The Digital Journey of Personal Lines Insurers

March 24 2021 | Mark Breading

Personal lines insurers experienced the disruption and change of 2020 like the rest of the world. Most were already on digital transformation journeys before the pandemic but the tumultuous events of last year caused many to reprioritize digital projects and change the shape of their transformation journeys. Generally, the industry fared well despite the lockdowns, economic volatility, and work-from-home imperative. As activity and behavior patterns shifted dramatically in many ways, the industry benefitted – so much so that large rebates were offered by many personal lines carriers. However, insurers also had to deal with the increasing severities in personal auto, an uncertain financial market, and reduced demand in some areas due to layoffs and an economic downturn. From a digital journey standpoint, it was not so much about pausing the effort to become a digital enterprise as it was about reprioritizing projects to address urgent needs revealed as a result of the pandemic.

2021 PL Digital ProjectsA new SMA research report, Digital Transformation in Personal Lines: Project Priorities for 2021, identifies specific plans for carriers related to a variety of digital projects. A big theme is the focus on self-service capabilities for policyholders, especially for policy service and claims. While some insurers already had robust solutions in these areas for digital capture and workflows, most found that their capabilities needed upgrades to support remote, virtual operations. At the same time, the evolution of core systems continued unabated. Modern core systems for policy, billing, and claims are the foundation for digital transformation. The move to simply digitize more assets and automate workflows also continued and accelerated. Although the core, digitization, and workflow projects may not, by themselves, drive major transformation, they are vital enablers for a whole range of more transformative digital projects. More information must be in digital formats, and the systems of record that manage key transaction flows and data must be built on modern architectures that provide the flexibility and adaptability needed in the digital age.

Although one would think that all the focus would be on customer-driven transformation, the reality is more complicated. There are certainly digital project plans that focus on addressing the digital gaps related to customers, such as the self-service portal projects. However, there is just as much or more activity focused on operationally driven transformation. In some ways, this is the typical response to a crisis – focus on operational efficiencies and position the company to weather difficult times. But in other ways, this just reflects the ongoing opportunities to reduce complexities, decrease paper and manual handoffs, and increase digital data to feed digital workflows and analytics.

SMA predicts that there will be an acceleration of the digital journey as 2021 progresses, continuing into 2022. As we move toward the post-pandemic world, there is an even greater appreciation for the power of digital transformation.

This report is a companion research report to Digital Transformation in Commercial Lines: Project Priorities for 2021, published in February 2021.

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