Insurance Solutions | Don Campbell | 12 December 2014
The insurance industry today is in a state of flux. For decades, brokers, underwriters and claims adjusters have conducted their business in the same pre-digital paradigm, carrying bulging flipcases from office to office and devoting a disproportionate amount of time to low-value clerical tasks. Now, though, insurance firms are finally under pressure to modernise – in order to succeed in an increasingly competitive environment, they need to dramatically improve their workflows and react much more quickly to external market forces.
IT is central to this. Unfortunately, many insurers are burdened with legacy systems that date back as long as two or three decades, and are about as inflexible and difficult to scale as you’d expect. What’s more, a single firm might have a dozen such systems with limited integration, so there’s a need for data to be manually rekeyed and ensuing scope for inaccuracy.
Relatively recently, however, a new generation of agile IT solutions have entered the market, and many of them are significantly more affordable and accessible – particularly to medium-sized enterprises – than their predecessors. One such example is IBSuite, the flagship product from Danish company Insurance Business Applications (IBA).
IBA’s philosophy is explicitly focused on agility. As it states on its official website, brute force and sheer size are not the most important tools in the modern business’ arsenal: rather, today’s winners are those best equipped “to adapt to a changing environment”.
So what makes IBSuite in particular a fitting choice for insurers that wish to adopt agile policy administration systems?
Speed of deployment
Obviously, the most important quality in an IT solution is its potential to improve day-to-day working: it should tighten existing business processes, make it simpler to roll out new products and services, and maybe even deliver insights that inform strategic decision-making. But before we can get to that, the challenge of deployment needs to be overcome: it’s antithetical to the agile philosophy that a system should take a prolonged period of time to set up and then consume an unsustainable amount of resources to keep running.
IBSuite provides the requisite flexibility and scalability to meet an insurer’s ongoing business development goals, but it’s also one of the best products on the market in terms of speed of deployment. Working with a competent systems integrator and using an agile methodology, a medium-sized enterprise can expect to have IBSuite up and running within weeks.
It also has other favourable characteristics for small-to-medium insurers: it’s a hosted solution, typically sold on a software-as-a-service basis, so an internal IT resource isn’t necessary to manage it.
For insurers that are burdened by decades-old legacy systems, rolling out a new product is often a nightmare. Attempting to do something innovative typically turns into a mammoth IT project, meaning that the market opportunity could close before it’s even ready to deploy. At the core of IBSuite’s ethos as an agile system is the conviction that, to use IBA’s words, the process of setting up a new insurance product or product variant “must be done in hours or days by configuration and scripting only, and should be deployed without any IT downtime at all”.
This may seem like a small thing, but it’s important to remember that the dynamics of the insurance market are not what they once were – it’s a much faster-paced environment to do business in than it used to be, so firms need to react to changes at a moment’s notice or else risk losing their competitive advantage.
Of course, being able to react to market trends isn’t just a matter of having an IT system that facilitates the rapid rollout of new products. It also means leveraging data from multiple sources to identify and investigate the disruptive forces that necessitate said products. Business intelligence, in other words.
The use of advanced analytics is not often a tenable proposition for insurers whose data is stored across a number of discrete legacy systems, let alone those who still rely largely on paperwork. Switch to an end-to-end policy administration solution such as IBSuite and it’s a totally different story. IBA provides real-time access to indicators like the sales of a specific product or changes to the risk profile of a particular portfolio, so firms can respond to them instantly – not at the end of a month or even at the end of a quarter.
In the insurance industry, the benefits of this level of agility are hard to overstate. Not only can a firm identify gaps in the market and upsell opportunities, but also formulate strategies in which it accepts only the most profitable new work. And, with fewer low-value clerical tasks on their plates, staff can concentrate on what really matters: growing the business.