The nature of re/insurers’ role has “undoubtedly changed” in the months following the global COVID-19 outbreak, says Paul Donnelly, Executive Vice President for EMEA at Munich Re Automation Solutions, the specialist insurtech subsidiary of the global reinsurer.
Speaking in an interview with Reinsurance News, Donnelly noted that social distancing measures have forced re/insurers to move away from reliance on personal contacts, given face-to-face interactions aren’t possible.
Instead, he believes the industry is broadly taking up a more ‘technical’ focus on products and risks.
“In some ways, the personal contacts – which are typically held in high regard – have papered over previous inefficiencies in their work, such as lengthy procedures and repeated questions throughout the application process,” Donnelly told Reinsurance News.
“While I expect these shifts to take place in insurance, this could even mirror a broader change in post-Covid-19 society.”
The Munich Re exec suggested that the longer term impacts of the pandemic on re/insurers can be viewed through both an internal and external lense.
On the internal side, many teams that are co-located in an insurer’s main office now have to learn to operate remotely.
“This has required a re-think of the processes and a greater use of technology as the enabler. Importantly though, greater systemisation will also bring greater consistency,” Donnelly said.
“To make this work seamlessly these insurers have implemented a ‘digital underwriter workbench’ that manages the workflow, supports their decision making and routes the case correctly to the appropriately skilled underwriter. All this has driven improvements in consistency, accuracy and turn-around times.”
And on the external side, Donnelly argues that the COVID-19 crisis has woken the industry up to the idea that there needs to be digital alternatives to the traditional methods of customer guidance.
Rather than meeting applicants face-to-face at various points along the customer journey, brokers and advisors need to implement a more streamlined process that ensures any required underwriting information is captured in one session, he said.
“Physical interactions in underwriting are becoming increasingly redundant,” Donnelly remarked. “Furthermore, we anticipate more insurers will implement augmented automated underwriting systems, leveraging Machine Learning and AI. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, a savvy insurer should make sure they never waste a good crisis.”