Consultants' Corner

5 Steps for Insurers to Maximize Profitability

Rod Travers
Insurance Experts' Forum, April 12, 2011

Ship captains are trained to balance their attention between piloting their ship in the moment and preparing for what may happen in the near future—for example, the changing weather. And sometimes things can change faster than you expect.

IT leaders face the same dual responsibility. IT has to perform a balancing act to support immediate priorities, such as cost containment and efficiency, while preparing for and helping to enable growth. How can IT help carriers maximize profitability and prepare themselves to smoothly handle increasing demand as it returns? Here are some suggestions:

1. Improving process performance should be a top priority in good times and bad. The cost savings potential is significant. IT can play a key role here by pushing under-utilized process automation tools, such as BPM and workflow, deeper into the organization. Seek and destroy manual workarounds and shadow systems.

2. Taking steps to improve underwriting profitability will pay dividends now and in the future. IT can support this endeavor by helping to unlock and transform data that is currently too difficult or time-consuming to access. This can drive better risk-based pricing decisions, better risk selection and greater throughput with less hands-on underwriter involvement. IT also can help bring improved analytics tools that help identify potential areas of growth. These might include specific regional areas, ethnic populations and age groups. This represents a true partnering opportunity between IT, underwriting and marketing.

3. Providing differentiated customer service is absolutely essential to driving retention and enabling growth, and policyholders and agents continue to raise their expectations based on their non-insurance service experiences. IT is essential to providing high-level service through next-generation relationship management systems, continuously improving online self-service functionality, enabling online co-service processes that allow real-time personal support, delivering intuitive functionality on mobile devices and improving agents’ ease of doing business—to name just a few.

4. It’s no surprise that the soft economy brought an increase in certain types of claims, and that fraud has risen. Worker’s comp, for example, remains under increased scrutiny. IT can improve financial results by partnering with claims departments to deliver stronger claims automation and better analytics from claims data. This can help identify cases with potentially higher losses, enabling early and appropriate intervention. One simple example is flagging low-severity soft tissue injuries. Such claims warrant a more senior adjuster to be assigned.

5. Strengthening IT management practices now will provision an organization for profitable growth with less drama when that time comes. Some potentials:

a. Adopt agile methodologies that result in leaner teams and more aggressive results timetables

b. Take on fewer projects and emphasize ones that are more impactful on revenue and customer service

c. Define project phases to deliver payback within a budget cycle

d. Modernize talent management practices by supporting professional development; implementing flexible work arrangements, including remote worker programs; and introducing innovative compensation that rewards measurable upside impacts

As competitive pressures escalate, resources will be further stretched, and insurers have to respond quickly and flexibly. Those who have kept an eye on the horizon and used the lull of the downturn to streamline and retool have a clear competitive advantage. Through a combination of key technologies and partnering with the business, IT can help an organization achieve profitable growth and smooth sailing.

 

Rod Travers is EVP at The Robert E. Nolan Co., a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry.

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

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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