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Technology and its role in solving the challenges of global programmes

The right technology approach is key to ensuring that firms get the most from their international programmes, write Reto Collenberg and Ian Long

A global insurance programme provides significant benefits to organisations’ management of risk, particularly those with large, multinational operations. However, it is a complex undertaking that can present challenges around data management, operational efficiency and cross-border coordination.

Technology and a focus on service delivery are therefore crucial in ensuring that these challenges are overcome and companies are able to gain the full benefits from their international programmes.

Data consistency: There is an ongoing increase in volume and depth of data across all sectors. For an international programme, data management challenges are even more pronounced, given the volume of data and the number of parties involved – both internal and external. This may involve several subsidiaries in different countries with different languages, timezones and currencies, as well as numerous third parties from brokers to underwriters and customers. This means there is much more margin for error when it comes to data, especially if all the parties are using different systems and protocols to enter data.

“Handling international programmes can be challenging, and a lot of the inefficiencies we experience between the producing office and the incoming office are a result of data inconsistency,” says Reto Collenberg, head international programmes APAC and EMEA at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. “We believe technology makes a real difference in meeting this challenge.”

To reduce data inconsistency, it is essential to use an end-to-end platform with a single data input and straight-through processing. This reduces the need for information to be continually re-entered – a manual process including operational risks. It also puts all the information in one place where it can be easily managed and maintained.

Automation and operational efficiency: As stated, manual processes are subject to human error and much greater operational risk. For example, errors over coverage, terms and conditions, policy wording, premium payments or other processes can affect any potential claim. By introducing more automation on an end-to-end platform, these risks are significantly reduced. For international programmes, this is a crucial issue. It also introduces the concept of straight-through processing, which significantly increases processing speeds and operational efficiency, thereby improving service delivery.

This can be seen in numerous ways but particularly in some of the more data-driven administrative processes such as compliance, tax treatment or reporting. “With an international programme, you have to follow the local rules in different countries,” says Ian Long, head international programmes proposition at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. “This is a data-driven process, and technology that enables us to communicate in a proactive way prevents any mistakes in compliance.”

In addition, the processing can happen much faster through automation, while an electronic audit trail helps with compliance and reporting. Similarly, greater automation reduces manual processes and the associated operational risk. Technology can also help to alert underwriters to changes in policy or terms and conditions, or the insured’s risk profile, or indeed upcoming natural catastrophe events. “This is about taking a proactive approach, enabled through technology,” says Long.

Claims and customer service: Shortening the claims process has also been one of the industry’s biggest priorities in recent years. While technology can only have a limited impact on claims investigations (e.g. the use of drones to assess property damage) and calculating reserves, it has a significant impact in terms of accelerating the claims process, says Collenberg. “It helps us with handling the claim internally. Once we have made the decision to pay a claim, technology can help to make that payment as promptly as possible.

The introduction of online portals can significantly speed up the claims process. The clients can upload more of the information themselves, such as incident photos or loss adjuster reports, and get the claim into the system quicker. “This previously time-consuming process can be transformed,” says Long. “It allows clients to be proactive rather than waiting for loss adjusters’ reports, and gets time-critical information to where it is needed much more quickly.”

Cash management: The cash management aspect can be run via the carrier platform as well. Reserves can be paid and compensation can be received. During the last two years, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions has increased the speed at which payments can be made, from insurer to insured, to panel members as well as to captives. This is important for internal efficiency but also for external parties that often struggle to recoup payments within their 30-day timeframes.

“It’s an internal efficiency based on straight-through processing and centralised risk management,” says Long. “We pool all of the risk centrally and then it can be more easily distributed to third parties. It is about having transparency and control over each step of the process, and the ability to see every step of the process and see exactly where things are in the pipeline.”

The need for speed: As already stated, speed is important when it comes to international programmes – in issuing local policies, in processing claims payments and in transferring funds. As an industry, insurance has never been blessed with speed, so through technology we are trying to accelerate and get somewhere near the speed we see in other industries. “Clients quite rightly expect better service from their insurers, especially in the commercial world. They want their policy issued upon inception. Technology allows us to do that,” says Collenberg.

However, speed is of no benefit if it comes at the expense of accuracy. Technology can help to ensure that this increased speed of processing is connected to the greater accuracy and reduced operational risk – the removal of manual processes, the automation of data-driven tasks and a focus on exception management, where inconsistencies and potential errors are spotted and flagged to the relevant parties via automation.

The next steps: As we know, technology is constantly developing. To date, much of the focus has been on internal efficiencies and developing a single end-to-end platform. The current focus is now on developing more external efficiencies. Firstly, this means making our platform and its applications available to third parties where it makes commercial sense, so that it can be used by other carriers.

Secondly, more work is being done to develop the client portal and to provide clients with greater functionality. This means greater visibility for clients over their own insurance programme, as well as the ability to upload more of their own information via a greater use of APIs.

All of these developments are crucial to improving the relationship between insureds and their insurers, as well as making the entire process more efficient, improving service delivery and reducing the complexity of cross-border risk management.

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