Back to the Future

A long time ago, before joining Celent, I was part of the insurance industry from the insurer side and my work was to look for ways to improve the company’s processes and innovate. I really liked the job because you had to come up with ideas and accept that you had restrictions, and sometimes you had to face the sad truth that the technology supporting your ideas wasn't available.

Now at Celent, I’ve witnessed a whole new world of possibilities because, as part of Celent, we are exposed to many, many successful cases implementing technology in insurance through research and events, especially in events like our Innovation & Insight day (I&I day). This year our I&I day takes place in Boston, Massachusetts on April 4, and Celent will award the best Information Technology (IT) initiatives in insurance.

That day, Celent will be presenting winners in 5 categories.

  • Digital and Omnichannel
  • Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation
  • Innovation and Emerging Technologies
  • Operational Excellence
  • Data Analytics

The Model Insurer Award is recognition of an insurer’s effective use of technology in a certain area or theme, not necessarily a statement that the insurer is absolutely best in class (although some may be). Model Insurer success highlights the insurer’s ability to improve performance and meet market demands when tackling issues that face all insurers today.

For instance, do the below examples sound familiar to you?

  • Under new management, the business had to transform itself rapidly and replace 20-year old technology. This insurer had a major license renewal date two years out and would have been locked in by the vendor to a prohibitively expensive contract.
  • An insurance company needed to create a digital process to meet customer expectations of doing business, automate underwriting, reduce cycle time and minimize human touch.
  • Another insurer utilized digital connectivity and ratings engine cloud-based platform to achieve a faster process and empower various actors across the organization.

I’m sure the examples above are the types of projects you’d like to implement at your company, but these are just a sample of the case studies we received. This year we received around 60 case studies applying for our Model Insurer Award. Of those, fifteen will be awarded Model Insurer and one will be the Model Insurer of the Year.

Personally, this year has been different. This year, I was amazed about the quality of cases we received and methodology that insurers are using to implement their projects, which made very difficult to deliberate. I’m not saying this is bad thing, on the contrary; it is a sign that the industry is on the move and it is using the best technology available.

I wish I had a time machine like in “Back to the Future” to go back to the days I worked for insurance companies, and tell my younger self: “you cannot miss this event; it will help you with your project.”

So, this is my advice. If you are part of the insurance industry and you are working in IT projects, this is the type of events you may want to attend to benchmark and learn about initiatives around the world that would help you define yours.

Learning from the Best: Operational Excellence from a Model Insurer Viewpoint

I am privileged again this year to be part of the team that judged the Celent Model Insurer nominations. My focus is on the nominations in the Operational Excellence theme. In reality, every nomination demonstrates a high degree of operational excellence. It is a tough job to choose only three winners in the category. 

You may wonder how Celent decides which nominations are the best of the best. We look at the disciples included in successful operational outcomes. Achieving operational excellence, requires transforming processes and systems into competitive advantages by making them leaner, faster, more flexible and of higher quality.

It’s not just what is done, but how it’s done. The project should have lasting effects and transform the organization in multiple aspects: Processes, Technology, Culture and Business Model

This year’s operational excellence nominations run the gamut from project methodology to straight through processing to infrastructure outsourcing.  Following are examples of a few of the nominations: 

  • A P&C insurer in the Cayman Islands moved to a virtual business. Instead of replacing their on premise infrastructure, they transitioned to a cloud environment for all systems including: core insurance operations, human resources, and call center. By moving to a third-party cloud provider, the insurer could go global to support local operations with consistent technology expertise to host and maintain the applications.
  • One of India’s leading life insurance companies which had experienced tremendous growth of 380% in the last financial year required a simple, streamlined and cost effective system to service their growing customer base and extend the enterprise for continued growth and market penetration. The company implemented a document management solution for processing new business and claims. The solution is designed so that it requires no or minimal manual intervention for the end-to-end document life cycle process.
  • An innovative testing solution created in collaboration between a North American P&C insurer and its vendor was implemented after it was found that the existing testing environment, approach and methodology was causing delays and quality assurance problems for the transformation program. The solution is a cloud based, open-source testing environment that has reduced both risk and cost by improving the quality of the testing. 
  • A North America supplemental benefits insurer adopted an Agile project methodology in response to its need of modernization and in recognition that it will undergo more change as the industry continues to capitalize on social, mobile, wearables, etc. The change brought about increased accountability, efficiency and organization that have allowed the company to be poised and ready for all opportunities, producing results at record speed.
  • A reinsurer based in Europe implemented artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to allow automatic verification of clauses in contracts and matching of official comments stored in a large database.  This allows experts to focus their attention on parts of the contract that have not been seen before and will allow back searching thought any collection of documents for clauses containing issues of interest as well as comparing contracts on a clause level with calculated accuracy scores.   

As you can see from this sampling of nominations, choosing the winners was hard.  However, it is easy for you to be on hand to network with and learn from the insurers and vendors who submitted the winning projects.  Please join Celent in Boston on April 4 for Innovation and Insight Day where the winners of the 2017 Model Insurer awards will be announced.  You can register here.   

Smartphones, Apps, and Other Stuff

In 1985 when I was a kid in school, one of my favorite TV shows was Robotech, also known as Macross in some regions. They had the technology (alien technology by the way) to transform fighter planes into mechanical robots (a bit like Transformers), however they did not have either cellphones or smartphones. Instead, they had mobile cabs that would travel around the city looking out for when to pick the person up. Not to mention, in some episodes, they even had some kind of Google glasses. It was all very cool stuff in 1985.

Fortunately for us all, today we have our own smart stuff in the form of a super computer in our pockets – being the smartphone. Many of us no longer need to run to a red box to make a call; and a long with smartphones we have data usage, internet, and apps.

The great challenge with smartphones for insurers, is how to engage with customers in this mobile world; that is, how to make apps attractive to them beyond the basic proposition of moving consumers to the mobile channel in order to lower the operating cost.

In insurance, availability of mobile apps varies by region and by country, so does functionality.  In most countries property and casualty insurers are taking the lead, especially to connect to auto insurance policy holders to provide them with a very array of self-servicing features through the app. In many countries, insurers need to work with the regulators hand in hand to find the best ways to boost financial inclusion and the use of insurance through digital channels.

In a recent Celent’s report, we found that at least 80% of P&C insurers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal offer apps to their clients"

In Latin America availability of consumer-focused apps in insurance grew from 21% in 2013 to 39% in 2016"

So we expect in the following years that Latin American insurers keep up other regions. Not to mention that Insurers are very interested in mobility and they plan to invest in this technology.  To learn more about this report, please click here.

Going back to my story, there were occasions where the main character couldn't be contacted because there were no mobile phones, only robots, and maybe the outcome of the story might have changed.  It was 1985 for a story created much earlier; more than 30 years ago, but now mobility, artificial intelligence, robotics, and analytics are a reality.

Technology is playing a very important role enabling insurers to engage customers, and as part of the insurance industry, we need to be aware of these advancements. If you are interested in insurance technology and want to know more of case studies around world, Celent will be awarding the best technological initiatives in our 2017 Innovation & Insight Day in Boston on April 4, 2017

Also, if you are or know of an insurance company which exhibits best practices in the use of technology, please click here and complete the nomination form. Submissions are being accepted until December 16, 2016.  Categories include:

  • Digital and Omnichannel
  • Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation
  • Innovation and Emerging Technologies
  • Operational Excellence
  • Data Analytics

For more information about the Model Insurer program click here, leave a comment, or email me directly at lchipana@celent.com. I’d be more than happy to talk with you. The Celent team and I are looking forward to hearing from you and meeting you in person at the 2017 Innovation & Insight Day.

A golden day for insurance: Celent 2016 Model Insurer winners

In the historic Museum of American Finance, surrounded by golden exhibits including gold bars, a gold Monopoly game and even a gold toilet(!), the 2016 Celent Model Insurers were announced yesterday.  Part of our annual Innovation and Insight Day, we had over 150 insurance professionals in attendance (and over 300 in total), it was a great day for networking, idea sharing, learning about award winning initiatives and hearing inspiring speakers talk about the future of financial services. 

Yaron Ben-Zvi, CEO and co-founder of Haven Life, was the Model Insurer key note speaker. He discussed how Haven is using technology to reach a younger, digital-savvy customer with a life insurance experience that meets their expectations. He spoke about the journey from ideation to reality for their term insurance products which can be purchased online in only 20 minutes. He encouraged the audience to “think big but start small” and to apply the learnings along the way.

The Haven Life presentation was followed by the main event, the announcement of the 2016 Model Insurer winners. Every year, Celent recognizes the effective use of technology projects in five categories across multiple business functions.  We produced our annual Model Insurer Case Study report which clients may download here.  This year there were fifteen insurers recognized including Zurich Insurance, the Model Insurer of the Year.  Here are the winners: 

Model Insurer of the Year   

Zurich Insurance: Zurich developed Zurich Risk Panorama, an app that allows market-facing employees to navigate through Zurich’s large volumes of data, tools and capabilities in only a few clicks to offer customers a succinct overview of how to make their business more resilient. Zurich Risk Panorama provides dashboards that collate the knowledge, expertise and insights of Zurich experts via the data presented.

Data Mastery & Analytics

Asteron Life: Asteron Life created a new approach to underwriting audits called End-to-End Insights. It provides a portfolio level overview of risk management, creates the ability to identify trends, opportunities and pain points in real-time and identifies inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the underwriting process. 

Celina Insurance Group: Celina wanted to appoint agents in underdeveloped areas. To find areas with the highest potential for success, they created an analytics based agency prospecting tool. Using machine learning, multiple models were developed that scored over 4,000 zip codes to identify the best locations.

Farm Bureau Financial Services: FBFS decoupled its infrastructure by replacing point to point integration patterns with hub and spoke architecture. They utilized the ACORD Reference Architecture Data Model and developed near real time event-based messages.

Innovation and Emerging Technologies

Desjardins General Insurance Group: Ajusto, a smart phone mobile app for telematics auto insurance, was launched by Desjardins in March 2015. Driving is scored based on four criteria. The cumulative score can be converted into savings on the auto insurance premium at renewal.

John Hancock Financial Services: John Hancock developed the John Hancock Vitality solution. As part of the program, John Hancock Vitality members receive personalized health goals. The healthier their lifestyle, the more points they can accumulate to earn valuable rewards and discounts from leading retailers. Additionally, they can save as much as much as 15 percent off their annual premium.

Promutuel Assurance: Promutuel Insurance created a new change management strategy and built a global e-learning application, Campus, which uses a web-based approach that leverages self-service capabilities and gamificaton to make training easier, quicker, less costly and more convenient.

Digital and Omnichannel

Sagicor Life Inc.: Sagicor designed and developed Accelewriting® , an eApp integrated with a rules engine; which uses analytic tools and databases to provide a final underwriting decision within one to two minutes on average for simplified issue products.

Gore Mutual Insurance Company: Gore created uBiz, the first complete ecommerce commercial insurance platform in Canada by leveraging a host of technology advancements to simplify the buying experience of small business customers.

Operational Excellence

Markerstudy Group: Markerstudy implemented the M-Powered IT Transformation Program which created an eco-system of best in class monitoring and infrastructure visualization tools to accelerate cross-functional collaboration and remove key-man dependencies.

Guarantee Insurance Company: In order to focus on their core competency of underwriting and managing a large book of workers compensation business, Guarantee Insurance outsourced its entire IT infrastructure.

Pacific Specialty Insurance Company: Complying with their vision is to become a virtual carrier, meaning all critical business applications will be housed in a cloud-based infrastructure, PSIC implemented their core systems in a cloud while upgrading infrastructure to accommodate growth in bandwidth demands.

Legacy Transformation

GuideOne Insurance: GuideOne undertook a transformation project to reverse declines in its personal lines business. They launched new premier auto, standard auto, and non-standard auto products, as well as home, renter and umbrella products on a new policy administration system and a new agent portal.

Westchester, a Chubb Company: Chubb Solutions Fast Track™, a robust and flexible solution covering core business functionality, was built to support Chubb’s microbusiness unit’s core mission of establishing a “Producer First,” low-touch mindset through speed, accessibility, value, ease-of-use and relationships.

Teachers Life: Teachers Life has achieved a seamless, end-to-end online process for application, underwriting, policy issue and delivery for a variety of life products. Policyholders with a healthy lifestyle and basic financial needs can get coverage fast, in the privacy of their own homes, and pay premiums online in as little as 15 minutes.

The quality of the submissions this year is a clear indication the industry is turning a corner and embracing transformation, digital initiatives, innovation and valuing data analytics.  It is inspiring to see the positive results the insurers have achieved and a pleasure to recognize them as Model Insurers for their best practices in insurance technology.

How about your company? As you read this, are you thinking of an initiative in your company that should be recognized? We are always looking for good examples of the use of technology in insurance. Stay tuned for more information regarding 2017 Model Insurer nominations.