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What Will Operations Look Like in 2028?

In a 2011 article in Insurance and Technology, Kathy Burger enumerated several big technological changes in the insurance industry since 2001, including the rise of big data, the ubiquitous nature of cell phones and social media and an increased emphasis on data security and privacy.

Seven years later, these once-big innovations are par for the course. P&C insurers and insurtech companies are now positioned to use these tools — which scarcely existed in 2001 and which were only beginning to be broadly embraced in 2011 — as the foundation for the next wave of major changes in the insurance industry.

Now, let’s look at some of the biggest rising insurtech trends today to get an idea of where they’re likely to take us 10 years from now.

Auto Insurance

In July 2015, Jayleen R. Heft published an article at PropertyCasualty360 with the provocative title, “Will the auto insurance industry be obsolete in 20 years?”

Heft cited the work of Deutsche Bank research analyst Joshua Shanker, who argued that by 2030 self-driving cars and ride-sharing services would occupy so much of the automotive market that setting rates based on driving data would no longer be necessary. Instead, the companies behind these vehicles and services would simply “insure their cars like any other product,” Heft said.

While self-driving cars and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are already shaking up the auto industry, predicting the demise of auto insurance by 2030 — or by 2028, even — may be premature. Pay-per-mile auto insurance is gaining popularity. Spearheaded by companies like Metromile and Esurance, the pay-per-mile model charges a base rate, plus a specified rate for each mile driven.

“Each mile usually costs a few cents,” Craig Casazza explains in an article for ValuePenguin. “So if you drive 200 miles per month at a rate of five cents per mile, you would be charged $10.” In addition, Metromile only charges drivers for the first 250 miles driven in any given day in most states.

Tracking Mileage With Telemetrics

Both Metromile and Esurance use telemetrics to track miles driven to calculate each month’s rate. Metromile calls its program the “Metromile Pulse,” and it uses the car’s OBD-II port to track mileage.

Other insurance companies have experimented with telemetrics for a number of years but haven’t connected rates directly to miles driven. Instead, they use the vehicle’s data to adjust rates in a more complex, less transparent manner, Casazza says.

See also: Future of P&C Tech Comes Into Focus  

The pay-per-mile model is increasingly popular with younger drivers, who often have the option to abandon their cars entirely for the convenience of Uber or public transportation, but who are happy to keep the freedom of their own vehicle when they feel they can more directly control its costs. For these drivers, who include a growing number of those currently under age 40, auto insurance may survive into the 2030s — although it may operate in a very different way.

Shanker’s prediction that auto insurance will fade into product liability insurance over the next decade, however, may be prescient. In an October 2017 article in Business Insider, Danielle Muoio explored Tesla’s partnership with Liberty Mutual to sell insurance as part of the purchase price of the company’s vehicles. The plan, called InsureMyTesla, factors in the car’s autopilot feature while setting rates and comes up with a lower cost than other insurance plans as a result, Muoio reports.

Insuring Shared Rides

Similarly, while ride-sharing company Uber currently requires drivers to carry their own auto insurance coverage while also providing supplementary insurance, the company may switch to providing all insurance coverage on its cars as it continues to move into the self-driving vehicle market.

Given Uber’s bumpy ride in producing self-driving vehicles, however, the company’s total abandonment of conventional auto insurance expectations for human drivers may be more than 10 years out, Tech Radar’s Leif Johnson and Michelle Fitzsimmons said in May 2018.

Adding Value and Processing Claims

“Digital technology destroys value,” warned a March 2017 article by Tanguy Catlin, Johannes-Tobias Lorenz, Christopher Morrison, and Holger Wilms at McKinsey & Co. According to the authors, “although digital technology propels some companies to become clear market winners, for many more its impact depletes corporate earnings and the overall value of an industry. Consumers, not companies, are often the ultimate winners.”

To stay relevant, the authors said, insurance companies must “meet customers’ expectations, which have been transformed by digital technology.”

In 2018, insurance companies seeking to stay ahead of the curve often accomplish this task by breaking down their own silos and presenting a quick, clean digital interface that makes it easy for customers to interact with the company and for staff to understand customers’ needs and provide clear, consistent answers.

Bridging Human and Automated Workflows

By 2028, companies are likely to have struck a balance between automation and human intervention — a balance that many insurers are currently struggling to find, Rick Huckstep writes in an article in The Digital Insurer. Automation offers both the opportunity to improve claims response and the challenge of providing the “human touch” that customers also demand, as Roger Peverelli and Reggy De Feniks put it in a December 2017 piece for Insurance Thought Leadership.

The goal will be to use automation in a way that doesn’t feel automated. As AI technology continues to develop, this goal may be fully realized within 10 years.

The automation of many of the current day-to-day tasks faced by insurance agents will, in turn, change agents’ jobs. Some commentators are already predicting that today’s field agents will be obsolete by 2023, replaced by “bionic agents” who have fully integrated digital tools, including AI and machine learning, into their work.

How Automation Influences Customer Expectations

Customers are already demanding the knowledge and flexibility a bionic agent exemplifies. As Jason Walker writes at PropertyCasualty360, “Consumers today want the ability to conduct insurance business anytime, anywhere for simple transactions, while at the same time be able to have a relationship with a professional to discuss complex policy questions or walk them through the claims process.” As this option becomes ever more normalized for customers, the demand for the same experience in insurance will rise. as well.

The result? By 2028, “digital natives” won’t only be insurance customers — they’ll also be insurance agents who leverage technology not only to serve customers but to demonstrate real value in the insurance process.

See also: Key Strategic Initiatives in P&C  

Automation and Claims Processing

Field agents aren’t the only insurance industry professionals who will see their work change dramatically by 2028. The ways insurance companies process claims will change, as well, driven in large part by customer expectations.

For instance, Ben Rossi writes at Information Age that about a fifth of young adult customers (ages 18–24) expect insurance companies to use drone technology to survey property damage and gather information for claims.

This idea “would have been unthinkable as recently as a couple of years ago,” Rossi says. Ten years from now, sending a drone to a damaged building or factory site may be as commonplace as sending a human adjuster has been for the past 10 years.

For many of us, 2008 feels like it was yesterday. In 2028, our memories of 2018 will feel the same — yet the insurance industry is poised to be eons ahead of where it currently stands, and insurtech will lead the way.

Small Insurers and Digital Priorities

From what I’ve seen in recent insurance technology news updates, it appears that the insurance industry is finally ripe for change, ready to make the leap to digital technologies that will lead us into tomorrow. Or is it?

Consider these core drivers of change: digital innovations such as cloud, telematics, IoT, analytics and AI, mobile, real-time 24/7 access to data, the growing need for on-demand products and, in general, using these transformative technologies to create operational efficiencies, adopt new business models and anticipate and exceed customer expectations.

Even though we know these technologies are enabling new insurance products, methods, processes, services and business models, there is still an omnipresent culture that hangs on to the troubling “it’s the way we’ve always done it” battle cry. This is often voiced by insurers that share their frustrations with being challenged to change existing culture from inside out to address these digital drivers.

My view is that, while many of the larger insurers are making the hard move to adopt digital technologies, it’s still not a priority for many small- to medium-sized insurance companies. And now, more than ever, there is a certain urgency to having that discussion. Tanguy Catlin, senior partner with McKinsey & Co., when addressing the issue, referred to it as the “tipping point” that is “where those that have not adapted their [digital] strategies fade away.”

See also: Darwinian Shift to Digital Insurance 2.0  

In research results published by MIT Sloan Management Review (SMR) and Deloitte’s Digital practice, 87% of executives queried believe that digital technologies will disrupt their industries, yet only 44% felt they were adequately preparing for it. Gerald Kane, professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and MIT Sloan Management Review guest editor for the Digital Business Initiative, compares insurers’ thinking about digital disruption to homeowners in disaster-prone areas who often seem caught off guard when an actual hurricane or cyclone strikes.

Source: MIT Sloan Management Review

So, why isn’t adoption of digital technologies a priority for more small- to medium-sized insurers? While many see the opportunities presented by digital technologies, perhaps they don’t believe the likelihood is high that digital will actually disrupt their own organization. But the authors of the research note that, if digital technologies represent an opportunity for your organization, they also represent a threat for your competitors — and vice versa.

I get it, change is hard… but, the argument, “we are not in a financial position to prioritize” is irrelevant to the discussion of digital technology investments. Competitors aren’t waiting for your company to be in a better “financial position” before they act. Moreover, because at some point in the coming years insurers will need to replace their growing faction of retirement-age employees with a younger, more tech-savvy labor force. And in a war for the best talent, the A and B players have absolutely no desire to work on outdated systems. So, what does that mean for the future of your company?

See also: Digital Insurance, Anyone?  

Just remember, technology is an accelerator for your company and your staff. In other words, the more digital technologies that are put into play, the greater and faster the return. Those insurers that ignore its call will fall further and further behind until they reach the tipping point and slowly fade away. Remember what happened to Blockbuster Video when it failed to adapt in a time of digital change. Don’t be a Blockbuster in a Netflix world.

5 Obstacles to Automating Operations

Insurers move cautiously when embracing automation and other tech tools, and for good reason. As technology changes the insurance industry, challenges arise that appear in few other verticals.

Nonetheless, business automation is set to change nearly every industry, Deloitte argues, and insurance companies can certainly benefit from the efficiencies that automation will introduce. Data collection, analysis and decision-making, once the sole domain of humans, can now be improved by automation and AI. These tools range from simple time-savers, like auto-completion during data entry, to complex pattern recognition and data mining, which is transforming the way we analyze risk.

Further, automation offers numerous opportunities to improve efficiency, retain customers and reduce errors — but only when automation is enacted thoughtfully, as Corrine Jones notes at Property Casualty 360. Here, we look at five obstacles to automating agency operations, plus ways to overcome them.

1. Departments Aren’t on the Same (Digital) Page

Most insurers’ systems have difficulty talking to one another. Property and casualty insurance companies tend to operate like federations: departments that fall under the same umbrella, but that operate independently most of the time. This means their customer data gets hidden away in silos, and data-driven intel therefore cannot be shared among departments.

Insurers that continue to federalize this way miss key connections that can lead to improved coverage and more satisfied customers, says Dan Reynolds, editor in chief of Risk & Insurance. Breaking down silos can be a daunting task, but the reward can be well worth the effort — and automation can help.

When data can flow across departments, machine-learning algorithms can perform analyses across departmental lines. This lets the technology spot patterns and recommend solutions more easily, says Forbes contributor Bernard Marr. With access to a single cohesive system and its data, machine learning algorithms can handle a wide range of tasks, from spotting potential fraud to providing an interactive FAQ for customers.

2. Current IT Infrastructure Might Not Support an Ambitious Implementation

McKinsey partners Tanguy Catlin, Johannes-Tobias Lorenz, and Shannon Varney stress that one of the big lessons the insurance industry learned in 2017 was that tech-driven strategies aren’t a goal in and of themselves. Rather, executives need to think about what strategies make sense in a tech-driven world.

As such, organizations must ensure the capabilities of their IT teams are keeping pace with plans to implement automation. IT cannot take on a supporting role when implementing automation technology. IT must help lead the implementation, the McKinsey partners argue, and it’s up to the organization to position IT in a leadership role.

See also: How to Solve the Data Problem  

Here is how company leaders can position IT teams to assume that role:

  • Hire tech leaders. IT teams leading changes need project leaders, agility coaches and scrum masters to guide their work.
  • Promote a tech-friendly environment. Demand for tech talent is quickly outstripping supply in many industries, and insurance companies today must establish “an environment that attracts talent, promotes personal growth and offers a desirable and interconnected work environment and flexibility.”

3. Existing Processes Might Not Scale Quickly Enough

Many tech professionals who focus on insurance solutions, like EZLynx project manager Derek Armentrout, caution insurers to “start small” when considering the switch to automation. Starting small can benefit some companies.

But a small start can derail an entire automation project when “small” isn’t combined with “scalable.” Not only must the system be able to grow into the existing insurance company structure, but it must also be able to grow with that structure as the company expands. It must handle not only additional users but also more intensive calculations, recommends Richard Seroter.

Prasad Jogalekar and Murray Woodside in the IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, provide a definition of scalability that is particularly apt for insurers: “Scalability means not just the ability to operate, but to operate efficiently and with adequate quality of service, over the given range of configurations.” A system that fails customers when overloaded is not scaling adequately to meet either the insurer’s or the customers’ needs.

As Seroter notes, working with a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider is one way to ensure scalability that meets both insurer and customer demand. That means choosing a provider that understands the connection among scalable platforms, automated activities and customer experience to maximize the value of automation in customer retention.

4. Workforce Obsolescence

McKinsey principal Sylvain Johansson and senior expert Ulrike Vogelgesang predict that automation will render 25% of all insurance industry jobs obsolete by 2025. Operations were hardest hit, with a 13% predicted drop in human employees, caused largely by automating everything from report generation to answering customer queries.

That’s neither a negligible amount of job loss nor an unimaginably distant time frame,” Johansson and Vogelgesang wrote. “On the contrary, given the magnitude of these changes and the looming future, it’s important that insurers begin to rethink their priorities right now.”

Among the rethinking steps the McKinsey report recommends are:

  • Retraining existing staff,
  • Identifying imminent skills gaps and hiring to fill them, and
  • Crafting employment value propositions that reflect a tech-heavy world.

Despite McKinsey’s predictions, the insurance industry will need to retain human workers for a number of key positions, Sabah Karimi writes at Great Insurance Jobs. Digital analysts, online marketers and other tech-minded positions will still demand the human touch. McKinsey explains that some insurance jobs are relatively safe from automation for the time being: Actuaries, for instance, are unlikely to see their jobs automated in the near future.

5. Existing Interfaces That Fail to Attract, Inspire and Retain Customers

Customer loyalty to their property and casualty insurer is a unique relationship. Because customers rarely interact with their insurers except in a crisis, building a relationship over time poses particular challenges.

See also: 3 Keys to Success for Automation  

Raising the difficulty level is the fact that today’s customers expect their product and service purchases to be easier than ever before. Web-based business has created an expectation of a seamless omni-channel experience and instantaneous results.

How can automation help?

  • Improving self-service. Increasingly, customers who use the Internet to contact businesses do so with the expectation of self-service, Steve Wiser writes in an article at P&C 360. Automated systems streamline the collection of customer data. When incorporated with machine learning, they can automatically recommend the best additional coverage or next steps for the user.
  • Better analytics. In the age of big data, Wiser notes, insurance companies that don’t gather and analyze customer information are missing an extraordinary opportunity — not only to manage their own risk, but to better connect with customers, as well. A personalized customer experience boosts customer ownership, and it’s a process that can be automated with the right tools.
  • Improved ownership by packaging product lines. When Allstate first tried to switch to a commercial offering, the company found itself stalled by agents who needed to search out information before offering recommendations to customers — and a system that turned this process into a major stall, Kumba Senaar says. An automated system responded to these information requests more quickly, intuited what agents would need next and recommended additional coverages based on available data.

The result? Happier customers, larger purchases and more efficient agents. A win-win(-win) for Allstate.

The insurance industry has a long history of reclassifying “obstacles” as “opportunities.” When insurers partner with SaaS providers, they gain an ally that understands the connections between these major challenges and that can implement systems that address multiple challenges simultaneously.