We are at the tip of a technological renaissance
“When I think about the pandemic and post-pandemic, it really was an accelerator for us. Before we were thinking what’s possible… we knew the value of technology, but suddenly, bam, you’re in the future. We’re coming out of the pandemic at a rate that’s pretty exciting.” – Nancy Bewlay, Global Chief Underwriting Officer, AXA XL.
Speaking at the ´Planning for a Post-Pandemic Insurance World´ virtual panel session during Reuters´ The Future of Insurance USA 2021 online conference, Nancy Bewlay was joined by Lisa Davis, President & CUO, Canopius USA and Thomas Anderson, Head of Sales, US, AdvantageGo.
Moderator, Bryan Falchuk, Managing Partner, Insurance Evolution Partners, explored with the group the future state and post-pandemic planning in the insurance sector. The panel also discussed how insurers are leveraging new data and innovative technology to meet customers´ evolving needs and maintain profitability.
Speaking about the impact of Covid, Lisa discussed how the pandemic has changed how insurers evaluate risk and how they engage with customers. Identifying three aspects, Lisa said, “how do we evaluate risk differently; how do we use data to allow ourselves to evaluate more quickly, make quicker decisions in this quick world that we’re living. How do we engage our customers – and we have to engage our customers differently because insurance is very much a relationship-driven business, and over the past year, we’ve been forced to build those relationships in a lot of different ways, and finally, how do we engage our employees and making sure that they really are on board, because if we don’t get our employees engaged, then it’s really difficult for us to effectively evaluate the risk and really effectively engage the customers.”
Bryan asked Tom for his angle from a technological point of view. Commenting on this, Tom said, “when you look at it then from a technological perspective, we as an industry had to accelerate so quickly, so fast, in such a disparate way, meaning like this, over Zoom, etc., and I couldn’t be more proud of the industry in general.” Tom added that the pandemic had created an accelerator, not just in the US but globally, on how insurers can use technology to better interact with themselves and others to ensure they enable those distribution channels to work more effectively and support customers which goes back to data.
Assessing risk during the pandemic
The conversation turned to challenges in assessing risk the pandemic brought to light and how the industry is looking at risk today because of that experience. Responding to this, Nancy said that a lot of time can be spent answering this one question and that one of the challenges was the unknown unknowns and always trying to be on the front foot with evolving risk. “We want to provide contract certainty to our clients, we want to sell products that are clear, and the intent is clear.” Nancy discussed how AXA XL embarked on a journey to look at themselves granularly and their products across the globe to articulate their intent and make sure that intent is very clear. “We’re here for the long term, and our clients can count on us.”
Nancy describes how AXA XL incorporated Natural Language Processing and technology to ensure that contract language was fit for purpose. Another significant learning Nancy discussed was how to continue a risk consulting group, which she manages. Traditional risk consulting services demand on-site analysis, but how to do this during a pandemic? Nancy shared how her team conducted digital risk consulting with clients and how the team could offer digital risk services to clients in a short amount of time.
Lisa shared how she had a very similar perspective to Nancy in not being able to meet with customers. “What was really quite exciting was the amount of information we could gather without actually meeting with the customer in person and really how to take the data and use that alongside the Underwriter to really try and ensure we understand; it’s not quite the same, but I think it really did open our eyes a little bit as to the amount of data that is out there – being able to collect it and correlate it. The pandemic made us think, how do you correlate that data and get things in that can ultimately help you make a better decision.”
“We talk about technology and flexibility; what do you see out there,” asks Bryan.
Commenting on this, Tom opined that the pandemic created a necessity as insurers could no longer go on site, which led to them obtaining terabytes of data and the challenge of distilling that down to what is good data to use to make better underwriting decisions. Tom revealed a level of excitement with the industry to enhance the ability to underwrite risk more efficiently. Bringing up the example of submission triage, Tom said that previously, Underwriters would look at all submissions; now, they are using data and robotics to push out those outliers and focus on that fruit that will provide them the best capacity. “They are seeing so much more agility”, he declared, referring to large insurance companies who and embracing data and technology.
Bryan points out a question asked by someone in the audience about the industry´s readiness and ability to move quickly with the technology.
Lisa answers first, saying that the industry has come into the tech age kicking and screaming, and it’s typical old-school style approach has impacted engaging and attracting talent. “I think we’re on the edge, I think we want to go there as an industry”, commenting further that the industry is seeing the fruits of its digital labour and is opening its mind around technology and spurring the desire to get there.
“We can never rest”, says Nancy, “the insurance industry needs to mirror my life.” Nancy discusses that the industry needs to move away from thinking it can only engage customers face-to-face and to realise it can connect with them digitally. Nancy raises the point that the pandemic accelerated the view of itself as an industry and that consumers and clients want that digital experience. “I challenge us as an industry to try and outpace technology; let’s try and outpace how we think about risk, which is ever-evolving.” The North Star is to get to that digital place, “we drive our underwriting by analytics.”
Drawing the session to a close, Bryan asks the panel how the industry can avoid hitting a wall now that it has come so far.
Tom starts by declaring that the industry is at the tip of the iceberg and that legacy technology should not be an anchor holding insurers back. “Now it’s on us as software and technological providers to enable them (insurers) to not rip and replace that software; that ship has sailed. It´s now about wrapping those systems in the sense that it can utilise that data almost as a data lake or data warehouse with newer technology on top of it that allows for those Artificial Intelligence enabled decision making capabilities that allows for us to be more agile, adept and proactive. We are at the tip of a technological renaissance in this industry.”