Celent Says

New Challenges Require a New Mindset for Insurance

Benjamin Moreland
Insurance Experts' Forum, September 11, 2012

Celent conducted another successful peer networking event (PNE), this time in Atlanta. The event was well-attended by insurers from around the area and even had representation from a bank. The PNEs are designed to bring together insurers to discuss topics that they find of interest, either due to immediate concerns or future direction. The structure of the forum allows for open and candid discussions between the participants.

The two topics that were discussed during this PNE were emerging technologies and the architecture concerns that go along with incorporating and integrating these new technologies into an existing environment. Celent provided its perspective and insight into these areas and the group engaged in a lot of interactive dialog. Carriers were interested in what others are doing with respect to telematics, customer sentiment and the use of external data. There was a growing concern expressed about how to deal with the large amounts of varying data and how to incorporate that information into the business decisioning process. For example, one carrier wanted to know if anyone had experience with data aggregators to help deal with the Big Data challenge that is beginning to hit the insurance industry.

Another concern expressed is how to maximize the user experience for policyholders, agents and CSRs (Customer Service Representatives). The insurers said they face a challenge with their ability to integrate across their systems to provide the level of experience that users have come to expect with Google, Facebook and Amazon. They also discussed the significant advantages available to specialty insurers by leveraging more customer data to better underwrite risks.

There was a valuable discussion regarding the need for IT to educate the business on the art of the possible. Regarding emerging technologies, IT needs to better understand the business and take a seat at the table to help drive the business and help them understand what is truly possible; what is still just a concept; and the true impact to the business of the emerging technologies that are so hot in the press.

Celent proposed that in the future insurance IT landscape, all that carriers will own is the architecture and the information. This generated good debate around the role of enterprise architect and the role of the business architect. Only three of the carriers in attendance have a formal, mature business architect practice. Others described their business architects as really business SMEs (subject matter experts). The insurers also observed that IT architects and insurers rarely talk about human capital. Carriers need to develop an IT human capital plan related to IT architecture skills. A central theme of the day was that the role of the insurance IT architect is definitely changing as we move forward.

One carrier presented their EA (Enterprise Architecture) journey. They have been moving away from business siloed architectures to a true enterprise architecture, responsible for the enterprise, not just a single line of business. They created an EA roadmap and established an EA governance group that was quite effective. The surprising aspect of their efforts was the speed (six months) in which they established and matured their EA governance group. Some of the key reasons for this are that the EA governance committee consists of senior executives from IT and business and all projects must go through a practical EA review. The governance process enhances the project deliverables and has not become a bottleneck for project delivery. Their focus is on value proposition and how they can help drive the company to achieve its business goals.

In the afternoon, another carrier presented their system modernization efforts and the journey that they have come over the last couple of years. As with most carriers, they have myriad systems and a lot of manual processes. They found it took longer than expected to get the first line of business up, but new lines now take only 5-9 months (reduced from 18 months previously). They have rationalized many of their systems and continue moving forward on improving the back end and introducing portals and improved customer experience on the front end. A key lesson learned was to fix underwriting first and then focus on the back-end process systems, such as claims and finance. Other lessons learned included:

o Need 100 percent commitment from the business

o Change/fix the process, not the system

o Define your requirements based on the new business process

o Decide what you want to do, then pick the tool (not vice versa)

o Define reqs up front before selecting an implementation partner

o Be realistic about data conversion time and effort

o Dedicate a full-time Project Manager from underwriting

o Do not convert policy data—convert policies at time of renewal.

o Allow projects to fail

o Define your requirements well before working with a vendor; otherwise, they cannot understand what you want

The PNE confirmed to all the carriers in the room that they are all struggling with variations of the same issues. It also confirmed that you cannot face these new challenges with the old insurance mindset or culture and provided practical steps that have been taken to make the needed transitions.

The next PNE is scheduled for October 26, at RSA Canada in Toronto. The two topics for discussion will be insurance innovation and big data in insurance. The event is open to all carriers. Check Celent's site soon for event and registration details.

This blog has been reprinted with permission from Celent.

Benjamin Moreland is a senior analyst in Celent's insurance practice, and can be reached at bmoreland@celent.com.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Ben using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

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