Covid-19 has bneen a catalyst for profound change across the insurance sector, says Genasys Technologies UK MD Andre Symes;

GenasysCraig Olivier (blue T-shirt) and Andre Symes (black T-shirt).

Andre Symes

The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all, both personally and professionally. The crisis has brought about changes to our day-to-day lives that at the beginning of the year would have been unimaginable.

While some of the enforced changes have been hard to stomach, such as not being able to see and hug loved ones, others can be seen in a more positive light. As a passionate cyclist, for example, it’s been a joy to ride around London without having to worry about the normal traffic. Hopefully more people will have discovered the joy and health benefits of two-wheels over the past few months and the government will invest more in cycle-friendly measures!

The work from home diktat has forced another massive – and in my view – positive change. Overnight, businesses with tens or hundreds and even thousands of employees had to switch from working in the office to their dining table. For enlightened businesses that already operated a flexible working environment, this wasn’t a problem. For those with an old-school culture and inherent distrust in the ability of their people to be productive if working outside confines of the office, it represented a huge shift in mindset.

If anything, the rate at which we transitioned to working from home exposed the obvious fact that it was never a technology issue – rather, a cultural one. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that this shift still represented a massive technological challenge for many businesses, particularly in the insurance industry.

Think about it. The vast majority of traditional insurers sit on a legacy platform, built over the years to manage people working within a network, within a building, within a defined set of locations. It has been made hard for people to break into with system architecture designed to keep external parties out. Then the pandemic displaced everyone and IT teams were faced with the huge task of enabling remote access the system to people spread far and wide.

And while laptops may come as standard to business development and account management team members, how many insurance businesses automatically provide laptops to call centre staff? Given the risks of allowing staff to ‘dial in’ from their personal devices, I suspect many laptop sales managers made their annual budgets by the beginning of the new tax year as businesses had to get secure machines out to their people. I’m sure many IT teams worked long hours to get licenses, firewalls and other security measures in place to enable underwriters, claims handlers, loss adjusters, brokers, administrators all able to function properly from their kitchens.

The truth is that the pandemic exposed the physical limitations of many IT infrastructures within our industry.

I’m sure that there are a lot of businesses who thought that they had digitalised processes, but the new ‘norm’ of working from home made it evident that many weren’t as far along their digital path as they thought.

GenasysUK-insurance software specialist

Take the claims process – arguably the biggest area for the customer as this is where the value of their insurance policy really lies. How many businesses have digital claims management and validation processes in place? While there were undoubtedly (and joyously for us cyclists) fewer cars on the road during lockdown, as restrictions are gradually lifted, traffic volumes will build and there will be more accidents. How easy is it to digitally rebuild the scene and determine where liability sits? If you don’t have good quality data coupled with artificial intelligence, how long will claims validation take?

While finding positives when talking about Covid-19 is hard, I think that the plus of the pandemic for the insurance industry has been that it has served to highlight the advantage of web-based operations.

Every business – no matter their size, no matter their role in the value chain – has to be able to easily provide remote capability for all staff. They all need access to systems, anytime, anywhere. They need to be able to link up with those who service our industry – repairers, suppliers – in a digital manner. And customers need access to information in real time. Woe-betide any business going forward that does not have a web-based client portal that allows real self-service.

There might have been those that viewed the Cloud with a degree of scepticism prior to the pandemic. I believe that the pendulum has swung and the sceptics now acknowledge its very many benefits. They don’t have to become a digital evangelist for their business is to come out of the pandemic and thrive, just a digital realist.

This column is produced in association with Genasys Technologies