4 Insurance Observations from Early 2020

Over the last several weeks I have had the opportunity to participate in two insurance events – a  roundtable discussion in London focused on how technology is driving change in claims operations, and the IndustryForum Insurance in the Netherlands, an event bringing together insurers looking to adapt to the rapid pace of insurance change.

The formats, cities, and attendees were all different – but the majority of topics discussed were the same. Insurers are focused on how they can remain competitive in the current insurance landscape, with both incumbents and InsurTechs looking to differentiate themselves and increase market share. Technology and customer expectations are constantly evolving, and the insurance organizations are feeling the pressure to keep up.

Here are some of my takeaways:

The Starting Point for Change

Everyone is at a different place with respect to modernizing their technology ecosystem and figuring out what “Digital Transformation” means for their organization. Many insurers are still sorting through goals and evaluating their needs – often with a sense of bewilderment about where they should start, how long the process will take, and how much it will cost. The issue today is that those needs are evolving so rapidly, an entirely new approach is needed.

What organizations need to realize is that the pace of change will only continue to increase, technology will continue to evolve, and that creating an insurance technology ecosystem that will be future-proof is a continuing process and never really quite finalized.

The Inspiration to Change

One thing that was evident to me was that insurers are glad to have the opportunity to talk about industry issues, and that they are inspiring each other during this time of rapid change. There is no better person to bounce ideas off of than someone facing the same business challenges, and it was interesting to see a spirit of collaboration among the competitors.

A great example of inspirational change in an insurer is Aegon, one of the world’s leading providers of insurance solutions, pension, mortgages, and asset management.  Aegon aims to deliver the best services for its customers by combining the best people and technology.

Since partnering with Appian in 2017, Aegon has put 35 applications into production throughout their organization. In the words of their lead designer, “Working with Appian gives us the freedom to think about IT innovations in an agile way.”

The Reason to Change – the Why and Data

Technology should not be the driver of change. It’s customers that drive business success or failure – and whoever meets their needs best will get their business. Which means that change should be driven by customer needs. The most impactful technology changes are ones that enable an organization to better take care of their customers.

And making customers the “why” of what you do, brings to mind an area that many insurers are struggling with: data.

Insurers have grown both organically and through takeovers and mergers, collecting systems and data over the years, which has resulted in quite a dispersed data landscape. From the perspective of adding value to your customers, data is gold – an asset. However, being so dispersed, it becomes a headache. Internal discussions about customer processes often turn into a system and data discussion, very much to the dislike of business owners, and results in an ever-increasing divide between business and IT. With modern technologies, this is not needed anymore. There are other ways to unlock your data without talking about new systems and data migrations.

An enterprise low-code automation platform enables you to create a single view of your data for your organization and allows you to leave the data where it is, without migrating it. This is a great example of using technology to make your data work for you – and for your customers. And from an internal process standpoint, it results in business and IT collabrating and the focus remaining on customer service. Ultimately, what is most important is that your staff has a single view of the key data and can make better decisions and improve the customer experience.

A Call to Action

And this leads to my last observation, which is my call to action. Insurers need to change their mindset with respect to their technology projects. Business disruption is here to stay, and organizations must change the way they innovate to keep up.

It is not just technology, but it is the process. Business and IT shouldn’t work in silos–they need the insights that each group brings to the table in order for projects to succeed. Start small. Be collaborative. Multidisciplinary teams that are empowered with the proper tools to be agile can quickly complete projects that add incremental value to the business, just like the data challenge above.

Consider where you can add value, the changes that need to take place, and then take that first step. By defining problems from both a business and technology viewpoint, insurers can gain approval from all stakeholders and buy-in from the beginning that will lead to more successful outcomes, including improved operating processes and new business models.

It’s always a great experience to be among my industry peers and talk about the issues impacting our shared industry. I will look forward to seeing many of you at insurance events during 2020.

Gijsbert Cox
Industry Leader, Insurance

 

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