Tag Archives: sma

Digital Outbound Payments Heat Up

The heat of summer is kicking in around the U.S., and the temperature is rising, too, in the digital transformation in one area of the market: digital outbound payments in claims.

Since February, the pace has accelerated beyond what we even thought fathomable. COVID-19 has been horrific, but it has brought clarity about the areas that are urgently in need of digital transformation.

SMA recently published findings from our latest market pulse survey, titled P&C Tech Plans in the COVID-19 Era. The report reveals that fully 81% of personal lines insurers and 57% of commercial lines insurers are investing in digital payments. 

In January 2019, I wrote that this area was positioned to explode. The focus on enhancing the customer experience was pushing P&C insurers forward. The digital payment process possessed the potential to provide operational improvements, especially in efficiency. The flexibility around payments became the target of many critical initiatives.

See also: Cloud Computing Wins in COVID-19 World  

Fast forward to May 2020. When we went into lockdown, we quickly realized which activities required intervention – those that required people coming into the office to print paper checks to be sent to customers and third parties. It becomes obvious that this is low-hanging fruit, and a plethora of vendors have solutions in the market today.

Join SMA and TDI on July 15 for a first-of-its-kind industry event that showcases the capabilities of digital payments and how vendors are bringing these capabilities to life.

Retrenchment on Tech Plans? Not Yet

P&C insurers are staying the course when it comes to their original digital and technology plans and investments for 2020. Many insurers report no changes to their plans, with some reshaping and a few accelerating, but very few pausing or retrenching. These are the big themes in SMA’s new research report, P&C Tech Plans in the COVID-19 Era: SMA Market Pulse Insights. 2021 plans may paint an entirely different picture, but, for now, P&C insurers are moving full speed ahead.

As might be expected, the plans vary significantly by line of business. Commercial lines insurers are much more cautious than their personal lines counterparts, chiefly due to the larger negative impact of the pandemic. Still, our SMA market pulse survey of insurance executives confirmed what we have been hearing from our clients:

  • 95% of personal lines insurers are moving forward with their overall technology plans and investments, with only 5% retrenching.
  • 75% of commercial lines insurers are moving forward with their overall technology plans and investments, with 25% retrenching or pausing.

Our survey also showed that many of the insurers that are moving forward are reshaping and reprioritizing projects while keeping investment levels steady and striving to maintain momentum. Digital payments appear to be one of the hottest areas, as insurers have been obligated to send employees into physical offices to print and mail paper checks. Core systems also continue to move forward, although interestingly nuanced by line of business and with differences between policy, billing and claims plans.

Digital transformation plans are quite different for personal and commercial lines insurers. On the personal lines side, there is a trend toward accelerating plans, while commercial lines insurer plans are mixed. Only about one-third of commercial lines companies are continuing with digital transformation plans unchanged, while another third pause or retrench and the final third reshape or accelerate.

See also: Will COVID-19 Disrupt Insurtech?  

Overall, the response to the pandemic from P&C insurers has been remarkable as companies continue to support their distribution partners and policyholders. Plans are likely to morph even more as the pandemic continues. SMA intends to conduct the market pulse research on a regular basis throughout the remainder of 2020 and report on changes to insurer plans along the way.

For more details on how insurer plans are changing, read the new SMA Research report, P&C Tech Plans in the COVID-19 Era: SMA Market Pulse Insights, which can be purchased here. The report covers personal and commercial lines insurer plans for overall tech spending; digital transformation plans and investments; and plans for policy, billing, claims, and payments initiatives.

Standing Strong in the Moment of Truth

In a blink of an eye, the world – society and all of humanity – are being stressed at every level imaginable due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. No one could ever have imagined or planned what this could really be like … including our industry. But since the beginnings of insurance, we have had a history of weathering all storms, all types of disasters and even pandemics. And I am confident that we will weather this one, as well. Insurance is a financially strong, resilient industry. We serve as a safety net for society, mitigating risks for all types of disasters – man-made or natural. This is who we are and what we do. And this is our moment of truth.

In the midst of all of this upheaval, we have a unique opportunity to do what is right by being a strong, dependable force for good. Our world – our employees, customers, partners and everyone in our ecosystem and beyond – need our strength and resilience, right now, tomorrow and every day moving forward. 

On the other side of this pandemic wave, the core of who we are as an industry will remain the same, but every aspect of what and how could be altered by this experience. The rules of engagement are changing, even as I write this blog. And that is okay. Every disaster presents new clarity and new experiences that create opportunities. 

At SMA, we are confident that new ideas, new approaches and new ways to accelerate the connections with our employees, customers, partners and everyone in our ecosystem will happen by adjusting and advancing digital transformation strategies and plans. 

See also: The Best Tools for Disaster Preparation  

Just remember, we are all part of this amazing insurance industry, and we are all standing strong. We will continue to stay present in this moment of truth. And we will do our absolute best to help you, as well. Just stay safe and healthy. 

Paper Checks: Finally Going Away?

Insurers are becoming more digitally based, data-driven organizations that are investing in the customer experience to address the new expectations of today’s consumer. At the same time, there are always some old habits that die hard – habits that need to change but somehow remain the same.

Today’s consumer is doing more and more online or on a smartphone every day. We pay for coffee with an app; we pay with our eWallet at the grocery store; we transfer money between our bank accounts on our smartphones. With services like Venmo and PayPal, we are able to pay friends and family electronically. Consumers have come to expect this ease and convenience in every area of their lives.

When it comes to insurance, we are seeing things change. Insurers are creating an easy and efficient process for their customers from quote to premium payment to claims intake. So, the payment process has certainly transformed in insurance… but only to a point. The next step in the transformation needs to come at the moment that really matters for an insured – the claim payment.

Paper checks are still substantially used by the industry to provide outbound payments in the claims process. Checks are one of the most expensive forms of payment and create a delay in accessing the funds. All parties involved with the payment process – claimants, third parties, mortgagees and lienholders – are looking for a change in the traditional check process. It is easy to imagine how a positive experience could quickly be forgotten if a customer has to wait for a paper check.

See also: Some Things Are Too Important for Paper  

Insurers must take the next steps to meet growing customer expectations. The good news is that as fast as customer expectations are changing, new payment technologies are becoming available. While there will be challenges to address to make it happen, insurers may soon be able to put the paper check to rest.

Strategy Meets Action’s newest report, The Payment World Explodes: The Need for Digital Customer Experiences Is Driving Payment Innovationoffers insights into the state of payments in the industry today and the direction that payments are headed in the future. To learn more or to purchase the report, visit this website.

Data Prefill: Now You See It, Now You Don’t

At children’s birthday parties, a guest magician may utter the well-worn phrase, “now you see it, now you don’t” – and a bouquet of flowers disappears. That trick, a heartwarming memory for many, also relates to the vast quantity of questions on an application for commercial lines insurance.

It’s daunting for a business owner to come face to face with the numerous blanks on an insurance application. Much of the required information is not immediately at hand – or not understood at all. For distributors, the familiarity with the content is certainly there – at least for seasoned personnel. But the time it takes to fill empty boxes keeps them away from more useful interactions with customers. On the other side of the transaction, company underwriters need information to price the risk. For a very long time, the industry has been at a stalemate.

A conundrum? Not any longer.

See also: 3 Keys to Selecting the Right Platform  

Enter data prefill and new data sources. Data prefill certainly isn’t new – personal lines insurers have employed it for some time. But, the impetus to use the capabilities in commercial lines has not been present until now. Business owners require a simpler application process, and distributors need to be freed from clerical tasks. Undertaking a data prefill initiative may be a simple decision for some organizations – but for others it may be a challenge. In either instance, SMA has a five-step analysis process (Why, Who, How, Where and What) that can guide any organization looking at data prefill. It’s important to approach the initiative with a measured assessment to ensure a successful outcome, even if everyone is already on board with data prefill.

Given the press that organizations such as Cake Insure and Pie Insurance have received, it might be easy to assume that data prefill is all about small business and workers’ compensation. Clearly, there are significant opportunities in the small business arena to condense insurance applications down to three, four or five pieces of data. Evan Greenberg, CEO of Chubb, has declared that the current 30 questions in small business applications will be condensed to around seven within 18 months. However, it would be a mistake to assume that data prefill is just about one commercial lines segment.

In fact, insurers covering all but the most complex jumbo commercial lines have an amazing opportunity to use the same data integration techniques for data prefill to automatically integrate data into more complex lines of business – to improve data accuracy and thus drive profitability. Regardless of the line of business or size of the business insured, augmenting application data with new, emerging data can support underwriters in their decision making. And, perhaps, it can eliminate the need to obtain information from business owners and distributors and promote a much greater degree of accuracy. SMA’s recently released report, Transformation in Commercial Lines: The Five Steps for Data Prefill, provides a view of this.

See also: The Problems With Blockchain, Big Data 

This brings us back to “now you see it, now you don’t” and the disappearing questions on commercial lines applications. Having spent a long time as an underwriter, I recognize that it is unsettling to think about losing the data elements that one has relied on to make decisions. However, with data prefill, that data can be found and used in many ways: eliminating questions on applications for small businesses and prefilling internal systems for more accurate decisions on complex lines. No one will be deprived of data – the source will just be different – an insurance magician’s answer to several challenges!