The insurance journey of tomorrow

Disruption taking place through isolated digital innovations are a thing of the past. Instead, a complete digital policyholder journey is becoming the expectation within insurance. This can be attributed to how innovation has become commonplace for a business to stay ahead of the curve.

In the past, the challenge has been to convince stakeholders of the merits of digital transformation initiatives. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown have contributed to an awareness that modernisation and digitalisation strategies can no longer be ignored. These are now an imperative if the insurer hopes to meet changing customer expectations accentuated by the pandemic.

In more mature markets, the policyholder wants an online experience that is quick and user-friendly. This consists of a range of customisable options with immediate (automated) decisioning from the insurer. In developing markets, there is a need for mobile straight through processing with cover options that require minimal explanation. Of course, this might sound straightforward from the outside, but herein lies a host of challenges for the incumbent insurer. This is more so the case if they are sitting with legacy software incapable of transforming the fulfilment process to cater for the needs of the modern policyholder.

Digital now

The question now centres on the technology and process roadmap required to service this digital client. How quickly one can either ‘rip and replace’ legacy technology with more agile technology, or integrate the old with the new?

To answer this, an insurer must examine the way their legacy systems are set up:

  • Does the architecture allow for easy integration with agile technology to re-use what you have?
  • Does your current service provider (or system) allow for the digital onboarding and contract fulfilment of the policyholder?
  • Are you having conversations about intelligent process automation to take the next step in creating a seamless policyholder journey?
  • What about true straight through processing from digital marketing to onboarding, and underwriting through to claim payments? Is it seamless, or does the digital process stop for the policyholder when onerous manual tasks need to be performed in the backend?

To generate business and keep existing customers, the experience of the policyholder is paramount. Whether it is a direct channel (i.e. policyholder self-service) or through a broker network; this is what generates business. Get that right, and the rest becomes optimisations to improve existing margins.

A clear and aggressive modernisation roadmap should be considered before trying to digitalise processes. If an insurer tries to digitalise with outdated legacy technology, it is akin to running a marathon barefoot. While it is possible to do so, there is little justification for going through such a painful process.

Balancing act

Combining the vision of the digital customer journey while still managing costs in these uncertain times must be a priority. But with changing customer expectations, insurers can ill afford not to examine ways to continue delivering more value. This might extend to evaluating the effectiveness of digital channels and leveraging agents in more dynamic ways. Data integration and analysis become vital tools in this regard. Not only will this help pave the way for using the likes of AI and robotic process automation, but it will also empower agents with better insights on who customers are as well as their immediate requirements.

Technology for its own sake has little value if not used to modernise systems in ways that make business sense. This is where a people and customer-centric mindset should take priority to pave the way for the technology change to come. One of the myths that still perpetuates the market is that modernisation is simply replacing the core platform with a best-in-class option.

The level of complexity required to fully embrace digitalisation efforts requires a more nuanced approach that sees the issuing of new policies from the digital environment, while maintaining existing ones on the legacy platform. This enables the insurer to migrate on its own terms instead of trying to rip and replace invaluable data built up over many decades of doing business.

Combining forces

Digital brings with it several business benefits that range from introducing a layer of resilience to changing market forces to deliver on the shift in customer behaviour. Modernising the insurance business can greatly assist it in responding in a more agile way to external market forces.

The onus is on insurers to start building internal confidence in modernisation projects. There must be a willingness to change and to affect that change in ways that can be measured. Putting in place a business case for any digital initiative becomes imperative to helping ensure its success. Those insurers who embrace digitalisation and modernisation will be the ones building a business for the future capable of meeting evolving customer requirements.

Customer expectations require digitally-led insurance approach

As technology evolves, people are not only comfortable with a digital environment but have also embraced an always on mobile lifestyle. They now demand a seamless customer experience from their service providers across all engagement channels. This requires insurers to better accommodate customer need for immediacy, product choice, and personalisation. The customer experience now becomes a critical retention strategy, says Nelson Camara, Go-to-market Executive at SilverBridge.

As part of the strategy to address this, insurers must gain a better understanding of their customers. In this digital environment, the generic approaches of the past will not work. An Accenture report identified three groups of consumers (nomads, hunters, and quality seekers) that show different behaviours and preferences around how they want to interact with their insurers. Nomads are comfortable in shifting to an online approach, look for personalisation, and are less interested in agents. Hunters want value, access to experts, and are open to new offerings. Quality seekers believe integrity is critical to the insurer, they value high quality service, and feel it is important that the insurer acts in their best interests.

“This highlights the importance of adapting products and delivering a consistently relevant and convenient customer service as the means to respond to the new market dynamic. Having sight of customer behaviour and preferences will help provide the insurer with the framework of what is necessary to fulfil in these,” says Camara.

An IMF study published at the beginning of the month has found that Africa and Asia are leading the way in delivering digital services that cater for a broader cross-section of customers. Part of this means there should be a focus on increasing the number of touch points and engagement channels available to customers. This puts pressure on insurers to fulfil the omni-channel experience that customers are demanding.

“The traditional approach of pigeon-holing customers in specific product baskets are a thing of the past. They no longer want to be constrained by limited service options and a lack of control over their products. Instead, the modern insurer requires a strategy that accounts for an increased understanding of individual customer requirements based on the analysis of the data it has at its disposal,” says Camara.

Digital done differently

The recent lockdown many countries have been experiencing due the COVID-19 pandemic has further prompted the need to rethink digital approaches. Recent months have seen insurers needing to increase their digital penetration to continue servicing customers. Research has highlighted how there are plenty of opportunities for insurers to enhance the services and support they provide customers, employees, and communities in these times of crisis.

“With insurers focusing on the financial performance of the business, they must be aware of changing customer behaviour that is turning to digital platforms as the means to overcome the constraints of not being able to meet brokers face-to-face. By viewing themselves through the eyes of their customers, insurers will better be able to understand the change required. This will highlight the importance of increased control and flexibility for the customer as opposed to having it all contained at the insurer,” he says.

This is where customer journey orchestration plays a crucial role. This is the process of bringing the customer’s experience to life. Part of this entails leveraging the right digital tools that provide the link between the insights and the delivery of the insurance value proposition. From personalised communication based on cross-channel customer behaviour to identifying (and closing) customer service gaps are important aspects of this approach.

“The time has come for insurers to focus on client-centricity. They must now prepare to respond in more agile ways to the increasing expectations of their customers and deliver value through exceptional experiences in whatever form they take,” concludes Camara.

SilverBridge, DocFusion partnership drives digitalisation in financial services

Microsoft Managed Partners SilverBridge and DocFusion have entered into a strategic alliance that sees the DocFusion document generation solution integrated into the SilverBridge digital insurance suite, enhancing the digital offering for customers in the insurance industry.

SilverBridge’s focus is on modernising core applications and the digitalisation of processes in insurance businesses, while DocFusion is dedicated to realising the vision of a paperless business by replacing paper-based processes and documents at organisations with a digital approach.

“While it delivered the minimum required level of functionality, our in-house developed document generation tool Snapper is no longer best suited for the future needs of the digital business environment. We started investigating the alternatives of our own development roadmap or potential partnership opportunities to enhance the value proposition of our digital insurance suite. The decision we have taken is to partner with a company with the best product for this area of our solution suite. Given the focus of Microsoft on developing a partner network, the organisation is in a prime position to identify companies with potential synergies. Through Microsoft, we know the DocFusion guys well and saw the potential value in the two organisations collaborating,” says Lee Kuyper, Group COO of SilverBridge.

This resulted in the innovative DocFusion document generation solution being integrated into the SilverBridge digital insurance suite. As such, SilverBridge will be phasing out Snapper and replacing it with DocFusion over the next 12 to 18 months and be exclusively using DocFusion for all new client engagements.

“The levels of functionality, flexibility, and usability in DocFusion are a perfect fit for our solutions that we offer to the market,” adds Kuyper. “They have invested into their solution for more than 14 years, so it made sense to partner with them and leverage their investment in the technology.”

For Ernest Kleynhans, CEO of DocFusion, the company saw this collaboration as the ideal way to expand on its value proposition in the financial services market.

“We are focused on the document generation component of the industry and already have a large customer base. But working with SilverBridge enables us to expand our market share with the SilverBridge end-to-end offering,” says Kleynhans.

With a core focus of helping clients within the sector manage risk while growing their business, the solution meets all required regulatory and technology components. What makes this an even more compelling offering is that both companies are proudly South African, taking their solutions global through mutual respect and industry understanding along with the support and assistance of Microsoft.

“One of the key value drivers of the Microsoft Partner Programme is the opportunity for partner to partner collaboration, thereby enhancing the offering of both parties and bringing more value to our customers. We are very excited about this alliance between these two long-standing Microsoft partners, SilverBridge and DocFusion, and the benefits their combined offering will bring to customers in the financial services sector,” says Lionel Moyal, Microsoft South Africa Partner Director

With partners helping them define success for their business, Microsoft provides SilverBridge and DocFusion with access to Build With, Go-to-market and Sell with programmes, tools, and resources. Microsoft is committed to enabling its partners achieve more.

“As such, Microsoft has a strong Partner-to-Partner (P2P) drive as they see the value in niche companies collaborating with one another to deliver end-to-end solutions,” says Kleynhans. “They have an incentivisation programme that encourages partners to work together and our relationship with SilverBridge ticks this box perfectly.”

“In a complex market and global economy, it makes sense to focus on your niche and partner with other organisations for mutual growth. It is all about creating an ecosystem of mutual growth,” adds Kuyper.

“As a long-time Microsoft partner, SilverBridge uses their technology within our product suite to enhance the value proposition we provide to our clients in the insurance industry. Additionally, the Microsoft P2P network delivers value for us as we seek to further enhance our product offering through potential partnerships. This sees Microsoft looking for partners who can deliver deep vertical expertise that enable their business to expand on its platform solutions in those strategic areas,” concludes Kuyper.

About DocFusion

DocFusion® helps customers digitally automate all communication with their stakeholders. It does so using an intelligent platform that merges data from back office systems with easy to build document templates. The DocFusion® platform provides a workflow to facilitate the forms, document handoffs, document management and digital signatures via smart API’s. DocFusion has customer and Solution partners across the world.

The need to modernise insurance systems

Shifting customer expectations and the need to replace aging systems are contributing to insurers’ decision to modernise their environments and become more adaptable to the digital needs of the market today. Lee Kuyper, COO at SilverBridge, examines the process this will likely entail.

“Insurance is not a modern industry, with many companies having been around for a long time. As technology has evolved and as new insurers, not limited by legacy solutions, have entered the market, the incumbents have had to embrace the possibility that not only their systems, but also their business models must change. Consumer behaviour is radically different with technology becoming an integral part of people’s everyday lives,” he says.

The reality is that systems can only enable a good customer experience within the context of an optimal business model, but having a modern platform make this possible. Legacy systems have limitations when it comes to integrating with modern front-end systems such as the Web or a mobile app. In addition, it is typically not easy to access data from traditional insurance systems, often with disparate databases, in a way where it can be leveraged to better understand the customer and manage the business.

“Insurers who still rely on hosting systems on-site, open themselves up to significant risk when it comes to being dependant on their own infrastructure and skills. They also lose out on the opportunities that cloud platforms provide. While there are effective ways of moving legacy systems to the cloud, they will remain constrained in terms of their ability to access and integrate into the numerous functions and systems available.”

Business-driven change

Modernising a core insurance system is not a simple task and should never be approached without the necessary support from the business at the highest level. It also provides an insurer with the ideal opportunity to modernise its business overall.

“Even with the buy-in from leadership, modernising an insurance system remains a daunting prospect. If attempted as a single ‘rip-and-replace’ project, there is a high risk of failure. Rather, by identifying a single product to modernise, the probability of success increases exponentially. This solution can then be used as a basis to provide the basic capability needed to operate in a more modern way,” adds Kuyper.

He says that once this is achieved, other products can be migrated to the new system. At the same time, the initial solution can be continued to be optimised.

“Optimisation should not be driven from or limited to boardroom discussions. Instead, the business must examine how it operates and how customers respond to the new solution and use that as further input into what additional optimisation is required. Often, this approach highlights the importance of what at face value might appear to be trivial things but are important to the customer.”

Gaining a return

By modernising their core systems, insurers can take the first step to digitalisation and intelligent process automation. These initiatives are only possible to the full extent once a modern backbone is in place. By unlocking the benefits of digitalisation, an insurer can achieve improved policy-holder experience, increase new business policy volumes, and ensure improved retention of existing polices.

“In addition, business operations can be optimised for efficiency gains, and the insurer can better manage risk and ensure regulatory compliance. Internally, staff will be more motivated as they are able to become more efficient and effective in their jobs. Like consumers, employees have also gotten used to modern systems and apps in their daily lives. Modernisation is therefore critical to the success of an insurer as it seeks to continually deliver value to customers,” concludes Kuyper.