Building tech around the customer

Insurers can be proud of the speed at which they have accelerated technology and service in the last 18 months, but the customer they are all chasing is not standing still and they can’t afford to slow down now if they hope to keep pace.

However, a series of interviews with leading figures in the insurance space, held during ClaimsTech last month, suggested that the industry is fully aware of the continued challenge it is facing.

ClaimsTech is an I Love Claims event which took place in front of more than 100 delegates, combining live interviews and tech demonstrations from some of the sector’s leading innovators.


Among the interviewees was Ian Hughes, CEO, Consumer Intelligence. He set the tone for the day by explaining how much and how fast customer expectations have evolved since March 2020.

He said, ‘There have been huge changes in the last two years, and the biggest change has been the adoption of technology. We’re in a different world of consumer now; before the customer hoped for connectivity and convenience but now it is expected.’

He went on to explain how Covid-19 has accelerated that evolution by changing not just the process of claims, but the customer perception of it.

‘When the first lockdown struck the number of people getting car insurance dropped 40% in one week. People didn’t care about car insurance. They just wanted to know that they’d be ok. That’s the same thing that happens when they are involved in a car crash. They don’t care about the tech, they just want to be told that things will be ok and the experts know how to help them. That, ultimately, is what insurers now have to deliver.’


The technology to enable that is certainly out there, with ClaimsTech bringing together some of the leading innovators in the sector. However, while it true that new tech is changing the claims race, it is also true that implementing technology for technology’s sake is to fail to understand the point.

Adrian Furness, CEO of Covea Insurance, said, ‘We need to put the customer first with any technology we put in. There are challenges, but the first challenge is making sure the customer is at the heart of everything we do. If we do that, that will be our first win.’

He identified a reduction in costs as the second key challenge of technology, suggesting that potential solutions ma lie in automation, data science and automatic fraud detection systems.

He continued, ‘The last challenge for an insurer is integrating it all with our complicated legacy systems. We’ve all got them, and migration is an issue.’


David Thompson, director of claims at Tesco Underwriting, echoed the customer-first priority. He explained that innovation is part of the group’s DNA, from retail to banking, with a clear focus on simplicity and ease of use.

He said, ‘We have an innovative culture that flows right through our group, but our innovation starts with the customer and customer experience. How can we improve that? If the flow through then is that it frees up our operators to add value somewhere else in the value chain, then that’s the key for us.’

With the customer journey central to strategy, Tesco Underwriting launched a digital motor claims solution this year that moves seamlessly from point of accident to processing settlements.

David revealed how being part of the wider Tesco group had informed and improved the solution, providing key customer insights throughout the development process.

He said, ‘One of the advantages of being part of Tesco is they have huge resources, customer labs, digital labs. We were able to lean on some of those and what our customers told us is that they want three key things: self-serve, proactive communications, and a seamless journey so they don’t feel the hand-offs between all the different parties that are contributing.’

He continued, ‘We’ve had interactions with more than 1,000 customers in the design and implementation of this and that is what we have based our delivery on. Customer insights have included hyper-personalisation and tailoring the customer journey specifically to individuals rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s the next stage in delighting customers. It’s about understanding and knowing, and not assuming.’


However, to make the most of the potential technological benefits insurers will need to tap into expertise outside their sector. Anther thread running through the ClaimsTech interviews was the fundamental role partnerships must play in enabling insurers to deliver the service customers demand.

For example, Gary Barker, claims director at The AA and Jeremy Hyams, chief executive officer of Claims Consortium Group, revealed how a chance conversation at another I Love Claims event, ILC Home, resulted in collaboration on a new claims platform, Synergy Cloud.

The project was completed under the extreme conditions of lockdown, with engineers from both companies working mainly from home and communicating remotely through Microsoft Teams. However, what might have been a weakness was actually a strength as it resulted in very little interference and a single-minded, focused approach to the job at hand.

Gary said, ‘It is the only time in my career where two organisations have had completely aligned objectives, and it’s turned out to be the easiest IT implement I’ve ever done, the quickest, and the one with the best outcomes.’

They weren’t the only ones singing the praises of a better-together approach.

Amy Brettell, head of customer UK claims, Zurich, spoke about the partnership with Sprout AI, a tech company in the artificial intelligence arena.

She explained how Sprout AI has replicated a claims handler with the equivalent of 100 years’ experience and the ability to read a policy at 10,000 words per micro-second. By embedding that knowledge into its own system, Zurich has been able to increase claims capacity and efficiency, freeing up handlers to deal with more complicated claims and assist customers who specifically want live support.

Amy said, ‘All the technology today is about putting the customer in the centre of the claims journey, and to do that you have to create partnerships within partnerships because there isn’t a single solution that addresses all customer issues.’


Looking ahead, the future of claims appears to be more of the same – more customer focus, more personalisation, and more flexibility of service to support policyholders when and how they want.

Amy continued, ‘At Zurich we’re focusing on plugging in and plugging out, turning capabilities on and off so we have the resources we need to meet customer expectations, which are only going to go in one direction; you only have to look at how much has changed in the last two years to see that. But what that will mean in 10 years’, I don’t think anyone can predict.’

And the stark truth is that if insurers don’t provide the right level of service, there are plenty of disrupters who will.

Although banking is not as complex a service, start-ups offering new ways of operating have already muscled in on their more traditional rivals, reaping huge financial rewards in the process. The same thing could happen in insurance.

Adrian said, ‘Future successes will come in the form of new partnerships. We look at each other as competitors, but we’ve got people coming in trying to disrupt our industry, and their technology is better.

‘But if we ask ourselves how we can offer what they are offering, that is where our opportunity is. It’s not easy, but it is possible and the time to do it is right now. Historically, we haven’t moved quickly enough, but I don’t think there is an insurer out there who isn’t investing in technology right now.’

I Love Claims would like to thank ClaimsTech headline sponsor SightCall, as well partners Google Cloud and Mastercard, gold sponsors CoreLogic, Digilog UK, Entegral, IMS (Insurance Mobility Solutions), Tractable and Verisk, and silver sponsors asTech, Carpe Data, eviid, GT Motive, Service Certainty, and Synergy.


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