Canadian Underwriter

What the insurance industry wants from its tech vendors

September 30, 2020   by Jason Contant

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The insurance industry wants technology vendor incumbents to become more innovative, but also limit the number of products to maintain and buy, according to the CEO of Applied Systems.

“We did a lot of end-market survey work over the last year and one of the feedback points we got is there’s excitement in the market about insurtech and innovation, but there’s a nervousness that it’ll end up with 1,000-point solutions that are really hard to buy, hard to choose from, hard to integrate and maintain, and hard to know which company to bet on,” said Applied CEO Taylor Rhodes.

“So, what the market wants, frankly, is they want to see the incumbents become more innovative; they want to see us solve more of these problems. But they would also prefer a best-in-suite approach that limits the number of things they have to manage and maintain and pay for is the feedback we get.”

Rhodes made his comments recently during the annual roundtable (held virtually this year) with North American insurance publications and analysts that attend the Applied Net conference. Productions

Rhodes said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect opportunity for the industry to come together and start to get serious about the industry’s broken processes, poor customer experience and lack of access to data and analytics (similar to how the 2008-9 global financial crisis gave birth to cloud computing).

He also discussed improvements to back office solutions, as well as the launch of a couple of front office products to “bring connected value to the broker front office that is natively integrated to their back office.”

The evolution of TechCanary (now called Applied Epic for Salesforce) is an example. Applied acquired TechCanary, a cloud-based insurance customer relationship management system built natively on the Salesforce platform for brokers, managing general agents, wholesalers and insurers, in April 2018.

“Simply put, TechCanary figured out how to make Salesforce work the way an agency needs it to work in the front office: Workflows, analytics, [and] the way a producer needs to work with an insurance data model,” Rhodes said during the virtual roundtable. “So, we took the good work that TechCanary did on top of the Salesforce platform and now we have seamlessly integrated with Epic so Epic is mirrored in Salesforce and Salesforce is mirrored in Epic.

“You got producers in the front office who work on prospecting and selling. All of that information is now populated back into Epic and they can see all the information on the customer policy, history, etc. straight into SalesForce.”

In the past, Applied might have had the mindset of “why would we ever directly integrate with another platform? We should just build everything,” Rhodes said. “What we believe now is we shouldn’t build everything. We should focus on what is great and our strengths for our customers, but we want to let them use the tool universe out there that they want to use to run their companies and not have to do a hard-point integration like in the past.”

Among other topics discussed during the roundtable was a new product launching in November that focuses on the end-to-end commercial lines submission process. The current process involves lots of emails, forms, data, too much time passing by, submissions back to the underwriter, etc. The product will “have the ability to take insurance all the way to application, through the carrier system much faster, then back to quote and bind much more quickly and at a lower cost,” said Rhodes.

He also provided an update on Google’s 2018 minority investment in Applied. As part of the relationship, Applied has access to some of the best computer scientists in the world.

“We have Google mentors assigned across our software development team at the leadership level, so we have an active relationship that is designed to help accelerate our team’s thinking and learning,” Rhodes explained. Capital G, the investment arm of Google that invested in Applied, has also invested in companies like Airbnb to solve customer experience problems.

“So, we are able to get access through Capital G to other companies who can shed light for us on what should a digital customer experience really be like and how do you translate that into user experience,” Rhodes said. “How do you build that into your product set? How do you enable customer self-service and engagement?”


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