Man on a river bank looking at smart phone
The path to digital insurance transformation

01

5 min read

Introduction
Better customer experiences built on data-driven insights

Insurance is all about preparing for the unforeseen, but even insurers can’t predict the future with total certainty. And with climate-change-related weather abnormalities, a lingering global pandemic and ongoing regulatory changes impacting the industry, the future is increasingly uncertain, and the job of insurance is growing in complexity.

Digital disruption

Nimble industry entrants from Silicon Valley and beyond are nipping at the heels of institutional insurers, offering slick and simple user experiences. Spoiled for choice, customers now expect the rapid response times, intuitive interfaces and personalized experiences that they receive from their favorite apps. However, in an ever-evolving regulatory landscape, and weighed down by aging IT infrastructures, institutional insurers are struggling to play catch up.

Fortunately, traditional insurers have something the “insurtech” upstarts don’t: trusted brands. And in this business, trust goes a long way. If insurers get the modernization piece right, they could establish thriving new relationships with agile disruptors along the way.

To develop better customer experiences, insurers need a single, actionable view of their customers. But so often their view is fragmented, with mountains of customer data spread across many silos and technologies in various states of upkeep. Incorporating new technology into an aging infrastructure can be daunting, and there’s little room for error. And in this industry, there’s no room for security breaches.

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By 2024, organizations with IT teams that understand the need of customers will outperform other organizations customers metrics by 20%. 1
A holistic approach

New competitors are redefining what it means to be an insurance company. The time is now for traditional insurers to take a step back, reflect on core business assumptions and rethink how the IT estate needs to change to meet new market demands. This transformation is an opportunity to reduce costs, expand profits and enablenew business models.

A holistic approach is needed to tear down silos and integrate and automate workflows across the organization. Such efforts must be executed in priority of the highest return on investment (ROI), with new architectures that allow older technologies to work alongside new ones.

Transforming IT infrastructures will enable insurers to be more operationally efficient and resilient to market disruptions. What’s more, flexible product development workflows will enable insurers to respond to rate changes and introduce new products faster. AI-infused products will yield better customer experiences and reduce costs by providing policies that are more well-matched to customer needs.

But achieving these goals is about more than a few discrete IT projects. Together they represent an end-to-end business transformation. Daunting, but with the right approach and the right technology partners, it’s doable.

In this paper, we’ll discuss three industry imperatives that insurance companies need to consider right now: digital transformation, core modernization and cloud innovation.

1 Gartner Predicts 2021: Operational AI Infrastructure and Enabling AI Orchestration Platforms Published 2 December 2020

02

5 min read

Digital transformation
Smarter products, released to market faster

You don’t tend to think about your insurers until you need them and, for the industry, that’s a problem. To maximize sales opportunities, insurers need to becometrue partners to their customers. This partnership will require them to transform individual customer touchpoints into customer journeys.

Customer interactions with insurance companies historically met with a fragmented approach, where distinct touchpoints were managed by different departments, for example, customer service, marketing, sales. A more modern customer journey includes events that occur before, during and after the experience of a product or service, across multiple channels. Insurers need a more holistic approach to be able to observe and shape the entire journey as a whole. This approach requires a unification of all these functions through digital transformation of IT architectures and processes.

See how French insurer Groupama implemented IoT to embed its service into customers’day-to-day lives.

Learn more

By providing new risk insights, products and value-added services, insurers can improve their customers’ daily lives, transitioning from emergency vendors to trusted partners. Innovative insurers are using cloud and AI to find opportunities in the value chain, and deliver targeted, personalized experiences to their customers, enabling them to compete against digital-native insurtech startups.

Office Building at night
Real-time customer insights

First, insurers need to obtain a single view of their customers. This single view is difficult because customer data is often spread out across many silos and noninteroperable, aging systems. But with a modernized, AI-infused architecture, insurers can draw insights across the data estate, no matter where data happens to reside. With all the organization’s data accessible from one vantage point, AI can mine data for actionable insights, and risk products can be offered precisely when and where customers are most likely to respond.

Personalized customer journeys

The big data revolution has changed the way we interact with brands in subtle ways that we barely perceive. When our favorite streaming service recommends a movie it thinks we might like, or when we are served an advertisement that’s relevant to our interests, we barely give it a second thought. With deeper customer insights at the insurer’s fingertips, every touchpoint in thecustomer journey is an opportunity for personalization, from advertising to policy recommendations to quotes to coverage and claims management. Every customer is different, with unique preferences and life circumstances. Insurers must be able to discover that uniqueness and respond accordingly with tightly tailored experiences. With a modernized infrastructure, insurers can rapidly deliver personalized services, sales or policy information through agents, brokers, and customer service representatives (CSRs).

Automated customer support

Aside from using AI to derive insights from data, insurers can deploy conversational AI to enhance customer experiences directly, using platforms such as IBM Watson® Assistant. Chatbots and virtual assistants can improve customer satisfaction while simultaneously cutting down customer service costs. Tools like Watson Expert Assist can also enhance agent performance by helping to make it faster and easier for them to look up accurate information, which improves the customer experience, as well.

Obtaining these capabilities will require insurers to plan out a modern data and services framework. It involves making all the organization’s data accessible, building AI tools to derive insights from that data and delivering those insights back to customers in the form of AI-powered customer experiences. If insurers can pull it off, they’ll truly be capable of serving as customers’ daily risk partners.

See how French insurer Generali is using AI to create more intelligent workflows, transforming itself into a cognitive enterprise.

Learn more

03

5 min read

Core modernization
Augment existing core systems with modern applications

Although many insurers have released shiny front-end mobile experiences, they continue to rely on decades-old back-end technologies, fragmented data estates and manual workflows. Core functions of the business sometimes rely on decades-old tech, and accumulating tech debt all the time.

Insurers need the ability to connect across core operations and data sources—no matter where they sit—to rapidly deliver new risk experiences. Most insurance companies today are operating dozens of administrative systems across multiple platforms, leading to siloed data sources and stifled innovation. Insurers instead need to move toward a more flexible architecture that will allow them to readily plug in new third-party services and move away from existing apps when they no longer provide value.

Managing traditional tech

Large organizations simply aren’t able to chuck all older systems out the window in their road to modernization, nor should they. As insurers embrace cloud and AI technologies, they need to be able to bring older systems up to speed, not start from scratch. As the parts of the organization that can migrate to cloud do so, insurers must look for economical ways to manage those parts that won’t.

Person with a smartphone and earbuds
Strategic ISV partnerships

Insurance companies can’t expect to produce every application they need in-house. Insurers need to be able to perform cost-effective collaborations with pre-integrated core independent software vendors (ISVs) across geographies and domains. ISVs can work faster by specializing in a specific area, so large enterprises can zoom out and improve their platforms, which may include component services provided by various ISVs. These fruitful collaborations can be orchestrated with a modernized information architecture that can handle this complexity.

Modernizing core operations

Customers are demanding services that make use of real-time insights from data. To provide theseinsights, insurers must infuse their core workflows with AI. Optimizing core management with automation is imperative across processes to enable a competitive digital enterprise. To achieve the potential of automation, organizations must be more flexible, which can only be achieved with the adoption and cultivation of agile software development methodologies.

See how IFFCO Tokio automated its claim assessment process using an AI-based solution and reduced its claim response time by 30%.

Learn more

04

5 min read

Cloud innovation
Facilitate flexible operations with security, privacy and compliance

Right now, so much of customers’ experiences with their insurers, whether it’s requesting service or filing a claim, is dependent on manually providing information and waiting for a manual response. But nobody likes paperwork or waiting, so customers are demanding smarter alternatives.

Insurers now stand at the threshold of a new era defined by two technologies: cloud and AI. But to innovate in the latter, insurers will need to invest in the former. Cloud innovation is the key that unlocks the potential of AI.

A bold vision of the future

Imagine a smarter home insurance warranty policy that knows the precise age and repair history of your sprinkler system. When the sprinkler detects a leak, it automatically generates a repair request through the customer’s home warranty policy, without the customer having to even stop to think about it. The customer’s policy is adjusted down to the penny—in real time—to account for countless aspects of the customer’s changing lifestyle.

We’re already familiar with contract clauses that reward customers with lower premiums when they avoid risky behaviors. With Internet of Things (IoT) devices tracking customer behavior— with their affirmative consent, of course—insurers can glean more about customer behavior and adjust policies in real time. Enterprises investing in AI, machine learning, IoT and edge computing can use data fabric to weave together the transactional and analytical sides of their data capabilities.

This technology is the future of insurance, enabled by cloud innovation, and it may be closer than you think. We need not look very far in the future. Returns on cloud innovation can be realized immediately, which is why it’s so important for insurers to kick-start their modernization efforts right now.

To develop next-level customer experiences and behind-the-scenes operational efficiencies, insurers need a flexible ecosystem of in-house and third-party technologies, and they need all these systems to share data for AI development, all while ensuring security, privacy and compliance.

Over 75% of large enterprises in mature economies will use container management by 2024 due to a growing adoption of cloud-native applications and infrastructure. 3
Flexible

Different workflows need varying approaches to privacy, security, compliance and scalability. Some data types need to be stored in an on-premises environment with the highest level of security. Others are better suited to a public cloud, where maintenance costs are low. Hybrid cloud environments offer benefits of both public and on-premises environments. With a hybrid cloud architecture, insurers can keep data wherever it’s ideally situated and readily make use of the best third-party solutions available.

Intelligent

A hybrid cloud environment enables insurers to unify their data estates by bringing data across silos together. AI can then be used to derive insights from this data for improved automated workflows and experiences for both employees and customers.

Insurers continue to embrace hosted solutions and cloud infrastructure; nearly two-thirds of insurers plan to expand their use of cloud in 2021. 4
Secured and compliant

Hybrid cloud allows the organization to apply varying levels of security and tightly modulated governance, so all workflows are secured and compliant within ever-shifting regulatory environments. Security and risk can be managed from a single vantage point, scaling as needed.

See how IBM and global insurer ERGO Group developed a system to manage any closed books of traditional life business in the German market on the IBM Insurance Platform.

Learn more
3 Forecast Analysis: Container Management (Software and Services), Worldwide Published 9 May 2020 Gartner
4 Based on an IBM-commissioned study measured across five key value areas: business, acceleration, developer productivity, infrastructure costs, regulatory and compliance, and strategic optionality

05

5 min read

The IBM approach to hybrid cloud

IBM is all-in on hybrid cloud because we understand that businesses need a clear and critical path to modernize their mission-critical systems with advanced cloud services.

-Arvind Krishna, IBM CEO


All your data, from one place

IBM researchers are constantly expanding the frontier of what’s possible with cloud services. We devote resources toward implementing the latest and best technologies so that insurers can focus on the core services that they do best. We understand the technology and can build and integrate solutions based on hybrid cloud into your systems that are specific to your company, your needs and the diversity of your ecosystem.

Faster deployment, lower costs

A broad range of capabilities and services can be more efficiently deployed using the Red Hat® OpenShift® Platform, a leading enterprise Kubernetes platform, built for an open hybrid cloud strategy. There’s a reason more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies trust Red Hat. Using Red Hat and IBM solutions in tandem, businesses can accelerate development by up to 66%. IBM offers a range of prebuilt solutions that help accelerate your time to market.

IBM is producing a new cloud specifically for the insurance space that’s designed to build trust and enable a transparent cloud ecosystem with features for security and resilience that insurers specifically need. It brings core workflows and ISVs together in the IBM Cloud® so they can be managed from a single control plane. This offering is secured through IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Crypto Services, an exclusive key management system with hardware security modules.

Cloud illustration
IBM's hybrid cloud approach can offer up to 2.5 times more value than a public cloud only approach. 5
Avoid vendor lock-in

Our open platform helps you avoid the pitfalls of long, inextricable contracts with proprietary software vendors. Instead, our software-agnostic solution is designed to let you easily adopt and abandon technologies the moment it makes sense for the business. This approach future-proofs your technology investments because you’re no longer committed to working with any particular vendor or technology.

One plane of control

Confidence comes from a single dashboard to centralize visibility and management across all locations. With the increasing popularity of large and rapidly growing ecosystems, Kubernetes stands out as the primary choice of a hybrid control plane. IBM’s Kubernetes-based hybrid control plane and policy enforcement is designed to visualize and manage the security and compliance of hybrid applications and environments.

5 The hybrid cloud platform advantage (PDF, 332 KB) , IBM Institute for Business Value, June 2020

06

5 min read

The IBM approach to AI

I’m predicting today that every company will become an AI company—not because they can, but because they must.

— IBM CEO Arvind Krishna


Towards a predictive model

Innovations in cloud enable you to unleash the full potential of AI. These complementary technologies will together enable insurance companies to transcend their core service of restoring customers in troublesome situations, toward a new paradigm of actually preventing such issues before they arise. Insurance companies will be perceived as watchful protectors that help smooth out life’s daily wrinkles, and agents will serve more as educators and evangelists than as processors of documentation.

AI can process documentation and generate risk profiles with very little human involvement. Risk can be identified at a much more granular level—and quickly—saving both customers and insurers money. Contract processing and payments can be automated, as well.

In the shorter term, insurers will use AI for incremental improvements: new risk insights, new customer experiences and improve operational efficiency. Real-time insights will enable key decision makers to streamline workflows and empower an augmented workforce to focus on higher-value tasks.

< 10%

50%

Enterprise orchestration growth graphics

2020

2025

By 2025, 50% of enterprises will have devised AI orchestration platforms to operationalise AI, up from fewer than 10% in 2020. 6

One thing is clear: only by fully integrating AI into their business models can leading insurers be confident that they’re getting the most from their data.

As the original global innovator in AI, IBM has been pioneering in this space longer than any other enterprise-scale player. IBM employs the world’s top AI researchers, so every year, IBM Watson and its related AI platforms get smarter and faster, continuously updating to be more transparent, explainable and trustworthy. IBM’s off-the-shelf solutions are built for flexibility, scalability and security, and can start generating returns for you tomorrow. Our teams in IBM Global Business Services® will brainstorm and problem-solve alongside you to develop custom solutions to fit your unique use cases.

See how IBM can help your business achieve cloud and AI innovations through the IBM Garage™, an end-to-end model for accelerating digital transformation. Talk to an IBM Garage architect for an hour at no cost to see how IBM can help. You'll leave with individualized, recommended next steps you can share with your team on continued co-creation with us to design the roadmap and architecture to get you to production-ready solutions in just weeks.

6 Forecast Analysis: Container Management (Software and Services), Worldwide Published 9 May 2020 Gartner