Connected customers expect connected insurance

In today’s digital world, insurers must adapt to better service the needs of customers who have come to expect an integrated experience across all channels. Ben Burger, Managing Executive at SilverBridge, says this continuous customer journey requires a different approach to what has come before.

“The emergence of the digital customer is resulting in the need to deliver more personalised services. These services need to be easily accessible, user-friendly, and use the channel the customer is most comfortable with. Moreover, the service should be able to provide a seamless experience across multiple channels to conclude any interaction between the policy holder and insurer. It has led to the expectation of on-demand solutions designed to be accessed from anywhere, at any time, using any device,” says Burger.

Theoretically, Insurtech start-ups should be dominating this segment because of their ability to quickly adapt to changing market conditions. However, to date, this has not been the case. So, even though we are seeing the rise of Insurtechs, they have yet to gain significant market share.

“What we are seeing is most of the bigger players dedicating significant budgets to work with emerging technologies. The race for disruption is still very much in the balance. To make things even more interesting, organisations that are not traditionally seen as insurers are also developing solutions that could encroach on the domain of their incumbents.”

In the future, it will come down to leveraging data in more innovative ways and identifying new revenue opportunities quickly.

“Most probably, this could be done by providing something no one else offers yet such as a personalised insurance package specifically tailored to a person’s profile, using social media feeds. Some of the technology to make this a reality already exists. It is now a question of filling in the blanks and having the vision to put it all together using next-generation administration platforms as well as omni-channel, data, and AI engines.”

Linking everything

“Historically, insurers only dealt with their customers at inception of the policy, and at claim stage, with possibly one or two interactions through the policy lifecycle. This has started to change, becoming much more frequent. The emergence of sophisticated technology (like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things) are enabling companies to use data in new ways opening opportunities that previously did not exist.”

Big data can provide greater insights on things such as how customers drive, the frequency of their gym visits, even their discussions on social networks when it comes to insurance-related matters. People have gotten used to the notion that if they provide personal information, they get a personal service. But more than that, there is also the possibility of having premiums reduced for this ‘sacrifice’.

“By connecting all facets of the customer in an insurance environment, the company can optimise its internal processes and facilitate an easier claims process. It can also enhance its value proposition to cater for the individual instead of a demographic. The financial services provider of the future could offer highly customised financial solutions, encompassing banking, insurance, medical, and investment products. Basically, exactly what you as an individual will need to maintain and evolve your chosen lifestyle,” he says.

Understanding data

This has seen people demanding connected experiences instead of just buying off-the-shelf products. It is about combining data analytics with the computing capabilities offered by the cloud as well as solutions such as mobile computing, and machine-learning.

“Today, it has become less about computing and more about what can be delivered through a connected environment. Collaboration between different departments within an insurer, to ensure there is a universal understanding of the profile of the individual customer, will become key. It is a feat that should not be underestimated.”

Hyper-personalisation will become the new reality. Very soon, insurers will have to offer solutions like this to differentiate themselves in a competitive environment. The insurers who deliver this first, will be in a much stronger position than the others who remain locked in their traditional ways for longer.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 23 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our footprint extends to 14 African countries. SilverBridge has introduced an enhanced service offering, called the digital insurance suite, allowing financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology to help its clients do better business.

How insurers can remain competitive

Globally, insurers are investing in digital technologies to meet increased customer expectations for more customised solutions. JC Oberholzer, Chief System Architect at SilverBridge, believes the rise of insurtechs are adding further impetus to the need for incumbents to embrace more innovative product development.

The transition to this more dynamic environment has not been without its challenges. An increasingly complex regulatory environment, a history entrenched in legacy systems, traditional business approaches that promote a siloed approach, and a culture resistant to change have contributed to perceptions that insurers are still too slow-moving around innovation.

“Fortunately, insurers are aware that things must be different in a digital environment if they are to remain competitive. Most report that the pace of innovation at their organisations has accelerated over the past three years as a result of emerging technologies being available.”

Being different

However, this has resulted in a challenge of a different sort – one of differentiation. With most, if not all, insurers looking to adopt an insurtech mindset towards solution development, the onus is on decision-makers to determine how best to offer something unique the competitive landscape.

“Already, insurers are using technologies that include social networking, mobile apps, real-time data analytics, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things. But clearly, using technology on its own is no longer good enough. Disruption needs to be channelled in new and different ways while still keeping a focus on the most fundamental element for any insurer – its customers.”

People’s expectations around their service providers have changed. Personalisation, customisation, flexible solutions, the list goes on. They have all come to expect a richer product environment. Inevitably, this has also resulted in a reduction in customer loyalty as people are inclined to move to any insurer that can offer the most compelling solution at the best possible rates.

Post-digital

“While digital has led to the adoption of emerging technologies, what happens next is integrating these as core competencies inside the business. Instead of viewing them as a value-add, the insurer must see them as a critical component to any strategic product development of the future.”

Oberholzer says that one of the ways this can be done effectively, is to imagine the environment where this is a reality and work backwards from there.

“It is about approaching product development using a different mindset. This is driven by a digital platform and how agile insurtechs are driving competition in a more fluid market.

Customer-centricity and unlocking the value hidden in the data that the insurer has at hand can contribute greatly to this differentiation and product development. Working in conjunction with this is simplifying the myriad products available to the customer and moving to non-traditional distribution channels.

“Just like solutions providers in other industries, becoming a part of the daily lives of customers is critical in this regard. Putting the individual at the centre of solutions and developing around them will be a vital part of differentiation not only in the digital world but beyond that as well,” he concludes.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 20 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our footprint extends to 14 African countries. SilverBridge has introduced an enhanced service offering allowing financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology to help its clients do better business.

Record keeping in the age of compliance

Data as a resource is a critical asset for insurers. With so much data available, how should they approach the management thereof when it comes to record-keeping and reporting? Angelique Strumpher, Administration Manager at SilverBridge, examines the impact regulation such as FAIS Fit & Proper, POPIA, PAIA, and FICA has on how data should be stored, retrieved, and protected.

“If a company is unable to securely store both data and documents pertaining to a ‘data subject’ (the term used to describe the consumer of products and services, in other words you and I are ‘data subjects’ in terms of POPIA), it could be faced with significant integrity issues around its IT protocols and data storage. This is a huge concern at a time when cybercrime is on the increase and ransomware attacks on data is a common occurrence,” she says.

Best practice models need to be applied as part of your IT policy and IT governance strategy, and disaster recovery controls and procedure. Part of this entails determining the level of protection an insurer needs to have in place when it comes to the access of company data, including staff, service provider, and policyholder information.

“Contrary to popular belief, regulatory pressures do not drive best practice but rather serve as a guide in terms of ensuring that the ‘data subjects’ are protected and that an insurer can demonstrate that they have implemented robust solutions and processes to protect data and documents at all times.”

Technology shift

Technology has had a positive impact on record-keeping strategies. One cannot be dismissive of the costs involved in implementing solutions, processes, and protocols to ensure data security and protection.

Record-keeping strategies include the outsourcing of paper-based document storage to companies that are experts in this field. They will ensure accountability for the entire document life cycle, which includes the safe destruction thereof as required by law after a transaction with the client or policyholder has ceased or terminated. It is important for an insurer to know the status of their policyholders to assist document outsource partners in this process.

“The use of the right technology platform should digitally enable an insurer in terms of how products are sold and how customers are serviced. This means that safeguarding and protecting data and digital documents become a business imperative and should be part of your Operational Risk Management Plan,” she says.

Cloudy future

“The recent arrival of multi-national data centres will positively impact record-keeping and reporting. But there needs to be assurances that the information stored (data and digital documents) are easily accessible, securely stored, and backed up. This is to ensure that in the event of a disaster, the information in these data centres is not destroyed or used for criminal purposes.”

FIC reporting remains a critical part of any data environment regardless of where or how it is stored. Cloud-based solutions allow insurers to use AI technology to monitor data better and to report on and analyse potential “red flag” instances sooner.

“Improved data security and monitoring definitely assists with identifying potential money-laundering activities which includes fraudulent claims and the associated crimes that this supports. That been said, insurers must be cognisant of the changing regulatory environment and continually manage its policies and procedures to ensure safety, security, protection and availability of its data which is an inexhaustible company resource.” she concludes.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 20 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our footprint extends to 14 African countries. SilverBridge has introduced an enhanced service offering allowing financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology to help its clients do better business.

Digitalisation for insurers

Insurance has long been associated with cumbersome, paper-based, manually driven processes. That is no longer good enough. The modern insurer needs to be digitally-savvy to address the needs of increasingly discerning customers, says Kelly Preston, Digital Manager at SilverBridge.

“The move to digitalisation has been a long time coming. In the 90s much focus was placed on the paperless office. While this sounded good in principle, the technology and organisational will were not advanced enough to realise this vision. Today, every business revolves around migrating to a digital environment that is not only more cost-effective, but also significantly more efficient,” she says.

Changing times

This is resulting in business requirements continually changing, adapting, and realigning to market requirements. It is as much due to what customers want as it is what sophisticated technologies such as real-time data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine-learning can enable the organisation to accomplish.

“While this is something that impacts all industries globally, banks and insurers are especially benefitting from digitalisation. South African banks have particularly led the change to embracing internet banking, mobile apps, virtual assistants, and a branchless environment. This is paving the way for others to follow and customise some of these practices to their own environments.”

Adapt or die

Insurers, for their part, are starting to become more sophisticated in how they digitalise their systems. The pressure they face from more agile insurtechs that are winning the increasingly growing younger market segment means that they must shift from traditional systems to more modern ones.

“We have seen that the ones who identify the technologies that aid in the digital journey at an early stage, will be the ones who can quickly integrate new product and service offerings quicker, thereby allowing for the much-needed competitive advantage over those who do not.”

This is as much about delivering customer value as it is about unlocking new revenue streams.

By eliminating paper-based approaches and reducing costs, the insurer can pass those savings on to customers who are then more likely to stay with them as opposed to migrating to the newer fintechs. This environment is all about leveraging tools such as smartphones and apps to deliver increased value in line with what end users are demanding.

Intelligence done differently

“With insurers having real-time access to customer data, they are in a better position to understand where the elements of the value chain can be enhanced for the most returns. Ultimately, everything from applications and claims management to underwriting will be digitally transformed. However, the process must start with the fundamentals,” she says.

Even though the temptation is to remain focused on customer-facing solutions, insurers must also apply this digitalisation to the back-end systems that drive the organisation.

“The insurer must reinvent itself for a digital environment from within its core. This is not to say everything must be ripped and replaced, but there are areas where fundamental changes must occur before the ‘sexier’ technologies of artificial intelligence and machine-learning can be fully integrated. This all comes down to how data is managed inside the business and what processes exist to optimise its analysis as it becomes less about paper-driven admin and more about digitised processes,” she concludes.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 20 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our footprint extends to 14 African countries. SilverBridge has introduced an enhanced service offering allowing financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience and technology to help its clients do better business.