Below Mark Boulton, Insurance Sector Lead at Fujitsu UK&I, delves into the introduction of automation and AI in the insurance sphere, touching on the future prospects of the insurance sector throughout 2018.
Insurance has always been a grudge purchase, often seen as a necessity or safety net, but not something that immediate benefit is felt from.
It will have been frustrating for many, therefore, to see that car insurance premiums have risen by 11% on average in the last year alone, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
Many of us may even start to question the value we’re getting for our insurance purchases in light of such news.
The price – which is the most important factor in choosing an insurance package (A New Pace of Change, Fujitsu) – is just one element, however. Compounding this situation is the fact that people often find insurers difficult to deal with, particularly when trying to make a claim.
It’s this group of factors that demonstrate the opportunity the insurance industry has to transform itself into a more value-driven service for customers.
At the heart of any change will be technology, and two of the leading areas here are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation. How is technology impacting insurance for the better? There are three main areas to consider – customer experience, assessments and risk mitigation.
Think of going through a process for a life insurance policy. Multiple in-depth questions to taken into account age, lifestyle, and health, with an existing model applied to the answers provided.
Such models have been used for decades at some companies, resulting in off-the-shelf packages for people that do not necessarily reflect them as individuals.
Technology is helping change this. Based on any assessment and wider data analytics, automation can quickly produce more personalised experiences for the customer. This might be a payment model that suits their lifestyle or financial situation or a more nuanced insurance package to reflect their needs.
Such personalisation sit at the heart of the transformation. We’ve seen this across other industries, and it is one crucial way insurers can start to move from transactional-based relationships to value-based relationships with their customers.
Convenience and speed
It’s not just adding value of course, it’s getting the basics right. Services like Amazon Prime and Netflix have totally transformed the expectations we have of all companies when it comes to speed and convenience. We want things served to us exactly how we want them, and quickly.
Insurers have certainly made progress in recent years – for example, it is standard now for policies to be quoted and purchased online. More interestingly, however, is the use of apps and chatbots.
These give a holiday maker who may have lost their camera easy access to their policy, but also the chance to ask questions to the chatbot. Powered by AI, we can expect chatbots to play an increasingly important role in the relationship between insurers and policy holders.
Given the often complex nature of insurance policies, chatbots can be a simple way for people to get the answers they need. No need to phone customer services or wait an hour in a call queue; just direct answers delivered instantaneously.
Of course, there is still progress to be made with chatbots, but these will only get better in the years to come.
Apps and chatbots are also interesting because they both rely on and deliver vast amounts of data. The more these are used, the more they can be refined to give people services that suit them better. They fuel the personalised services.
It’s all very well talking about the benefits and transformative powers of technology, but making these a reality is something many organisations are grappling with.
Something I’ve observed in the financial services industry is the existence of distinct groups of employees. On the one hand, there are those innovation-focused, digital savvy experts who want agility, speed and flexibility. On the other hand, there are those who want to focus on the central facets of their areas products – keeping those long-standing traditions working in good order for the customer.
These two groups are naturally at odds. They often speak in different terms, work in different ways, and approach problems completely differently. Imagine the kinds of conversations that might come up with discussing emerging trends like AI and automation. It’s not easy for them to get to the place they need to.
To be able to respond to the concerns being voiced by consumers, and to harness the business agility needed to respond to market trends, insurance businesses from the c-suite down need to make a culture shift. Driving change from the top is the only way to future proof the business in a digital world that has already changed the state of play for good. We simply cannot afford to rely on the same rules.
Find your digital path now
Our ‘Fit for Digital’ survey found 98% of insurers believed their organisation had been affected by digital. A further 72% said their sector would fundamentally change in the next four years.
Change is inevitable. And the technology that will enable that change – including AI and automation – is here today. Insurers must find the cultural harmony to embrace new digital services and products, without losing the heart of what they already do well.
The next few years will see some insurers thrive and others struggle. To be a thriver, it’s vital to the right digital path now.