The rapid progression of the COVID-19 outbreak into a global pandemic significantly impacted economies worldwide. This has led to changes in insurance employees’ and customers’ expectations, needs, and overall lifestyle.
Although slow, insurers have moved to virtual operations to tackle some of the toughest and disrupting insurance business process management challenges. Still, the road to recovery seems longer than expected, and they are likely to face profitability and growth barriers on the way.
However, the insurance sector was economically well before the pandemic hit; thus, insurers can still manage the damage. By the end of 2021, the sector is likely to recover and reach pre-crisis levels, according to Swiss Re Institute’s sigma report – World Insurance: Riding out the 2020 Pandemic Storm.
The Pandemic’s Consequences and Their Opportunistic Aspects
Insurance agencies have been experiencing an increased number of claims since the COVID-19 outbreak. This has significantly increased the number of claims settlements and processing costs. However, amid all this, the pandemic is also opening up various opportunities. Agencies cannot afford to miss out on the same. Especially when all they want to do is issue more new policies and renew the current ones.
It is next to impossible for the sector alone to protect the entire population and all the businesses in the world against global crises like the current. Considering this, the pandemic has allowed insurers and governments to collaborate strategically to develop innovative insurance products with broad-ranging coverage.
Other opportunities that can generate new business are in various industries. For example, suppliers are restructuring supply chains; similarly, companies now prefer to have multiple suppliers in place to avoid disruptions due to absolute reliance on only one supplier. As a result, new manufacturers and suppliers will come up in new regions; consequently, new trade routes will emerge, opening up enough opportunities for insurers.
Opportunities in the digital landscape are also increasing. Today’s insurance customer is more interested in choosing and buying a policy online, filing and receiving a claim from the comfort of their home or office. As a result, digital insurance platforms boost efficiencies and streamline insurance processes at a pace, leading to increased customer satisfaction.
By taking advantage of such opportunities, insurance agencies can build and provide better insurance products and position them to recover from the pandemic damages. However, in the meanwhile, what they utterly need is a plan of action that will play the central role and help them recover successfully.
Actions to Include in The Much-Required Recovery Plan for Insurance Agencies
Action 1: Putting digital adoption on the priority list
According to Bain & Company’s surveys, in 2020, digital adoption in insurance increased by almost 20%. This indicates a growth of approximately four times the CAGR of 2015-2019. Moreover, this covers a wide span of insurance business processes, including marketing, policy issuance, claims submissions, insurance agency administration, etc.
The pandemic has also forced insurance agencies to adopt digital insurance business solutions in the wake of meeting growing customer demands. This is also one of the significant reasons behind the rapid adoption of insuretech.
“The unpredictable environment that lies ahead indicates consumers and businesses will increasingly rely on and choose insurers offering online resources and tools that can best meet their needs, particularly as digital adoption continues to grow.”, said Mark McElroy (TransUnion). Source
Thus, digital adoption deserves to be one of the top priorities for insurance agencies.
Action 2: Getting prepared for the future of virtual office setups
Several factors like demographic changes, changing consumer expectations, growing competition have compelled many insurance agencies to turn to digitization and automation in the past decade. The current situation has just accelerated that trend.
Nowadays, insurers are interacting with prospects via zoom, skype, and even WhatsApp. These virtual meeting platforms and other tools can open up many opportunities for insurers to sell policies, provide services, and build excellent customer relationships. Besides, remote working can enhance efficiency, help make informed decisions, and bring better results for insurers and insureds.
Therefore, insurance agencies should not leave any stone unturned when preparing for the future that is likely to be focused on virtual operations or remote working.
Action 3: Augmenting underwriters’ roles and responsibilities
There’s an utter need to change how underwriters work and this transformation should not be limited to the daily, tedious data collection and processing tasks. Insurance agencies can utilize AI, more of external data sources, and advance predictive analytics to enhance capabilities of underwriters or MGAs. By doing this, they can save much of their time and use it for more important roles and responsibilities; for example, portfolio management, broker and customer relationship management, etc.
To understand better, let’s take an example – Ping An Insurance Company of China, Ltd. has developed a smart and advanced risk model on its underwriting platform that has brought these mentioned results. In 2019, the company served more than 18 million policyholders. The system used automated underwriting and approved 96% of policies. This drastically reduced the average turnaround time, going from 3.8 days to 10 minutes.
Action 4: Seeing efficient claims management as a significant differentiator
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, insurers were struggling to handle claims remotely. They had been managing the same on the ground for decades.
Besides digital adoption and usage of alternative data sources, insurance agencies need to build an ecosystem of connected partners and insurance professionals. This can help enhance data analytics capabilities and streamline remote claims management.
Today, most customers prefer to file a claim without visiting their insurer’s office. Efficient claims management can be a strong competitive differentiator, further influencing retention rates and aiding the recovery plan.
Action 5: Keeping detailed track of assets & liabilities
When it comes to financial recovery, insurance agencies need to start with having a comprehensive view of their assets and liabilities. After that, they need to check if they have enough liquid assets and valued liabilities accurately.
Besides, they should also examine their cost structures and the return they are getting on assets. This will include the assessment of business performance and determining weaker areas that need improvement. It also involves identifying well-performing areas that need to be scaled.
Keeping track of all these factors, agencies can plan on utilizing funds efficiently to enhance the overall business efficiency, productivity, and performance. This will lead to fast and smooth recovery from the damages caused by the pandemic.
Action 6: Ensuring employees return to the office safely
Insurance agencies are considering workforce models developed by combining on-site and remote employees. However, before bringing their workforce back to the office, agencies need to ensure that they are comfortable and willing to return. Also, they should determine if the remote-working model is better than on-site operations.
Another significant factor agencies should keep in mind is whether they are ready to be liable for employees’ safety.
For instance, if an employee gets exposed to the COVID-19 virus while commuting to the office or being in the office premises. What all can they do in this situation?
Apart from that, it is vital to reconfigure office space and make adjustments to meet social distancing requirements. This ensures the office is a safe place to work. However, there might be a requirement for technology upgrades or changes in processes. This will help embrace a new, flexible workforce model efficiently.
Does it seem your insurance agency is not ready for this massive change? Then, take Insurance Support World’s assistance with insurance back-office services. We are a global insurance business process management firm that offers high-quality insurance services for agencies. Our skilled, experienced, and trained insurance professionals are available round-the-clock to provide competitive insurance agency administration services. This ensures an increase in efficiency, productivity, enhanced operational workflow, and lower TAT.