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A P&C Guide for Digital Distribution

Property and casualty insurers aren’t shying away from digital distribution. “[F]our out of five insurers either have, or are planning to set up, wholly digital sales processes in which humans are involved only when customers need advice,” Accenture global insurance industry Senior Managing Director John Cusano reports.

But taking digital distribution from concept to reality still poses major challenges for many P&C insurers.

Here, we look at some of the biggest challenges of implementing a digital distribution strategy and how to overcome them.

Everyone’s Going Mobile

In a 2013 article for Wired, Christina Bonnington predicted that the world would contain 24 billion connected devices by 2020 and that the Internet of Things would result in people doing ever more tasks from their smartphones.

We got there early: Statista estimates that the world of 2018 already contains 23.14 billion connected devices and that the number will be more like 31 billion in 2020. And more of these devices than ever are mobile devices.

It seems as if the insurance industry only just began to embrace the opportunities afforded by digital technology when customers’ attention switched to this highly connected, primarily mobile world.

Today, customers “expect the same intuitive experience from their insurance carriers as they do from their favorite mobile app,” says Rahim Kaba at OneSpan. And they’re not the only ones. “Even insurance agents are demanding better digital capabilities from insurers to increase their ease of doing business,” Kaba says.

See also: Is P&C Distribution Actually Digitizing?  

Putting Numbers to the Scope of Mobile’s Impact

Mobile is an essential consideration for insurance companies, according to Andrew Sheridan at DialogTech, who cites several statistics that illuminate the opportunity available:

  • 40% of customers’ time researching insurance was spent on mobile, and 51% of these customers purchased insurance as a result of their research.
  • 25% of insurance shoppers do all their buying via their mobile devices.
  • 66% use a specific insurance company’s app.

Yet going mobile poses some challenges for insurance companies. For one thing, customers expect to be able to do everything from pay premiums to file claims, get driving tips or find a repair shop via a mobile app. That’s a lot of work for an app to do — and the more an app does, the slower and thus less appealing it is likely to be

Another challenge is the integration of older technologies with new ones. As Parmy Olson notes at Forbes, older telemetrics devices like Progressive’s Snapshot are starting to give way to smartphone apps that perform similar tasks, measuring speed, distance and other driving-related factors that can affect premium calculations.

These apps can seem more convenient to customers, but they can also make certain measurements or calculations more difficult. For instance, telemetric devices installed in the vehicle itself can more easily detect a crash and call for help, says Jim Levandusky, vice president of telemetrics at Verisk Analytics.

Embracing Industry Shifts

One solution? “Collaboration with the disrupters,” says Trevor Lloyd-Jones at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Embracing mobile tools like telematics can make mobile apps easier for customers and more effective for insurance companies, and when these tools are approached through software as a service (SaaS) or similar providers, concerns about security or analysis are often addressed as part of the platform.

Companies that dismiss disruptors in the insurtech sphere do so at their peril, says Nikolaus Sühr, co-founder and CEO of KASKO. The era of relying solely on historical data may be coming to an end. “Disruption in other industries is actually changing user behavior and the nature of risk, so there is no relevant historical data anymore,” Sühr writes.

When moving into mobile for customers, agents or both, don’t be afraid to A/B test mobile apps, try new things and to innovate, says Amir Rozenberg, director of product management at Perfecto. While experimentation must account for the tight regulatory world insurance companies inhabit, trying out options in the mobile sphere allows P&C insurers to better understand how their customers use mobile — and how the company can use what it learns to attract and keep better customers.

Within this process, however, it’s important to keep mobile in perspective. “Even with this trend, companies need to ensure a mobile app supplements the overall experience and doesn’t dominate it,” says Rodney Johnson at Kony.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

“With customers using more devices in more ways, there are new options for customer engagement,” stated a recent Incom Business Systems white paper. There are also plenty of challenges. Mobile devices feel personalized to customers, and with companies in other industries extending that personalization to their apps, insurance companies are feeling the pressure to personalize, as well.

A hallmark of in-person or traditional channels has been their one-size-fits-all approach to customers, according to Shashank Singh in an article at Insurance Nexus. Many P&C insurers have attempted to transfer this approach to the digital world, only to discover it doesn’t work.

Data and analytics offer insurers an unprecedented opportunity to understand and respond to each customer as an individual, from recommending products to calculating risk.

Digital distribution can also make it easier to capture a growing segment of the P&C insurance market that has changed its behavior as it finds itself priced out of coverage. “Rethinking distribution is key to successful inclusive insurance,” says Peter Wrede of World Bank Group USA. “Low distribution costs make insurance affordable for low-income people.”

A 2017 article by in The Street noted that 18 million adults in the U.S. currently cannot afford auto insurance, so they go without, often turning to public transportation or rides from friends instead. As a result, “personal automobile insurance is in a crisis,” said Dave Delaney of Owner Operator Direct. “Rates have been increasing steadily since 2011, and there is no end in sight.”

By turning to a digital distribution system to reduce costs, however, insurance companies gain the opportunity to make coverage more affordable, recapturing some of the 18 million customers who currently believe auto insurance won’t fit into their household budget.

See also: The Future of P&C Distribution 

Lack of Support Systems

Personalization of the digital customer experience, leveraging tools like mobile apps, presents a profound opportunity to understand and respond to customers’ needs better than ever before, said Ash Hassib, senior vice president of insurance solutions at LexisNexis. But “data availability isn’t the issue,” Hassib said. “It’s how you use it to underpin sustainable and profitable growth that’s the real challenge for insurers.”

And for many insurers, this challenge arises the moment they try to use that customer data within their current organization.

“Insurers have focused on digitalizing the front end, with insufficient focus on the systems that support distribution,” said a May 2017 report from the Insurance Governance Leadership Network. Additional challenges in retention have resulted, with insurance companies noting that customers leave because the system doesn’t provide adequate support for their experience.

Customers who use multiple channels to communicate with insurance companies are more likely to face problems caused by insufficient systems inside the organization itself. Perhaps this is why, relative to other industries, insurance company employees rated their companies 9% lower on providing a high-quality customer experience, according to Tom Bobrowski at The Digital Insurer. P&C companies were also rated 8% lower than average at “good cooperation between functions,” allowing the company to meet the customer’s needs effectively.

One option is to take a hybrid approach, says Sasi Koyalloth in a Wipro Ltd. white paper. A hybrid approach focuses on incorporating human agents into the digitization process, focusing on giving agents and employees the digital tools necessary for seamless communication throughout the organization.

Regardless of approach, “a single view of the customer is crucial,” says Robert Paterson at Afinium, noting that software as a service (SaaS) providers already exist with the tools and support needed to help P&C insurers move to a single platform for managing information.

And the systems’ cost needn’t be onerous. “Another key driver for adoption of SaaS solutions is its use in developing pricing models that can be directly related to system usage,” Paterson says.

Final Thoughts

The switch to digital is now or never for P&C insurers. Working with knowledgeable insurtech providers can help companies address concerns about data security, analysis and customer experience, allowing insurers to take full advantage of the digital world to build more personal and long-lasting customer relationships.

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.

To Be or Not to Be Insurtech

It is probably a bit presumptuous to liken the insurtech startup movement to Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy. It is, after all, a well-known and historical Shakespearean reference. However, the similarity is in the questions asked, and such a question has probably been asked prior to many defining moments. And just as Hamlet pondered many questions, there are many questions that revolve around the state of the insurtech movement. At this juncture, some five years into this movement, the one question that has most likely gone by the board is – Is it real?  You can debate whether we are at the beginning of the insurtech cycle or at the end. However, there are several strong points in favor of the fact that it is real.

See also: Convergence in Action in Insurtech  

SMA has been following the insurtech startup trends since 2013. Currently, we track approximately 1,200 insurtechs. It is definitely a fluid number. Some startups go out of business, and others come in to fill the void at a regular pace. In the 2013-2015 timeframe, the insurtech startup landscape was a tsunami of activity – it was difficult to get one’s arms around what was happening. In the latter half of 2017, some strong realities emerged. SMA’s recently released research findings have revealed several major insurtech trends or themes that are specific to insurance and have meaningful implications for the industry. In response to the “is this real” question, three of the 10 themes anchor the insurtech movement firmly in reality.

  • Insurtech has spread to all tiers and lines of business – Originally, most of the activity was in personal lines and health. Now, of the P&C contingent, which SMA data indicates is 39% of all the activity, a little over half is personal lines; 35% is commercial lines; 13% is workers’ comp. Historically, technology providers have targeted particular tiers for their sales efforts. The startup community targets insurance business problems without a specific tier focus. What this means is that insurers of all sizes are able to adopt insurtech-provided technology. SMA partnering data shows that there are insurtechs with customers ranging from top 10 insurers down to single-state insurers. The bottom line: The fact that insurtech is not focused on the top echelon of global players but rather on business problems across the insurance ecosystem lends itself to the “it’s real” theme.
  • Live implementations are increasing – Not surprisingly, in the beginning of the startup movement, most of the activity was around fundraising and proofs of concept. In 2017, and continuing at an accelerating pace in 2018, insurer “go lives” are happening. Some insurtechs have 10, 12 or more insurer logos on their websites. These are not investor listings; they are the names of insurers that are rolling out capabilities in the marketplace. In particular, drone usage, smart home/connected property and connected vehicle initiatives are common and growing. The “it’s real” indicator is that insurers are not going to roll out technology that affects their customers just for the fun of it – customers are not guinea pigs. Insurers are seeing the value in insurtech offerings and are executing.
  • Insurtechs are partnering – While there is nothing wrong with a technology provider staying in their space, a long-standing trend within the insurance industry has been partnering for greater value. This has not escaped the attention of a number of insurtechs. For example, Bold Penguin and Ask Kodiak have partnered, as have Elafris and Hippo and Betterview and Understory. Mature technology providers also see the value of startup partnering; for example, Willis Towers Watson and Roost, Verisk Analytics and Driveway. Majesco partners with a network of insurtechs. The “it’s real” factor is that insurtechs are not simply attempting to see what they can do just for today – but, rather, what they can do for the long haul, to become strategic contributors within the insurers they work with.

While there are still questions about the insurtech movement, one of them should not be – Is it real? Business value is being generated by many startups – and no insurer is going to walk away from that. New channels and service opportunities are emerging that are generating interest and execution. New products are sprouting up at a regular pace. Not every startup and every idea is going to be a winner, but many will be. And some already are. Bottom line? Both Hamlet and Shakespeare would be proud of the insurance industry for seeing the possibilities and not just the questions.

See also: 4 Key Qualities to Leverage Insurtech  

How to Defend Against Auto Fraud

Personal auto insurance fraud is a problem. According to Verisk Analytics, it’s a problem on the rise. Between 2008 and 2011, the National Insurance Crime Bureau saw a 34% increase in questionable claims.

Auto fraud is also an expensive problem. Industry estimates show that soft fraud accounts for about 10% of paid losses and loss adjustment expenses a year. In 2011 alone, the total amounted to well over $13 billion.

The problem, it seems, is that many Americans don’t consider small mistruths to be fraud. They seem to think it’s OK to slightly change the facts if it saves them money!

False garaging addresses and mileage estimates

One of the most common types of soft fraud, lying about where the car is garaged to receive auto insurance rates for a more affordable ZIP code, has traditionally been a tricky one to track. But with the data that smartphone apps for usage-based insurance (UBI) are designed to collect, it’s much easier to compare the reported garaging address with the actual garaging address. The same is true regarding the estimation of annual mileage.

While untruths about garaging and mileage may seem harmless, they add up to big profit loss. In fact, insurancefraud.org reports that premium rating errors account for nearly 10% of the $161.7 billion in personal auto premiums written. The group found that drivers are five times more likely to report midterm mileage changes that reduce premiums than they are to report changes that may increase premiums. The website quotes a 2010 Quality Planning study that found that vehicle-garaging rating errors account for more than $2 billion in annual premium leakage.

How to step up your defense against soft fraud

Verisk puts it this way:

“Basically, carriers need to step up their game in a big way. They’ve made large investments deploying technology and data to improve the customer and agent experience. But they’re falling behind in the race to identify fraud and rate evasion — a race they can’t afford to lose.”

While most auto insurers think of UBI as a strategy to improve customer attraction, retention, pricing and loss ratios, it might be time to expand UBI thinking to include the objective of fraud deterrence. When you add in the potential savings of eliminating even 10% of premium leakage from auto insurance soft fraud, the ROI for UBI becomes even more compelling.

5 Ways Insurance Supports the Economy

Insurance affects everything, and everything affects insurance. It is generally understood that insurance allows those who participate in the economy to produce goods and services without the paralyzing fear that some adverse incident could leave them destitute or unable to function. However, few people are aware of the extraordinary impact the industry has on state, local and national economies. Here are five ways that happens:

Driving Economic Progress

The insurance industry is a major U.S. employer, providing some 2.6 million jobs, according to the Current Population Survey from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Insurers contribute more than $413 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product.

In 2013, property/casualty insurers and life insurers incurred federal and foreign taxes of about $20.6 billion. Insurance companies, including life/health and property/casualty companies, paid $17.4 billion in premium taxes to the 50 states in 2013, or about 2% of all state taxes.

Investing in Capital Markets

Insurance companies also help support the economy by investing the funds they collect for providing insurance protection. The industry’s financial assets were about $6 trillion in 2013, including $1.2 trillion for the property/casualty sector and $4.7 trillion for the life sector.

In 2013 alone, property/casualty insurers’ holdings in municipal bonds totaled $326 billion, according to the Federal Reserve. Life insurers held $1.8 trillion in corporate stocks and $2.2 trillion in corporate and foreign bonds in 2013, according to the Federal Reserve.

Supporting Resiliency and Disaster Recovery

Property/casualty insurers covered $35 billion in catastrophe losses in the U.S. in 2012 and $12.9 billion in 2013, according to the Property Claim Services (PCS) division of Verisk.

Supporting Businesses, Workers, Communities

Property/casualty insurers pay out billions of dollars each year to settle claims.  Many of the payments go to local businesses, such as auto repair companies, enabling them to provide jobs and pay taxes that support the local economy.

Life insurance benefits and claims totaled $586 billion in 2013, including life insurance death benefits, annuity benefits, disability benefits and other payouts. The largest payout, $249 billion, was for surrender benefits and withdrawals from life insurance contracts made to policyholders who terminated their policies early or withdrew cash from their policies.

Empowering Lenders

Specialized insurance products protect lenders and borrowers, shielding businesses such as exporters from customer defaults and facilitating the financing of mortgages and other transactions. These products include credit insurance for short-term receivables.

Credit insurance protects merchants, exporters, manufacturers and other businesses from losses or damages resulting from the nonpayment of debts owed them for goods and services provided in the normal course of business. Credit insurance facilitates financing, enabling insured companies to get better credit terms from banks.

For the full report from which this article is adapted, click here.