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Last November, I was very excited to hear that Insurance Nexus was putting together a new event around claims, technology, and the customer experience. Excited? Really? How could I not be? That’s what I have been doing for the last 20 years! So, despite the fact that this was the first edition of the event, I decided to register right away in the hopes that I would find out more about what Insurers are thinking, what problems they are trying to solve, how they envision the future of claims handling, and how a company like Symbility can help them achieve their future goals. The timing couldn’t be better. Symbility had just launched LINK, its first B2B2C solution and is about to launch Sensai, a dedicated policyholder solution focused on fast payment of low severity claims.
Insurance Nexus delivered on their event promises and Connected Claims USA 2017 was a huge hit. I wasn’t the only one enthusiastic about the event and the response from the market was probably much more than what was anticipated by the organizers. We ended up being more than 300 attendees in a space that should have only ideally sat 200, but no one seemed to mind, in fact, we all pushed in and used it as an opportunity to connect with the many industry thought leaders in attendance.

The event began with opening remarks from Stephen Applebaum which really set the table for the two day event. According to Stephen, claims are finally getting the attention that it deserves. Research is showing that successful insurance companies are leveraging technology to stay ahead of the competition but there is still a long way to go. Forced by the end consumers’ high expectations, who are accustomed to interacting anywhere and anytime, the digitalization of the claim process is finally progressing at a much faster rate. It is considered by a majority of insurers as one of their key projects and that claim transformation will require a new simplified process. This means improved communication, customer understanding, and ultimately efficiency for everyone involved. Of all the technologies, insurers see Artificial Intelligence and claim automation as having the greatest impact on claims in the next 5 years.

The single track event continued with a total of 19 compelling presentations that revolved around 9 themes. Here are my personal takeaways of these presentations:

Bringing sexy back to the claims process. The Insurance industry and especially the P&C claims process has suffered (and still is suffering) from an attention deficiency. Despite the fact that claims are one of the only forms of contact the insurers will ever have with their policyholders, and despite the fact that 80% of the insurance company expenses are spent on claims, claim departments are only getting less than 10% of the technology budget. Insurance today is like the banking industry two decades ago. The good news is that is quickly changing now. The industry is in the midst of significant disruption, insurance technology (known as InsurTech) has begun to draw a surge of interest in the last few years and the Insurers are now seeing the benefits of investing and integrating more technologies in their claims processes. When we are talking about claims today we are hearing more and more about smartphones, aerial imagery, drones, artificial intelligence, IoT, wearables, sensors, chatbots, the blockchain, etc. Now, this is sexy!

Bringing sexy back is much more important than we think. It serves two purposes. First, it helps companies be more competitive by being more effective and efficient but it also helps insurers attract workers of younger generations. If you would have looked at insurance a few years ago, these new workers would not have come to insurance to use the new technology. Today’s insurance market offers an opportunity for them to do interesting things. It also helps all generations stay in insurance. As Dan Moore said “You (insurance professionals) don’t have to leave insurance to do interesting things, you can now do interesting things inside insurance.”

Claim automation and the future role of the adjuster. There is definitely a shift in the paradigm. Manufacturers need workers until they don’t. Cars need drivers until they don’t. Etc. How about… Claims need adjusters until they don’t? Really? Will the technology totally remove the adjuster from the equation? Will the claim settlement be as easy as buying on Amazon? The short answer is yes and no. In fact, it will really depend on a few factors such as the size and type of claims and the insured’s preferred channel of communication. In addition, tech guys like me should remember that a claim is an emotionally charged transaction and technology does not deal well with emotions. And what about adjuster licenses? Over 35 states in the US require a licensed adjuster in order to settle a claim. Can a computer receive a license? Larry Brown from Amica used a good quote from Gerd Leonard to describe the adjuster role going forward; “Anything that cannot be digitized or automated will become extremely valuable.” There are certain things that computers are good at and other things that humans are very good at. The challenge is to clearly identify what aspect of the role a computer could be good at and what aspect a human could be good at, and this symbiotic relationship can drive the future of customer interaction. That being said, some claims are not emotionally charged or some younger generations may be comfortable dealing with technology, in these cases, automated claim process is something that is conceivable.

Technology adoption. I was amazed by the amount of information that was shared by the different insurers during the two day event. Allstate, QBE, American National, Hiscox, American Modern, Liberty Mutual, Amica, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Zurich, Westfield, AIG, Chubb, Texas Mutual and Horace Mann all shared some of their findings and recipes with the attendees. This was very refreshing and informative. There were different strategies shared by the insurers that presented during the event. One insurer favored the “fail fast” method because it allowed them quickly try and validate technology without having to go through the whole RFP, pilot, procurement process that would normally be involved when rolling out a new system. Another one favored what I would describe as the “rapid prototyping” methodology; using a small group of subject matter experts to identify the market problem they are trying to solve and then quickly come up with a prototype that facilitates the validation and ultimately the development. And finally, another one suggested leveraging existing relationships with vendors (such Symbility, IA firms, engineer firms or contractors) that are already making use of new technology as a way to quickly adopt and roll out new technology. In all cases, having the internal users involved early in the development process greatly help adoption. Users don’t want to be forced into using a tool. The feeling of ownership is key for a successful adoption of technology. They need to enjoy using the technology and happy workers make happy policyholders.

How the times have changed. 20 years in the insurance software industry and this event proved that the insurance space is on the cusp of a significant paradigm shift. I came to the event to get a good pulse on the market and also to validate the direction that we are taking as a solution provider and business partner. From what I saw, I’m proud to say that Symbility is definitely on the right track with our new consumer-centric solutions designed to streamline the claim process by using artificial intelligence, but also with Claims Connect, our main software platform that allows insurers to integrate and communicate with all their technology providers. I left satisfied and motivated by all that is happening in this industry. It may be hard to believe for outsiders, but it’s very exciting to be in insurance today!