How to Achieve Your Digital Insurance Vision with Transformative Technology

Mary Ellen Power, June 17, 2021

We regularly host webcasts on topics such as digital transformation, electronic signature, and digital identity verification. If you missed our recent webcast, How to Achieve your Digital Insurance Vision with Transformative Technology, here is the 5-minute summary. The full presentation is available on-demand.

In light of COVID-19, insurance customers are embracing digital interactions more than ever before. Like many other industries, the pandemic has changed the priorities in insurance – both for business drivers and technology investment decisions. The pandemic is having a profound impact on what business will look like in the coming years. Consumers of the “anywhere economy” want and expect remote, digital interactions and that includes purchasing a new insurance policy or submitting a claim. Insurance customers have been looking for this convenience for a long time and they are finally starting to get it.

Digital transformation was already underway prior to the start of the pandemic, but current circumstances have forced companies to reassess their digital priorities. Many insurance customers are engaging with the online channels for the first time. And this shift isn’t exclusive to new business applications. It also includes ongoing account interactions, such as filing claims online, updating beneficiary information, and other account maintenance actions. Insurance carriers and agencies are businesses which also have other priorities like onboarding new agents, procuring services and supplies for their business, or ensuring employees are able to complete their annual privacy and security agreements.

In order to adapt to changing consumer needs, innovation and data insights have become top priorities for carriers. In this webinar, Oliwia Berdak, VP and Research Director at Forrester joined us as a guest speaker for a discussion on how insurance companies can evaluate and adapt their digital insurance transformation to meet immediate and long-term needs. Her presentation was informed by a new report she recently co-authored, The State of Digital Insurance, 2021. Here are the highlights.

Where do Digital Interactions Fit into the Life Insurance Customer Journey?

The pandemic has resulted in more digital insurance touchpoints at each stage of the customer journey. According to Oliwia Berdak, around 50% of customers who purchased life insurance in the last year said their decision was influenced by the effects of COVID-19, as people are giving more serious consideration to the need for life insurance.

Not surprisingly, “consumers will be exploring different policies and what we see in Europe is that increasingly, comparison websites and search engines are the top research source,” Oliwia explained. However, with life insurance, consumers may not always understand their options and will often want to speak with an insurance agent or broker before making a decision. Despite the risks of COVID-19, many still have chosen to apply for life insurance in person, where available. For example, 64% of French life insurance buyers opted to apply in person, while only 35% chose to apply online, Oliwia said.

It is worth understanding that currently, user behavior indicates people are more comfortable with using digital channels for ongoing engagements with life insurers, rather than onboarding. To help increase digital adoption, the onboarding stage of the customer lifecycle, in particular, represents an opportunity for innovation and improvements to increase ease of use, clarity and confidence. Insurance providers should explore new avenues to provide more value through their digital channels.

To this point, Oliwia cited Guardian Life, which nearly doubled its video and digital chat sessions with customers in 2020. As they move into the digital channels, many consumers are looking increasingly for hybrid journeys. They still want to talk to someone to ask questions, to understand which products are right for them. Technologies such as video conferencing that enable consumers to communicate with a human being, even if it is not in-person, can make the difference.

This is underpinned by a renewed sense of urgency to innovate in the industry. In a Forrester survey, cloud, security, data, and digital experience technologies have been elevated as top investment priorities among insurers.

How Should Insurers Approach Digital Transformation?

According to Oliwia, COVID-19 has forced organizations to be more agile, responsive, and modern. Insurance companies are taking this opportunity to digitize their workflows to meet customers’ needs. There are four typical approaches to digitization for insurance businesses:

  • Digitizing Pockets: Through this approach, companies often adopt a limited number of digital tools or digital service offerings. However, these projects are often one-offs that may not provide the necessary foundations for effective digital transformation.
  • A New Digital-only Brand: Companies take digitization opportunities to launch a new digital brand that appeals to millennials and other digital users. This helps attract a new demographic without affecting the customers of the legacy brand. But it’s important to mention that launching a new brand requires significant resources.
  • End-to-end Digital Customer Lifecycle: This is the most common approach for insurance companies. It enables customers to conduct digital interactions across the entire customer journey. The focus is on creating digital touchpoints and fostering an environment where customers can discover, research, and engage with insurers through digital channels.
  • Digital Transformation: Digital transformation should be the ultimate goal for companies. This approach goes beyond just creating a digital experience for customers. Impactful digital transformation not only requires changing how you interact with and offer services to customers, but also adopting a new operating model.

Generali and Munich Re: Digital Processes in the Real World

During Oliwia’s presentation, she presented the digital transformation use cases of two well-known insurance brands, Mapfre and Generali. Generali is an example of an insurance provider that has made great use of electronic signatures. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, they saw digital signatures increase 4.5 times, which amounted to up to 76% of signatures. They expanded self-serve web functionality and provided additional service channels to users, including Whatsapp and chatbots. In some regions, Generali even enabled the remote purchase of life insurance, as well as video-inspections for vehicle and property claims.

While not cited as part of Oliwia’s presentation, it is worth mentioning another example of an insurance provider leveraging technology to enhance the customer experience. Munich Re revamped their entire customer journey and launched a new digital offering for their partners and affiliates to sell insurance. With the help of OneSpan Sign for Pegasystems, Munich Re was able to produce an enforceable, end-to-end digital customer transaction. The project successfully generated a 15% adoption rate versus the 2% industry benchmark. By enabling e-signatures in the digital process, they were able to reduce the application process from 30 days to 10 minutes.

Top Digital Technologies for Insurance Agents & Carriers

COVID-19 accelerated the use of the cloud in the insurance industry and shifted the focus to digital experience tech, Oliwia explained. From customer portals to electronic signature, there are a lot of different technologies that businesses can adopt to enable a digital business model. The pandemic has forced insurance companies to assess priorities related to digitalization strategies. Particularly in a hybrid model, it’s important to create remote interactions with customers that are as empathetic as possible.

During the OneSpan portion of the presentation, Mary Ellen Power, VP Marketing at OneSpan, introduced technologies that enable a virtual sales environment. According to Mary Ellen, insurance companies can adopt key technologies, such as One Span Sign Virtual Room so that human-assisted agreements can be carried out virtually. In doing so, providers need the ability to create secure access through digital identity verification. They also need to be able to conduct communications and review in real-time. Finally, it’s important to be able to capture an electronic audit trail to create a legally enforceable transaction.

The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards digital transformation in the insurance industry like at no other point in time. Providers need to embrace digital transformation strategies beyond low-impact, one-off projects. Assessing digital maturity and adapting digital transformation strategies to meet the needs of consumers is how providers can set themselves apart from their insurance peers. Investing in robust digital technologies, such as e-signatures and digital identity verification, will help insurance companies foster innovation and improve the customer experiences.

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Beyond Business Continuity

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Mary Ellen has over 30 years of experience leading marketing teams and strategy for technology companies. In her role as VP of Marketing at OneSpan, her team is charged with content development, marketing technology operations and lead generation through to the business development of early-stage opportunities. She has co-presented on 200+ webinars and speaking engagements with banking, insurance, and government organizations, and co-led the successful rebranding of the company.