Digitalisation in insurance

The current lockdown in South Africa is a major challenge for businesses to maintain operations. For insurers, much of this revolves around empowering employees with the capability to work remotely and continuing to provide customers with the required products and services. Annalie Terblanche, head of product at SilverBridge, looks at the importance of digitalisation in insurance in this regard and how to position organisations to remain fully operational.

“Most South Africans are feeling the impact of the lockdown even though the long-term repercussions will probably be felt for years to come. The next several weeks will be vital in the country’s ongoing attempts to ‘flatten the curve’ and battle the COVID-19 virus. During such uncertain times, insurers must be able to maintain operations with as little disruption as possible to provide customers with a sense of comfort that the business is stable. To this end, employees must be able to work remotely and maintain service levels that deliver on the ever-increasing customer expectations.”

Being consistent

Of course, by digitalising their processes, insurers can empower customers to access their policies, track claims, and exercise more self-service options. Moreover, all sales channels that include intermediaries and call centres can also benefit from such a process. Being able to work digitally, enables them to overcome the challenges of not being able to meet with clients face-to-face due to the lockdown.

Those insurers who have already begun the journey to modernise their core systems are in a better position to have employees working remotely and to digitalise business processes to such an extent that they can continue delivering their full value proposition during the lockdown. Regardless of the current crisis, the business remains in a position to deliver a consistent customer experience.

“A priority in a modernisation drive is for the insurer to focus on its core insurance system as this represents the heart of operations. Doing so will enable the business to scale according to its customer requirements and become more agile in embracing digital technologies to deliver value. As part of these digitalisation efforts, a cloud-based approach will empower the insurer to respond more efficiently to a changing business environment,” says Terblanche.

Not quite plug and play

However, this is not as easy as simply installing a piece of software and hoping it will automate many of the administrative-intensive functions at the insurer. Instead, many insurers must find a way to balance their need to digitalise business process and automate administrative functions whilst working with the challenges of the legacy solutions that they still have in place.

“By modernising insurance, the organisation will be in a position to embrace emerging technologies that deliver significant value to customers and be in a stronger position to scale according to customer requirements. This digital enablement of customers and all the related sales channels is a critically important step to help ensure the delivery of a positive customer experience.”

Take for example completing an insurance policy. The traditional paperwork required in this regard makes for a tedious process. But by digitalising the end-to-end onboarding process and offering brokers and call centre agents Web portals to digitally capture information and process the applications, the insurer can increase new business efficiencies and levels of accuracy.

“Furthermore, a digital approach to business creates the opportunity to inject business intelligence (BI) into the organisation. This provides decision-makers with a more efficient way to gain complete oversight of all critical elements associated to the insurer. BI, through its structured dashboards, provides a visual way to view data and generate insights. If the current crisis is showing businesses anything then it is the need to be proactive and make more informed decisions especially as we navigate through this new norm,” concludes Terblanche.

Insurers need personalisation to become more personal

Adopting a more personalised approach to customer engagement and product development present insurers with the opportunity to influence customer loyalty and respond to ever-increasing customer expectations. Nelson Camara, Go-to-market Executive at SilverBridge, believes this is where the ability of insurers to collect, analyse, and activate the right data from the vast amount of it at their disposal will become integral as they strive to differentiate their brand through a better customer experience.

Insurance is evolving, bringing with it an increased focus on customer touchpoints. This is in response to demand for an enhanced customer experience. Being able to analyse customer data and act on the insights in more innovative ways can greatly enhance these interactions and transform the relationship into a more proactive one. This is essential to counter the perceived agility of insurtechs and their focus on customer-centricity.

“Personalisation can make the entire insurance customer journey more relevant and personal to the individual customer. Advanced data analytics is now making it possible for insurers to become more proactive in how they engage with customers. This is resulting in the expansion of customer digital touchpoints. In doing so, customers can share more data, but expect to be ‘rewarded’ in turn. This talks to how people no longer want generic insurance offerings but prefer targeted solutions based on their individual risk profiles. Based on the data they share the insurer can now incorporate this level of personalisation. In doing so, personalised premiums can be delivered not only driven by usage-based coverage but also having more data to analyse,” says Camara.

This brings with it an implicit expectation of getting a more unified and personal experience. Simply focusing on age, wealth, and geographic location is limiting in an environment driven by a myriad of interlinked data entry points. In the past, push notifications and other one-way communications were considered satisfactory. Subsequently, this has evolved with customers wanting a more engaging experience.

“Today, it is about having a deeper understanding of the customers’ needs and desires and providing the product and customer experience to match. This is putting insurers under pressure to continually develop innovative experiences to meet evolving customer expectations,” says Camara.


The shift towards personalisation can also transform the underlying insurance focus towards prevention instead of only making claims easier to do. This is where the data generation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices become critical. From telemetry in cars monitoring driving to chips on geysers that can identify when maintenance is due, these can contribute to making insurance more focused on the individual instead generally targeting a broad customer segment.

“Furthermore, this also contributes to gaining an integrated understanding of each individual customer. By collating data from all touch points, the insurer is better able to respond to their expectations. In many respects, this assists with taking the theoretical understanding of the omni-channel and transforms it into a practical one driven by digital insights,” adds Camara.

An example of this can be seen by the approach some insurers like Naked have taken when it comes to vehicle cover. Even prior to the lockdown, customers can pause vehicle cover for the duration they are not driving, reducing their monthly expenses. This has become a significant advantage during this time.

New ways

“An insurer can only adopt this pay-as-you-live model if it understands the data at its disposal. More than that, it can provide customised advice and even more tailored pricing based on the risk profile of an individual.”

This agility also brings with it the opportunity to reach the previously uninsurable. For example, Rwanda is seeing micro-insurance companies coming up with a human-centred solution with those unable to access traditional insurance policies.

“At its core is the willingness to understand the precise needs and the daily lives of the people the insurer is serving. With this comes an increased relevance to customers in a more direct way. By emphasising the customer experience, an insurer can get the much-needed competitive advantage required for the digital world,” concludes Camara.

Embracing digitalised decision-making

On 11 March, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. In response to the spread of the virus, at least half of the global population has been placed on lockdown to try and ‘flatten the curve’. Unfortunately, the spread of the virus is not the only thing that will slow down. Research expects the global economy to experience an unprecedented contraction during the first half of the year. This may even extend further should the impact of the virus be worse than anticipated.

Companies have been forced to ensure those employees able to do so are properly equipped to work from home. These information workers must be enabled to service the customer base effectively. This means having good, accessible IT systems in place with enough internet bandwidth and all communication channels properly operational. These employees need to be managed differently, customer engagements require a different approach, and business processes need to be digitised as far as possible.

This increasing online business model requires a new, more digital, mindset to continue to service customers, keep employees happy, and keep operational costs under control. With no employees allowed at the office, business bottlenecks must be removed, and remote productivity controls improved. Of course, the expertise of employees can still be leveraged using digital assets. For example, key decision-making within business processes – the faster, more consistent, and more automated these decisions can be made the more effective an organisation can become in a remotely operated world.

At every organisation, there are stand-out employees with whom entire projects or solutions can be entrusted. These people are typically experienced, embrace company culture and values, and bring with them a raft of knowledge and expertise that is difficult to replace.

AI decision-making

TOM (tacit object modeller) is a niche artificial intelligence (AI) technology designed to replicate this invaluable human expertise. Subject matter expert decisioning can be modelled in a series of steps which considers the tacit knowledge of the expert, along with existing business rules, and simulates their thinking during decision-making processes. The result becomes a digital asset, which is essentially a cloned version of that expert decision, that can be deployed virtually within an organisation.

The modelling as well as the deployment process can be performed remotely from anywhere and at any time. Virtualised expert decisions can be tested against historic data sets for accuracy and tweaked quickly when discrepancies show. This provides experts the flexibility to work from home in a secure environment whilst maintaining their input into key business processes albeit in a virtualised manner. Productivity is improved, people stay safe, and these key individuals can focus on helping the company prepare for new business challenges, without a reduction in operational effectiveness.

A new world

Already, the outbreak of the coronavirus has changed many working behaviours. Following the crisis, companies could find themselves in a position where employees may not even want to return to the office, or a business may start promoting a remote working policy in a more widespread fashion.

If this does become the new normal then it would make sense to digitise as many assets as possible, including expert decisioning. With TOM, companies can take their digital expertise to work rather than their human experts.

The global benefits to a more digital workforce are enormous. This comes with no reduction in productivity, no drop in operational effectiveness, and improved people wellness. In such a digital-centric world, every organisation should give serious consideration to such an approach. Now is the time to reinvent traditional processes.

SilverBridge reinvents Stangen debit order environment

In a strategic move designed to improve the collection of monthly premiums and the customer experience, Stangen partnered with SilverBridge for the development of a new debit order solution that would be integrated into the Exergy policy administration environment of the niche life insurer.

“We were reliant on an alternative debit order premium collection system but started encountering several challenges with it. For example, manual intervention was necessary on some aspects that not only impacted on the integrity of the data, but also resulted in the non-collection of some premiums. Additionally, there were technical constraints in terms of file structures and layouts,” says William Harris, COO at Stangen.

Another consideration was around the use of Debicheck that requires financial institutions to comply with certain regulations when dealing with a debit order premium instruction. This resulted in Stangen investigating more effective ways of managing its debit orders.

Stangen has a good relationship with SilverBridge with the Exergy implementation and reached out to the organisation to develop a new debit order solution. The core SilverBridge development and client teams worked closely with the Stangen representatives to make sure the new debit order functionality would address all their unique requirements.

As part of the project, SilverBridge used a re-iterative process during design and testing. This resulted in the development of a more streamlined and effective debit order collection process that could be implemented at Stangen.

“Given our knowledge of the customer’s environment and their requirements of integrating the debit order process with Exergy, our team came up with an innovative solution that would support two different collection systems,” says Wouter Mathlener, Implementation Consultant at SilverBridge.

The first is developed around the Naedo principle. This sees the system periodically striking the relevant bank account on the collection date. The debit will take place as soon as funds are available. If the funds are not available on this first strike, the account will automatically be struck until such time that funds are available. The second system is built on the ‘same day collection’ principle. This is where premiums are collected only on the specified instruction date with no other date permitted.

“As part of our work with Stangen, we implemented a comprehensive data checking facility to ensure the integrity of the data would not be compromised as was the case with the previous, manual-driven environment. Using our solution, Stangen was able to streamline its premium collection process and secure the tracking and reconciliation of its data,” adds SilverBridge’s Mathlener.

Stangen’s Harris says the SilverBridge solution provides the insurer with a platform for growth.

“As a result of our new debit order environment, we have been seeing improved business efficiencies. And with debit orders now being processed as instructed by our clients, their experience has also improved due to us eliminating any missed premium collection dates. Furthermore, Stangen now has a platform to implement Debicheck,” says Harris.