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Canada’s road to pre-filled home insurance data


June 27, 2019   by Jason Contant


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Where is Canada now on its journey towards using pre-fill data for Canadian home insurance application forms?

Step 1 in the process is isolating which questions on the form use data that can be pre-filled. A standard home insurance form in Canada can have roughly 40 or more questions.

“I think the industry is really focused right now on trying to determine if they need to ask all of those questions,” Greg McCutcheon, president of Opta Information Intelligence, told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday.

While McCutcheon stressed the importance of standardized forms, he said the customer experience can be improved by not asking questions to which the client won’t likely know the answers. “What are the important [questions], and can we accurately pre-fill those with a trusted data supplier so that we can reduce [the number of questions] even more?” he asked.

For instance, McCutcheon said there is no need for a broker to ask a client about knob-and-tube wiring if the home was built before the 1940s. In another example, let’s say a trusted data provider can accurately predict the presence of an oil tank or wood stove on site. “Can we use predictive analytics to give the underwriter confidence that they don’t have to ask that question, because the likelihood of an oil tank being on site is nil?” McCutcheon said.

Opta, which launched iClarify (a property insurance valuation service) nine years ago, is the largest provider of pre-fill property data for the Canadian insurance industry. McCutcheon estimates its pre-fill data is used in roughly 90% of all new business quotes in Canada. Data is pre-filled into all the major broker management systems so that brokers already receive 12 pre-filled data fields of construction features that they can quickly validate to get a replacement cost value of a property.

Two key features for property data are square footage and year of build. “In our analysis, 50% of the time, the consumer did not accurately know that information,” McCutcheon reported. “So the process through pre-fill is far better than the process of just asking a client all of these questions, which takes too long and sometimes they don’t know the answers. Therefore, that drives an inaccurate valuation and also an inaccurate insurance submission.”

Recently, California-based insurtech Hippo Insurance told Canadian Underwriter it is pre-filling data in home insurance application forms to help answer questions that customers may not be able to answer themselves. It uses trusted public data sources to pre-fill data and help minimize the 50-150 questions in the standard U.S. home form to between eight and 15 questions.

“Most of those questions will already be pre-filled with answers,” Mike Gulla, senior director of underwriting at Hippo, said in early June. “It’s mainly just looking for the customer to confirm the data elements.”

Is Canada taking a similar approach? “I’m not seeing that,” McCutcheon said. “We’re not trying to pre-fill all of those past questions. I think the industry is really working on what are the right questions to ask, and is there an accurate pre-fill source supplier I can use so that I don’t have to ask that question any longer?”