Grant Beck, co-founder and CEO of insurtech BeThere Group, says that even before the pandemic, Australian insurers were looking at new technologies because they didn’t have enough people to manage claims from natural disasters such as bushfires and floods.
‘Then COVID-19 arrived and that was the real push off the diving board,’ he says.
‘I don’t think there’s an insurer or vendor to an insurer that hasn’t made some technological adaptations in the current climate. They have all had to change their current processes in some way, shape or form.’
These changes, he believes, are here to stay.
‘It all goes back to ensuring the customer journey is a good experience. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way we used to do it. The way we are doing things now is the new normal for the future, in a good way.
‘Technology has also given some of the smaller players an opportunity to rise up and show what they can do. It’s definitely given our company a spotlight we didn’t have before.’
Beck says insurers have benefited from doing very mundane things when it comes to IT for the past 30 years and were not rushing to adapt to new technologies.
But with COVID-19 shutting down borders, physical contact and physical site inspections, insurers have moved quickly to video-type inspection models or simply FaceTiming customers, he says.
‘They have been kind of forced over the edge. There’s a lot of cool stuff around and they need to use it to their advantage, because what was normal just a short while ago is not anymore.’
‘MORE CONVERSATIONS’ AROUND INSURANCE TECHNOLOGYBeThere provides 3D high-resolution virtual tours of sites and associated documentation to insurance companies.
‘For us, conversations are starting to occur and insurers are beginning to ask a lot more questions about our technology,’ says Beck. ‘We haven’t seen a jump in adoption, but we have definitely seen a jump in curiosity.’
Similarly, London-based tech company Tractable, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to assess damage and estimate repair costs in real time in order to settle claims faster, also reports more talks with insurers.
‘COVID-19 has created more urgency in the market for virtual technology,’ says Norval Scott, its head of communications and public relations, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
‘For us, the impact of COVID-19 emphasises a specific trend: AI can reduce unnecessary data collection loops and points of contact between insurers, repairers and policyholders.
'While that is specifically of interest to customers now, it’s also what they want going forward. But COVID-19 has meant they’ve had to move more quickly and accelerate their interest.’
VIRTUAL WINNERSOne start-up that has thrived during COVID-19 is Brisbane-based tech company Codafication, which has customers in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
Managing director Daniel Sandaver says the company’s flagship product, Virtual Assist, has been implemented by many leading insurers to keep their teams, customers and contractors safe during the pandemic restrictions.
‘Virtual Assist is a virtual collaboration platform that empowers insurers to process claims remotely,’ he explains.
‘With Virtual Assist, the insurer simply texts or emails the customer a link that transforms the customer’s smartphone into a high-definition video, voice and image capture tool — no apps, downloads or clunky set-up required.’
Sandaver says the insurer can see exactly what the customer sees in real time. It also allows multiple parties to participate in the assessment, including builders, engineers and other specialists.
In Australia, he says IAG and Suncorp are using Virtual Assist. ‘We’re also working with a range of mid-tier and challenger insurance carriers, as well as some of Australia’s largest brokerage houses.’
Like other suppliers, he says some of Codafication’s long-term partners were proactively digitalising their insurance claims process before the pandemic began.
‘COVID-19 has fast-tracked what was already on the horizon for the insurance industry: the digital transformation of the claims process,’ he says. ‘Now sales have dramatically increased due to it.’
Sandaver believes his technology will become part of insurers’ normal operations in the future. ‘Once insurers experience the improved business and customer outcomes, there’s no going back,’ he says.
Another company that has benefited from COVID-19 is Claim Central Consolidated, which operates in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and South Africa.
Head of distribution Greg Johnson says several companies in the insurance sector are using the company’s live streaming solution LiveLogik and virtual inspections for the first time because of the impact of COVID-19.
‘This was not just a local phenomenon. This has happened on a worldwide basis,’ he says.
‘Using the LiveLogik platform internally, our property repair average time from claim decision to receiving excess and signed scope of works was just 5.5 days [a 68 per cent reduction compared with 17.4 days using traditional methods].
'Tellingly, 30 per cent of these are received within just three hours and 58 per cent within one day.’
QBE FAST-TRACKS VIDEO TRIAGINGMeanwhile, QBE tells the Journal that it’s been investing in new technologies for some time, through both its venture capital arm QBE Ventures and its own in-house data and analytics team.
‘One of the tools we’ve had on the radar for some time and fast-tracked due to COVID-19 is a video triaging tool, which enables our loss adjusters and builders to manage the assessment phase virtually,’ says a QBE spokesperson.
‘We’ve made it compulsory for all our suppliers to have implemented this technology so that we can ensure claims are continuing to be assessed and progressed in a safe environment during this period.
‘The video triage tool is simple and can be used by anyone who has a smart device. In most cases, the customer will be sent a link via text message.
'They click on this link, enable camera and microphone access on their phone or iPad and then walk around their property following the assessor’s instructions, capturing footage and images of their property.’
QBE says the biggest benefit of this tool is its ability to fast-track claims, because it can easily progress them to the next stage and minimise the number of site inspections.
DRONE ASSESSMENTS AND REMOTE CLAIMSIn addition to using Codafication’s Virtual Assist, Suncorp has advanced other digital solutions to ensure insurance claims are resolved quickly despite COVID-19 restrictions.
These include increasing web chat capabilities, extending online claims functionality and using drones to complete roof inspections.
Suncorp’s head of claims Michael Miller says this virtual way of working is the new normal and provides an added measure to keep customers and teams safe.
In New Zealand, Suncorp’s general insurer Vero managed claims assessments during the country’s lockdown period using photographs submitted by customers via their smartphones and scoped the work via the digital pricing platform CoreLogic.
‘The process worked well and Vero plans to roll out digital and video assessment more intensively over the next 12 months,’ says a Suncorp New Zealand spokesperson.
‘During natural hazard events, Vero has also used drones to review damage in areas that would have been difficult to reach in other ways, speeding up the assessment and claims settlement process for our customers.’