state of the physical artifact and its content.
  • Capture: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to capture information about the location and its tangible assets (and possibly the contents of each tangible asset).
  • Interact: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to interact with a digital avatar representing the tangible asset and its content. The digital avatar would store the date and nature of the interaction as well as the name or other identification of the SoLoMo device (or person using the device) engaging with it.
  • Integrate: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to integrate third-party data sources (e.g. NOAA, Marshall & Swift/Boeckh) and information from the insurer's ESN, core administration, and customer relationship management or customer experience management (CRM/CEM) systems together on the device.
  • Personalize: This capability enables the user of a SoLoMo device to receive personalized information based on the insurance stakeholder's needs and the geographic area.

SoLoMo offers insurers an opportunity to provide fee-based value-added services. This is important because it helps insurers diversify their earnings from being primarily risk-based premium revenue. Examples of value-added services that insurers could offer policyholders or prospective clients include the following, which could be augmented with social media feeds or, where appropriate, the insurer's ESN content and real-time commentary:

  • Telematics services – Insurers could offer: (1) discounts at restaurants based on good driving behavior; (2) safe driving programs that provide discounts on automobile insurance premiums to policyholders willing to install a device, or an app on an existing device, that prevents the driver from using a smartphone while the vehicle is in motion; or (3) information about the closest authorized automobile repair shop.
  • Remediation services – Insurers could provide a buying service for requisite items to restore retail customers’ homes or commercial clients’ business facilities, including bundling reviews from other policyholders or the general marketplace about the quality of products and services from companies selling the replacement products.
  • Child or elderly parent safety monitoring – Insurers could offer clients monthly geo-fencing monitoring of children or elderly parents' movements within a target location.
  • Business interruption cost estimation – Assuming the enterprise has a sufficient number of embedded sensors in the facility's structures and content the enterprise sells, insurers could estimate the state of each of the enterprise's tangible assets (existence, destruction, damage), compare that with data sources relating to labor and material cost to replace or remediate the tangible assets, and wirelessly report that information to the enterprise's CFO and chief risk officer (and to the insurer's actuarial and claim departments).

Global Insurance IT Spending Set to Top $100 Billion

As conditions in insurance markets worldwide slowly improve, CIOs are beginning to re-assess their strategies to drive a new set of IT priorities and are increasing their IT budgets.

The new reality of only modest premium growth in most mature markets is driving focus on simultaneously improving operational efficiency and organizational flexibility. As a result, Ovum is seeing the re-emergence of IT projects focused on legacy system consolidation/transformation and replacement.

Within emerging insurance markets, expanding core platforms and infrastructure to support growth in these regions remains the priority.

Consumers' demands for “anywhere, anytime” interaction continue to drive significant IT investment in digital channels across all regional markets.

These findings come from the latest Ovum Insurance Technology Spend Forecasts, available on the Ovum Knowledge Center. These interactive models provide a highly detailed breakdown of IT spending through 2017, segmented by geography, insurance type, insurance business function, and IT category.

The sharp decline in new business growth across all life insurance markets following the global slowdown led most insurers to rapidly and significantly cut their IT budgets. However, accelerating year-on-year growth in 2013, following some cautious expansion from 2011, confirms that life insurers are now moving from a cost-cutting mindset toward reinvestment in strategic IT projects. Ovum expects this growth in IT budgets to continue at a 7.6% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2013 and 2017 to reach a global value of just over $49 billion.

IT spending across global non-life insurance markets varies less and has generally lower growth rates. However, Ovum expects IT spending by non-life insurers to grow at a 5.7% CAGR overall to reach $60 billion in 2017. IT spending in the most mature regional markets of North America and Europe will continue to remain significantly greater (at least twice the size) than the faster-growing Asia-Pacific region beyond 2017.

As insurers emerge from short-term cost-cutting, CIOs are beginning to prioritize projects that drive customer acquisition and retention or improve operational effectiveness – ideally both. All insurers should at least be re-assessing their current IT approach to ensure sufficient focus is given to revenue-growth initiatives, to prevent becoming stuck in a “maintenance only” IT strategy.

Within the European markets, intensive competition and prolonged slow premium growth is driving a focus on customer retention, with online portal projects being key IT initiaitives for many life insurers. These initiatives are a critical means of driving process efficiency, reducing operational costs, and responding to the demands of policy-holders for self-service functionality. As the requirements of Solvency II recede and the imperative to deliver sustainable reduction in operational costs becomes increasingly urgent, European life insurers are also refocusing on the issue of legacy system modernization. Legacy systems are not a new concern, but market conditions are now forcing insurers to address the problem. As a result, Ovum expects to see continued expansion of IT budgets in support of consolidation/transformation and core system replacement projects, to reach annual spending of nearly $5 billion by 2017.

A key priority driving IT spending by North American life insurers is the need to comply with emerging regulation such as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Solvency Modernization Initiative (SMI). The impact of regulatory compliance on IT budgets will continue to be felt up to 2017, driving spending on enterprise risk management (ERM) and enhanced management information systems (MIS) in particular. Ovum forecasts a 9.7% CAGR in this area.

The Asia-Pacific region will see the most significant growth at an 11.6% CAGR to reach annual IT spending nearing $15 billion by 2017, overtaking the European market to become the second-largest regional market. This expansion is being driven by life insurers needing to “build out” core systems and infrastructure to capture the strong growth opportunities in the region.

The goal of increasing new revenue through greater customer interaction is a critical objective for non-life insurers in both the North American and Asia-Pacific markets. Although North American non-life insurers are already well advanced in terms of online channel deployment and functionality, Ovum expects budgets directly related to digital channels to grow at a 9.0% CAGR, with mobile and social media emerging as the key focus of channel-related IT projects. Among Asia-Pacific non-life insurers, Ovum expects advanced functionality (such as policy application, quotation, payments, claim tracking, etc.) served via digital channels to see rapid development in the next 24 months.

European insurers in general are less advanced in the implementation of digital channels than their North American counterparts, although there is significant variation between individual players. However, Ovum expects this gap to rapidly diminish as the deployment of online portals and mobile channels emerges as a key priority from 2013 onward. IT spending in support of digital channels will grow at a 7.4% CAGR to 2017, with much of this growth occurring early on.

Insurers Rearm To Fight Professional Fraudsters

Many insurers are redesigning their strategies to deliver systems that forestall attempted fraud, adapt to changing fraud techniques, and are applied at all points of interaction between a policyholder and an insurer. This change is driven by the alarming increase in professional fraud networks in the last five years and the realization that an effective fraud strategy can provide a competitive advantage in the currently very difficult market conditions.

A number of technologies have now matured to a level where, when used in combination, they offer insurers highly effective means of detecting and preventing even the most sophisticated fraud schemes. As a result, these technologies—which include predictive analytics, link analysis, text mining, in-memory database, and cloud services—will become significant areas of investment for insurers during the next 12–24 months.

A recent Ovum report, Tackling Insurance Fraud, discusses the reasons behind the increased focus on insurance fraud and explains how a range of technologies can be applied to implement a comprehensive and effective insurance fraud system.

Professional fraudsters use sophisticated schemes—such as staged or induced auto accidents, life insurance owned by strangers, or false hit-and-run claims—to illegally obtain significant sums from insurers. Professional fraud schemes often involve complex networks of criminal players within medical services providers, auto repair centers, hospitals, insurance agents, or even insurance companies. The volume of organized professional fraud is low in comparison with that of opportunist fraud by amateurs, but the sums being claimed illegally by an individual group can amount to many tens of thousands of dollars and, in some cases, millions.

The vast majority of insurers have already invested, to some degree, in fraud technology. Although this investment has delivered benefits, it has tended to take a piecemeal approach. Investment is usually focused only on the claims phase. Technology used today is generally not sufficient to address the growing problem of professional insurance fraud.

The continued fragility of many developed economies means that insurance markets will remain extremely competitive for at least the next 36 months, with only muted premium growth, limited room for rate increases, and investment returns that will remain volatile. So, insurers are urgently seeking ways to significantly and sustainably reduce both administration and claims costs. As claims payments typically account for 80% of an insurer's costs (excluding administration costs), reducing them by decreasing the level of fraudulent payouts can have a significant impact on a carrier’s cost base and margins.

With the Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimating that fraud currently adds approximately £50 to each auto policy, an effective fraud strategy can drive significant competitive advantage in a tough market by allowing insurers to reduce premium levels. An effective fraud strategy can also bring additional service benefits. In particular, simplifying and expediting the processing of legitimate claims increases the likelihood that a policy-holder will renew a policy.

There is no single “silver bullet” technology that can fully address the issue of complex insurance fraud. However, technology areas such as predictive analytics, text mining, link analysis, in-memory databases, and cloud services, together with fraud technologies commonly used today (such as rules-based systems and anomaly detection) can be combined to create highly effective systems that detect even the most sophisticated and complex fraud schemes. These systems are able to detect and adapt even to previously unknown fraud techniques that may be employed by professional fraudsters.

To date, most insurers have focused their fraud strategies on the claims process. While this is a critical point at which to detect potential fraud, the effectiveness of a fraud strategy, particularly in avoiding organized criminal fraud, can be significantly enhanced by using technology across the entire insurance product lifecycle. It is now possible to apply technology in real time, at multiple points at which insurers and policyholders interact. For example, the use of link analysis can stop fraud by identifying applicants with connections to others that have either committed fraud or are suspected of doing so.

Professional fraudsters can be very sophisticated. Insurers need to keep rearming themselves if they are to win the battle and help themselves thrive in a tough market.