As technological advances continue to accelerate and disrupt the status quo, companies and individuals must adapt ever more quickly to seize opportunities and manage emerging risks. Witness the changes in the last decade in industries from finance to hospitality to retail. Risks have changed, too. For example, cyber risk has grown to become a major concern, as has reputational risk with the rise of social media and issues such as the #MeToo movement. The greater interconnectedness of the global economy has highlighted supply chain and pandemic risk.
Tasked with helping companies and individuals manage these risks, the commercial and specialty insurance industry has not yet experienced a technology-driven disruptive shock compared to some other industries, such as retail with the emergence of Amazon. Leading insurance companies are instead working hard to transform themselves from within by modernizing their platforms and taking advantage of the emergence of big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and other innovations.
“As a leading global insurance company, we devote significant resources to ensure that we’re always looking to the horizon for our customers’ evolving risks and our opportunities to help them manage those risks more efficiently and effectively,” said Dan Moore, Chief Operating Officer of QBE North America. “Part of that effort includes watching closely for InsurTech startups that we can partner with and develop practical applications to better serve customers. For instance, several years ago, QBE launched QBE Ventures, an entity to seek and invest in technology solutions that have the potential to transform QBE and the international markets in which we operate.”
Moore mentions QBE’s investment in InsurTech company RiskGenius as an example. The company has a machine learning platform that is helping QBE analyze policy and endorsement language. To date, the team has successfully uploaded more than 125,000 policy documents. It is improving speed-to-market for new products, while delivering new insights into QBE’s policies and streamlining the policy review process.
“Besides QBE Ventures, we have other teams constantly looking for new ideas,” says Moore. “One team recently found and partnered with Flyreel – an AI platform that allows customers to conduct their home inspections at their convenience and on their terms, which is the best and safest way for QBE to ensure customers get the right coverage tailored to their needs.”
QBE also develops new applications in house. For its Crop insurance business, QBE developed its Field Insights tool for farmers. The tool helps farmers manage their risk by staying informed on how their fields are being affected by the weather. It provides farmers access to field-level data including growth models with growing degree days, soil moisture and temperature, precipitation, wind speeds, and weather radar.
“Since the U.S. Government sets price and policy terms in the Crop insurance market, the only way you can distinguish yourself is through service,” says Moore. “Field Insights is an example of how we have delivered superior service and grown to become one of the largest crop insurers in the U.S.”
While insurance companies like QBE see many opportunities to develop new tools or partner with smaller innovators to better serve customers, they must also contend with modernizing and unifying disparate legacy systems that represent their digital core.
“This is a complex, lengthy and costly process, but also very exciting,” said Ketan Pandit, CIO at QBE North America. “As AI, machine learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Robotics expand and grow more powerful, the benefit of getting all your data in one place in a consistent format grows exponentially. Our underwriting team can make better decisions when writing policies. Our loss control teams can better anticipate and help customers prevent loss. Our claims teams can serve customers more effectively and efficiently for continued exceptional service experiences.”
In one of the major transformation programs, QBE North America is in the middle of modernizing and transferring all the products for its Specialty & Commercial insurance business portfolio from different legacy systems onto a digitally enabled cloud-based system for Policy Administration, Billing, and Underwriting. “For the products, we have already modernized, we’re seeing significant benefits in how quickly, accurately, and holistically we can serve customers,” said Pandit. “As we modernize the remainder of the products, we are aiming to have one of the most digitally enabled and integrated systems in the industry.”
QBE is also driving improved system-to-system integration using API Management and Microservices. “Even as we upgrade and consolidate systems, we’ll still have multiple systems covering different aspects of operations, not to mention integrations with the systems of external partners,” said Pandit. “We’ve made great progress at automating data transfer from one system to another using digitally enabled API management. In a project spanning a couple of years, we’ve modernized 180+ interfaces and upgraded approximately 300+ services and microservices, improving the customer experience and accelerating the onboarding of external partners.”
QBE began 130 years ago in Australia, and its customer focus and drive to innovate helped it become a global insurance leader with operations around the world, including North America. The company has no intention of slowing down. With so much potential in big data, AI, blockchain, robotic process automation (RPA), and more, they are well on their way to becoming the digital insurer of the future.