Robotics for the Insurance Brokers

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In a presentation I had the pleasure of delivering in Montreal at the Journée de l’assurance de dommages (Property and Casualty Insurance Day) conference, I explained the advantages and benefits that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) hold for brokerage firms.

According to a McKinsey report cited by UiPath [PDF] unveiled at the 2018 RPA Congress in the US, the insurance industry has the potential to automate up to 43% of its data-processing activities.

Robots can automate a wide range of activities, from accounting to claims and account opening, and they provide additional added value by copying and – very quickly – crosschecking data from different systems, thus providing effective bridges between silos.

Presently, all financial institutions and most major insurance companies in Canada already use RPA or have pilot projects under way.

For insurance brokers, however, these “robots” – which are not physical machines as such, but autonomous software systems deployed on a server or computer – remain quite mysterious, if they’ve heard of them at all.

Yet advances in technology undeniably put RPA within the reach of SMEs, and Capgemini sees robotics and AI as a major upcoming trend.

Hence the importance for insurance brokers of a) demystifying the cost and complexity of RPA, and b) grasping its potential and benefits.

According to a McKinsey report cited by UiPath [PDF] unveiled at the 2018 RPA Congress in the US, the insurance industry has the potential to automate up to 43% of its data-processing activities.

In concrete terms, robots can now, among other things, open emails and documents, “read” them, retrieve the necessary information and log into the CRM system or the backend to enter the relevant data.

An industry that is ripe for automation

In fact, the insurance seems to be tailor-made for robots, with:

  • A large volume of document transfers
  • A wide variety of formats (Doc, HTML, PDF, Excel, etc.)
  • Different generations of systems that are often incompatible
  • A stringent statutory context that requires a high degree of administration and control
  • High volumes of data entry, with its high risk of errors
  • Seasonal product activity peaks with volumes that can increase tenfold

The McKinsey report on automation in the insurance industry estimates that robots could replace up to 25% of insurance companies’ support and administrative staff in no less than in six years from now.

According to a study conducted by Forrester in October 2018, a robot can perform administrative tasks up to three times faster than humans. It is estimated that robots can perform 70 to 80% of office activities.

Financial services in general – and the insurance sector in particular – are writing a major chapter in the book of RPA success stories:

  • Policy management => processing times reduced by 60%.
  • Administrative staff => payroll reduced by 70%.
  • Bank reconciliation => processing times reduced by 80%.
  • Complaint management => costs reduced by 80%.
  • Credit card payments => verification times reduced by 95%.

At a time where the competition for talent is reaching an all-time high, this is good news for Canadian brokerage firms.

RPA: Quicker returns for brokerages

Also, since SMEs are usually leaner and more and nimble, it is easier to deploy an RPA in a brokerage firm than in a large insurance company. As a result, the profitability of a robot is calculated not in years, but in months.

In six months, AXA’s London office saved US $182,000 after deploying 13 supervised UiPath robots.

RPA also allows brokers to become more independent: currently, migrating a few thousand, or even a few hundred customers, is a difficult business decision because it is an expensive and demanding operation. RPA makes the process pain free.

Robots that humanize

Finally, RPA comes with a counterintuitive benefit that is even more important in an industry that suffers from a chronic lack of resources: robots make work more humane.

As Leslie Willcocks, a professor at the London School of Economics put it, speaking of RPA: “It takes the robot out of the human!”

Among those who have adopted RPA, 70% believe that robots have eliminated some or even all the uninteresting work and that robots significantly improve employee satisfaction.

Read the complete article (in French).

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