As InsurTech Takes Over, Insurers Must Train the Humans that Remain

By Jim Sams | June 7, 2019

CHICAGO — As technology eliminates claims jobs through automation, insurers will need to build new skill sets for the employees who remain, speakers said during the second and final day of the Insurance Nexus Connected Claims Conference.

Eric Brandt, managing director and chief customer advocate for Esurance, said menial, repetitive tasks are being eliminated through technological advances such as chatbots to field routine calls and virtual appraisals to estimate repair costs. That means the humans who are still around will have to be highly skilled.

“What’s left is really, really hard,” Brandt said.

Claims adjusters of the future will be superheroes, he said, and they will need superhuman managers. He said as they employ new technologies, insurers also need to update the way they manage employees.

He suggested that managers use video to communicate instead of telephones because its harder to be distracted when looking at somebody face-to-face.

“Don’t have meetings,” Brandt said. “Establish a routine where you stay in touch with the people who report to you everyday.”

Kiara Graham, a learning strategy consultant for Desire2Learn, said “digital disruption is the new normal for the financial services industry.” To keep pace, insurers must be ready to “upscale and rescale” their employees’ skills. She urged that they be mindful of how they teach in an age of instant information.

“If I want to learn how to do something, I don’t enroll in a course, I watch a YouTube video,” she said.

Insurers also need to find sensible metrics so they can measure progress as they build a “more resilient claims workforce,” Graham said.

“What does good look like?” she said. “You use that to build out a rubric that can be used for feedback and gauging outcomes.”

During a panel discussion, a member of the audience asked whether insurers are having trouble finding good employees because of the widespread knowledge that insurance jobs are being eliminated through technology. Andi Dominguez, global insurance and healthcare product marketing manager for Quadient, said she’s not personally worried about it.

“We’ve been hearing that for years and we are still talking about it and we’re still here,” she said.

Brandt said at Esurance all of the employees receive ongoing training. “It’s never as scary as it seems,” he said. He added that Esurance hasn’t eliminated any jobs, but it also hasn’t been hiring new claims adjusters as it grows market share.

Implementation of technology often requires a cultural change within an organization, said Ian Thompson, group global chief of claims for Zurich Insurance. Thompson said he directed his claims shop to embrace technology because he feared his own job might be eliminated if the carrier did not adapt to rapidly changing customer expectations.

To illustrate his point, Thompson displayed a photo of a man using his cell phone to scan a display of grocery items at a commuter rail station in South Korea. Thompson said customers are able to use their phones to choose items to be delivered to their homes.

Thompson said insurance customers have become accustomed to speed and convenience and insurers have no choice but adapt or perish. The first step toward change is a transformation of the organizational culture, he said.

Thompson quoted author and management consultant Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He titled his presentation, “Does Claims Culture Eat Digital Strategy for Breakfast?”

Zurich started its digital journey in Ireland. Thompson said the carrier is using a photo appraisal tool developed by Snapsheet to speed up the auto damage estimates. He said Ireland was chosen because the claims shop was the optimal size for a pilot project and the management there was anxious to implement technological solutions.

He said Zurich plans to build on the success of the pilot project.

“Peer to peer selling has more impact than presentations from management,” he said.

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