Global programmes – the digital journey

Tony Dowding talked to Jonathan Newbery, head of digital experience, commercial insurance, Zurich Insurance Company, about digitalisation and how it is set to play an important role in global insurance programmes, and why Zurich has prioritised it.

What are the biggest challenges facing the insurance industry in dealing with global programmes?
I think in the international programme space, we are talking about highly complex, large volumes of information, and multiple players such as insurer, client, broker and other third parties – there is a huge number of moving parts within the international programme space at all points through the journey, everything from when a customer’s risk goes to market, all the way through the risk assessment, the binding, the issuance of the programme, the claims, the policy documentation, premium collection and so on.

A huge part of it is around the data – it is extremely difficult to drive faster policy issuance, for example, if you are taking six weeks to negotiate 15 versions of an Excel spreadsheet as to what should actually be implemented. It is extremely difficult to get sophisticated claims insights if everybody is working off different versions of loss runs, because it’s spread around multiple different parties in all kinds of different formats on different spreadsheets. So, there is a huge piece of work around enabling what could potentially be the future direction of some of these important topics.

The foundational point that the industry needs to get to is exchanging data and talking to customers digitally, and then from that point on, you can really get into areas such as live trend analysis of claims data, real-life tracking of catastrophic events and so on. It is much harder to do these things without the data.

How can digitalisation help overcome some of those challenges?
We really need to solve this as an industry within the international programme space – we need to become faster, more efficient, collaborate better on data, and we need to be much more transparent around data and data exchange in order not only to improve service and the experience today, but also to facilitate all of those things that we may want to do in the future as well.

Digitalisation unlocks massive efficiencies, reduces a large amount of the administrative burden and speeds the whole process up. If we are thinking about an international programme, we tend to start talking about renewal 90 days in advance and then you are probably past the inception date before all the policies are implemented, but hopefully that can be shrunk down dramatically.

You can remove an awful lot of confusion between all the multiple parties by looking at the same sets of data, so it allows us to identify potential issues that need attention earlier. And also by getting onto a level playing field when it comes to how we interpret and analyse data, it then opens up many more doors about the analysis and interpretation of that data and driving a risk management process to support those risks and our customers.

With digitalisation, we are all looking at the same version of the truth. If there is a claim record for example in the insurer’s system, it’s exactly the same data in the customer’s system and in the broker’s system.

Service efficiency is going to be one of the key drivers – customers getting their data when they want it, within their own environment and ecosystem. This all has a huge impact on service delivery and ultimately the experience that the customer has.

How does this all work with brokers and their own digitalisation?
In the international programme space or the large commercial space, a lot of this business is intermediated, with brokers involved in the process. Working with the broking partners in the marketplace is going to be key because it’s not just about how we as insurance carriers communicate with the customer, it’s about how we communicate with people who are working with the customer as well, so the broker or it could be a third-party loss adjuster.

Portals aren’t going away anytime soon but the issue is how you access them, and how do those portals actually collaborate with other portals? Because one of the things that we hear pretty frequently is that customers don’t want to be accessing all six of their carrier solutions to get a full picture of their data – they need to consolidate that.

What is holding things back in the global programme space?
The technology is not the problem anymore. This technology exists – it’s widely used in retail and in other industries, and in other parts of the insurance market as well. But large corporate, and especially the international space, hasn’t quite adopted it yet. So it is about the business wanting to make that move and working with customers, brokers and other industry players to take that next step.

What more needs to be done?
The one thing that we really need to drive more now is awareness of the benefits of what this could bring to the process and the way in which we do business. We are looking at the next evolution of the global programme space. This is the way the industry is moving. Digital delivery is key but we have the get the data moving efficiently and accurately to open the doors to other solutions coming down the line. We at Zurich want to make that happen because of the real-world efficiencies and gains that we can get today from being able to exchange that data in a much more efficient way, as well as future innovation that this sort of data exchange facilitates.

Ultimately, we as an industry should not be in a position where an insurer has five people spending a week running reports just to be able to send a report over to someone else, and then to get three of their people to quality-check it and retype it into their systems. We are in 2022 – we shouldn’t really be doing that anymore and the technology exists to be able to get rid of that inefficiency.

Jonathan Newbery will be presenting a session on global programmes digitalisation at the ‘Global Programmes Conference 2022 – Managing global programmes in a changing world’, taking place in London on 15-16 June 2022. The two two-day, hybrid conference is hosted by Commercial Risk and Global Risk Manager. For more information, visit

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