In the future, when we look back on the past year and people ask, “What was 2020 like for you?”, we will all have our own tales to tell but ultimately, the business lessons we have learned from this period have the potential to drive significant change across the insurance industry and changes that I believe have been needed for a very long time.
Reflecting on the early days of the pandemic, while some parts of the industry faced significant challenges in not only facilitating large workforces to operate effectively remotely, but doing all of this while not disrupting customers, overall, the insurance market’s response was admirable. Therefore, it highlighted, that this level of rapid change is absolutely achievable and I’m not sure that before the pandemic, many across the industry would have agreed. Now, as we prepare to bring back some elements of normality into 2021, it’s time to ask if COVID-19 may well have provided our industry with a helping hand to evolution?
And, this is perhaps most true when we focus on technology.
It’s widely accepted that our sector is hugely behind others in terms of offering true multi-channel customer choice. With increasingly high digital expectations, driven by other industries which consumers are confidently dealing with day in, day out, we can no longer hide behind the excuse of ‘that is just the way it is in insurance’. The vast majority of customers buy online and would prefer simple, intuitive digital platforms, enabling them to continue their policy life that way. COVID-19 has accelerated this behaviour even further. Unfortunately, the sector is unable to match the expectation. We must nail this for customers and although legacy systems continue to hamper some insurance players, finding a way that truly puts these historic and often crippling technology issues to bed, is the only way forward.
At BGL, one of the areas we are most excited about is the development of Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the market. AI has the potential to change the shape of insurance and while previously, this technology was viewed with scepticism, recently, we have experienced it having very real and positive impacts on customers and this will only continue. For example, our virtual assistants (VA’s) played a significant role in supporting customers when we went into the first national lockdown, with our 14 VA’s handling over 180,000 simple, ‘peace of mind’ queries in real-time, allowing our customer service representatives to focus on the more complex cases.
Additionally, AI is delivering tangible results in the prevention of fraud. Uncovering insurance fraud can be complex and a resource-intensive process and as an intermediary, we often face fraudsters who are industrious in their efforts to get fake policies past us. Last year, we launched a new process that incorporates machine learning algorithms to prevent policies being taken out fraudulently. It analyses thousands of pieces of information in a split second and this development has reduced losses for our insurer partners, helping to keep customer premiums lower. It means less waste in the insurance market and better value for customers.
What we have experienced over the last year is hopefully only a once in a generation event but in the race to get our teams working remotely, we may well have all unknowingly uncovered a silver bullet to delivering a more efficient and flexible operation.
Although many are still ‘making do’, patching up old technology to deliver service from colleague homes, I believe COVID-19 catapulted change, with more being achieved last year alone, than in the past five. A bold statement yes – but, if we can maintain the same level of drive, ambition and agility for our partners and customers, coupled with providing flexibility for our people and strong leadership, we may well have stumbled across something exciting that has the potential to make our sector unrecognisable, bringing with it real opportunity.