The next generation of international programmes management

International programmes are set to take a big leap forward as digitalisation unlocks data and enables greater collaboration, according to Jonathan Newbery, head of digital experience at Zurich Insurance Company

International insurance programmes have come a long way during the past decade, moving from a purely paper-based system to a largely electronic one. Yet greater rewards await. The next chapter in the development of international programmes will bring about greater efficiencies, but more importantly, it will open the door to new ways of working.

Bring on the next generation
Corporate insurance programmes are highly complex, with large volumes of data being exchanged between multiple parties and with many moving parts at every stage of the journey, from placement through to paying claims. The introduction of digital tools and portals in recent years has done much to improve service levels for corporate customers, but much more can be done.

Huge amounts of information continue to be transferred between parties via email and spreadsheets, adding cost and delays to the administration of policies and claims, as well as making them prone to errors. In addition, data is effectively trapped within each party’s systems, missing valuable opportunities to better understand risk and create innovative solutions.

Corporate customers, however, are waking up to the power of data in their businesses, and increasingly want to conduct business digitally by leveraging a digital ecosystem. They are, for example, collecting ESG data or information on suppliers, and many are now using risk management information systems. Insurers are also becoming more aware of the benefits of transacting digitally and the opportunities presented by data.

Fast, efficient and transparent
The next big leap for international programmes is digital. The ambition is for data to flow seamlessly and in real time between all parties – insurers, brokers and clients. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is through application programming interface (API) technology – essentially a gateway that enables systems to connect and exchange data.

Zurich launched its API strategy almost two years ago and has been working successfully with a number of customers to integrate it into their international programmes. Risk managers using Zurich’s API connectivity are able to receive and send data to Zurich, integrating data on their insurance programmes, risk engineering reports and claims into their own risk management information systems (RMIS).

These initial schemes have shown that potentially huge improvements in service levels and efficiency can be made by adopting APIs alongside risk management information systems and other digital platforms. Fast and streamlined exchange of data eliminates repetitive tasks and rekeying, reducing errors and improving transparency. Both sides see the same data at the same time, reducing uncertainty.

Plug in and play
A digital foundation will pave the way for new levels of collaboration and innovation in commercial insurance. Once we get data moving freely and transparently, it will open the door to new risk management and insurance solutions, built on data.

Digitalisation will liberate data from its silos. Customers will be able to access insurance data when they need it and use it how they want to. Digitalisation will make it easier for risk managers to enhance their insurance data, carry out analytics and use this information to improve risk management. For example, customers will be able to supplement proprietary data (such as asset location and supply chains) with that of their insurers (climate, claims or building resilience data), giving both parties an expanded and deeper understanding of exposures.

Armed with data and digital tools, insurers, brokers and clients will be better able to collaborate on solutions or product development. With a clear and transparent view of data, both parties can look at ways to improve risk and build resilience. Real-time connections, for example, would enable insurers and/or third parties to deliver risk management services, such as storm or flood alerts, enabling companies to take pre-emptive actions.

Digital ambition
Our ambition is for all of Zurich’s international programme data to be transferred digitally within the next two years. We now have customers with real experience of using Zurich’s API connection that are already seeing significant efficiencies. Ultimately, this is the way to go. All commercial insurers and brokers will need to consider how to move to a digital model.

For customers, those with RMIS need only to plug into the relevant API connection to access real-time data on insurance and risk. For companies without bespoke risk management platforms, there will be other solutions to facilitate digital transactions. Zurich, for example, is exploring the potential for an off-the-shelf digital risk management platform, while customer portals will evolve further, enabling more digital transactions and collaboration.

Now is the time to move international programmes to the next level. The technology is readily available and widely used in other industries, including retail insurance. We just need to raise awareness of the benefits and get everyone talking digitally.

Contributed by Jonathan Newbery, head of digital experience at Zurich Insurance Company

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