There’s an acknowledged semi-truth in insurance: it’s typically the last industry to take advantage of new technologies.
But that’s now changing, with insurers taking digital steps to help their brokers not only enhance workflows, but gain new business. According to a 2016 Accenture technology report, 51% of insurers plan to pursue digital initiatives with new digital partners over the next two years.
“Both insurers and brokers are looking for efficiencies in business and looking to technology to help as much as it can,” says Matt Baynton, vice-president, surety (national), with Trisura Guarantee Insurance Co.
“[Technology] amplifies brokers’ existing way of doing business,” adds Sachin Rustagi, director of digital with Gore Mutual.
And the trickle-down effect benefits the consumer, too.
“Consumers are comparing their insurance technology to other technology,” says Chris Harness, senior vice-president, solutions delivery, with Northbridge Financial. “We’re seeing that insureds are looking for better from how they interact.”
That, says Harness, is driving conversations and changing the relationships that carriers have with brokers.
We decided to take a look at how some insurance companies are using new technologies to help brokers do business.
Percentage of insurers that believe AI will be incorporated into every aspect of business over the next five years
An API—an application programming interface—can be used across industries, from finance to insurance, explains Rustagi.
Gore has developed a digital sales API for tenants insurance and home-based businesses that allows brokers to quote, bind and issue Gore products directly from their own website or mobile app.
“Essentially, we’re trying to give the broker more options to service the various customer journeys that exist now,” Rustagi says. “A customer just doesn’t go to a broker and expect to see someone… They might want to buy tenants insurance on a Saturday night and they want that policy issuance right then.”
This technology can also increase sales. For example, if a broker has three producers, and they’re swamped with phone calls, what might the producer say?
“They might say, ‘Sorry, we’ll call you back tomorrow,’ or, ‘Sorry, can I take down your email?’”
Currently, Gore offers tenants insurance and home-based business insurance through the API, but Rustagi says the insurer plans on releasing a number of additional products this year. Gore is also looking to invest in areas of service-based APIs, such as endorsements, renewals and claims transparency.
Last year, Northbridge Financial deployed a mobile app to expedite its claims process and service for its auto insurance customers.
“The current situation of having to schedule time for an adjuster to come out to a body shop, to a home or to a side of the road—we’re able to eliminate that wait time,” says Harness.
The new process is simple. A customer contacts Northbridge’s claims department, which sends them a link to the app.
“This app takes advantage of the camera within the phone,” says Harness. “[The customer] can take pictures of the damage on the car, and the Northbridge person on the other end of the line can direct the customer on what they need to see. It’s real time as the pictures are coming through.”
It all adds up to a more efficient process—both for the customer and the insurer, Harness explains.
“They can work collaboratively with a customer, [or] with a broker, on settling the claim within hours as opposed to weeks,” he says.
“Both insurers and brokers are looking for efficiencies in business and looking to technology to help as much as it can.”
Feedback on the pilot project has been positive to date.
“People like having the direct, real-time conversation and getting a response right away—and even having an element of control in the process,” says Harness. “They’re getting feedback from Northbridge, and they have a better sense of what the next steps are going to be.”
This year, Northbridge intends to add an online payment option for its clients in order to settle claims electronically. The insurer is also looking to bring the mobile app to its property business.
On the underwriting side, Northbridge is trying to make it easier for brokers and underwriters to interact by implementing instant messaging, working on documents online and doing more video collaboration.
“We’re trying to make it easy to stop that inevitable ping-pong that goes back and forth when you’re trying to work with people in different offices,” says Harness.
Serving small business clients
In September of last year, RSA launched RSAPro, a tool that allows brokers to quote and bind small business clients online.
Rosalind Staples-Simpson, RSA’s vice-president, commercial operations, says brokers wanted something new and modern that would help them become more efficient and serve their customers better.
“When we developed [RSAPro], the brokers’ workflow was what we had in mind,” she says.
Although it’s still early days, there has been positive feedback on the free service, and RSA has included elements in the tool to gauge what brokers think of it while they’re actually using it.
Percentage of Canadians who own a smartphone
“We have a live feedback tab embedded in the tool where at any point in the process [brokers] can choose to send a compliment, a complaint or a suggestion because we want to always keep it relevant,” Staples-Simpson says.
RSAPro includes a net promoter score that’s generated from brokers’ input. Brokers can also submit free-form compliments, complaints or suggestions. Early indications from the net promoter score show that RSAPro is performing well.
“And we’ve already received a couple of dozen suggestions on what [brokers] would like to see next,” she says. “For us, this is exciting because that tells us they’re engaged and they want more.”
RSA’s first priority was to get new business quoting and binding into brokers’ hands. This year, it will expand RSAPro by allowing brokers to administer simple changes to existing policies, in addition to offering policy renewals.
“Today, quite commonly, that would have to be either called in or sent via email to have the change done by us,” says Staples-Simpson.
E-bonds gaining ground
In the summer of 2017, Trisura launched an online bond solution offering e-bonds—an electronic delivery of a bond as opposed to paper delivery.
“E-bonds are still a relatively new frontier,” says Baynton. “It’s only been in the last couple of years that they’ve really taken hold.”
He adds that systems are going to change and the requirements will likely evolve over time.
“Being the provider of the technology as well as the company standing behind the bond, there is a nice synergy, so as things change and evolve, we can change and evolve our system with that, as opposed to other systems that don’t have that same congruency.”
Trisura has tried to make the process as simple as possible.
“The current situation of having to schedule time for an adjuster to come out to a body shop, to a home or to a side of the road—we’re able to eliminate that wait time.”
“It doesn’t interfere in any way with [brokers’] current workflows and how they generate bonds in their own world,” says Baynton.
“All we’re doing is really putting a signature and seal and securing the document after they’ve already populated the form.”
“It’s the delivery that’s changing,” says Pina Mazzoli, vicepresident, commercial surety (national), with Trisura Guarantee Insurance Co.
“It was a gradual evolution for us as we went into the e-commerce world and started to put more of our products online,” she says. “That was really the trend and will continue to be the trend as brokers and owners and obligees are looking to streamline their internal workflows and processes.”
This new way of doing business benefits the broker because it’s a “one-stop shop,” Mazzoli says.
“Essentially, the bonds are being procured from our online platform. It allows the brokers to e-verify the bonds with the same provider, the surety bond provider.”
It’s cost-effective for brokers, too, as Trisura absorbs the cost of the transaction, she says, noting that third-party providers pass this cost along to the broker or client—or both.
“The struggle was always [that] in order for a bond to be valid it has to be signed, sealed and delivered,” says Baynton. “It was trying to take that same precedent into the electronic world.”
The electronic seals and signatures used in Trisura’s e-bonds offer verification of the bond’s validity, Baynton explains.
“Certainly, when we look at our bond platform and the ability to purchase bonds online with a credit card, you don’t have to wait on an underwriter because all the information is preprogrammed,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about collecting a small receivable because the client can pay online.”