Viewpoint: How Automation is Digitally Transforming the Insurance Industry

By Naresh Kothari | February 12, 2020

Innovation in the insurance industry is no longer a buzzword. It is fast becoming a catalyst to win market share. In the past, the industry has been a slow adopter of emerging technologies. The industry was also marred by other challenges such as traditional market-entry barriers, overdependence on legacy systems, inability to scale risk portfolio, stringent regulatory compliance, and the personal nature of customer interactions.

Recent studies, though, have shown that the tides are changing. For instance, Forrester recently reported that “One in 3 customers who endure a bad claims experience switched insurers within a year”.Today, both large-scale enterprises to nimble start-ups have started to unlock the power of emerging technologies such as AI, big data, and blockchain.

What does this mean?

Insuretech innovation is at an all-time high. From going paperless to digitalizing customer engagement, the most successful players are focused on stitching together all the elements of the insurance journey through technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to build and grow profitable businesses.

While the modernization of core systems has enabled insurers to close the gap, it has not equipped them with the true competitive advantage to gain mindshare in today’s cluttered insurance marketplace. They have realized it is possible only by moving away from legacy infrastructure and systems. However, in the current scenario, routine processes like claims management, policy administration, accounting, and others continue to be repetitive and manual in nature.

These legacy processes require interaction between multiple systems built on diverse technologies like Web, Mainframe, Java, Excel, PDF, and others. Added to that, there are external systems, which remain beyond the control of most insurance companies. This is where automation plays an integral role. It reinvents the re-engineering and integration efforts that are necessary to digitize the previously mentioned tasks. And it is why automation has seen a major spike in adoption by insurers. Built on RPA and AI, it has enabled them to streamline manual processes with minimal investment and time.

Automation is helping early adopters improve underwriting results, accelerate faster go-to-market for new products, and grow premium income while freeing up time for their agents and advisors to focus more on critical tasks.

An RPA bot is not a robot

One of the first misconceptions insurers have to break was that automation is not about physical robots performing tasks on behalf of the human workforce. Instead, it is a collaborative effort for better decision-making across the customer management journey. Hence, before embarking on automation, insurers must understand the significance of RPA bots in improving service quality, reducing costs, and increasing efficiency.

Generally, bots are software programs built on automation technologies like robotic process automation. RPA — in its purest form — is just the beginning. Intelligent bots also leverage other advanced technologies like Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DL), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and more.

A bot allows insurers to process large amounts of data; from front to back-office – no matter the complexity. Insurers can easily manage the most complex processes by aggregating, assessing, and analyzing data from multiple channels. They can also accelerate the speed of processing, which leads to shorter cycles, decreased costs, and improved customer service.

On the path to automation success

As the recent past has shown, many insurers — who initially took the lead by using traditional approaches to automation — have failed to keep up the momentum. The path to choosing an automation platform begins with an intelligent roadmap to adoption.

To get a head-start, insurers must look to incubate a culture of innovation by identifying value creation opportunities through automation. Without it, identifying the right processes, building on required skills, integrating various systems, configuring business rules, testing, deploying, and supporting can all be lengthy projects that come at hefty costs.

To be successful, insurers must collaborate with a partner who offer an automation assessment bot to identify actionable automation use cases. It can help them with projected cost savings for the given context and environment, without having to upset the current workflows that may affect real-time businesses. It also allows insurers to automate the discovery process that identifies automation opportunities in their businesses.

An alternative to building this grassroots automation strategy that caught the eyes of insurers all over the world, involved pre-configured bots for specific processes. These bots are purposely built for claims, billing, accounting, underwriting, and others. Ready to deploy with configurable rules, they tend to meet the needs of the insurer within 4-6 weeks. It has been recognized as a cost-effective way of approaching the automation journey, with the focus on realizing quick return on investment.

Catering to regulatory and compliance requirements

Every task performed by a bot can be monitored and recorded to show the number of transactions processed along with any escalated exceptions. Automation makes it viable for insurers to conduct a regular audit trail of actions and events to ensure regulatory compliance.

With ML’s advanced analytics, the automation engine can operate autonomously, without stringent programming or monitoring. Basically, it learns, predicts, acts, and explains so that insurers can apply the process outcomes to compliance data and avoid any reputational or financial damage.

Automation at the center of the insurance journey

Today, cost savings and operational efficiency are as high on priority lists of insurers as customer satisfaction. Using automation, they can not only free their resources from performing manual and repetitive tasks, but also go the extra mile to create memorable customer experiences. Whether an enterprise-wide or a single-process initiative, the role of automation in the insurance journey is irrefutably growing in importance. It can bring about efficiency, flexibility, and scalability in several processes within the insurance businesses.

For instance, a document audit bot can generate daily reports for underwriters or claims heads while triggering missing documents alerts to the policyholders and agents. Similarly, there are other RPA bots that can automate the manual and repetitive processes, without any changes to the existing insurance management system. It can also free up precious time for agents, brokers, carriers, underwriters, risk managers, and claims professionals, so that they can use their time and energy for strategic growth initiatives.

Another key factor is that customers, these days, will not tolerate being made to wait in line to get what they want. Whether evaluating new products, processing claims, getting settlement updates, they expect speed, consistency, and personalization. It is certainly up to the insurers to harness the power of automation to future-proof their businesses.

About Naresh Kothari

Kothari is the chief digital officer for Beyontec Solutions.

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