From the February 27, 2012 issue of National Underwriter Property & Casualty • Subscribe!

Best Practices for P&C Insurers in 2012

P&C insurers have had a taste of doing business in 2012, and they realize they are dealing with a tough environment—one in which little or no organic customer growth exists to fuel corporate growth. Gaining market share means taking it away from someone else, so the level of competitiveness in the industry is high and will only get more intense.

At the same time, customer expectations regarding service and value are growing dramatically. Today, P&C carriers gaining an edge are those that are employing tools and information to do two things: out-execute the competition operationally and out-serve the competition from a customer perspective.

The common denominator here is information, and the technologies that deliver that information and help translate it into effective goals, decisions and execution. A carrier that is more effective and efficient at managing information can streamline processes, make better decisions, get products to market faster and give customers the sense of being well-understood and served properly. 

While many carriers are dealing with a legacy system and software environment that slows them down, there are four best practices P&C companies can make to become more competitive in 2012:

Configure new capabilities and products using a business-driven approach.

A carrier’s legacy IT environment is frequently an impediment to improving speed to market, something essential to winning within the zero-sum P&C game. What the business needs is the ability to make changes to processes, products and rules rapidly, according to marketplace circumstances, without being bogged down by the long lead times of typical IT development.

Business needs are urgent. An auto insurer may find that the risk factors for a segment of its insured population have risen dramatically, and pricing algorithms may need to change almost instantaneously so that the company itself is not subjected to undue risk.

Today’s advanced software platforms respond to this need, giving the business the capability to make changes and enhancements based on its own timetable and view of the marketplace rather than being forced into configurations and timetables dictated by legacy IT requirements.

Employ “rapid analytics” to make more effective decisions.

It’s great to be able to change a business or a process quickly in the pursuit of competitive advantage. At the same time, you better make sure you’re making the right change. And that’s a matter of having the capabilities to acquire data—high-quality, timely and relevant data—and then to crunch the numbers readily to steer the business in an effective manner.

While carriers can turn to expensive add-ons or to long-term data warehousing and business-intelligence solutions, another alternative is “rapid analytics”—a platform that delivers these analytics capabilities within the basic capabilities of the software.

The software is built to deliver high-quality data using an integrated model with analytics and real-time reporting. Decision-makers and innovators can manipulate this data to focus efforts and resources just where they are needed.

Use technology to enhance customer-centric service and processes.

P&C carriers do not sell a tangible product, but rather a relationship built on a promise, with the ongoing obligations and services such a relationship entails.

P&C carriers, however, have been product-centric rather than customer-centric in their approach to their businesses. By and large they have not had the ability to understand details across an actual relationship with a real human being, nor have they offered the kinds of self-service technologies that let customers choose how and when they want to do business.

With the right software capabilities, an insurer can support customers across whatever access and interaction channels they prefer, whether by phone, Web or through an agent. Such capabilities depend upon business-driven configurability: creating rules with enough flexibility to specify different behaviors for different channels when using the same product.

Drive out inefficiencies and reduce costs.

Carriers must cut costs relentlessly, year after year, in a down market. But cost-cutting must be paired with strategic thinking so that the focus can be on what business capabilities provide differentiation and which do not.

Software capabilities are an excellent example. Carriers are spending an inordinate amount of time and money creating capabilities in areas that industrialized industry software has already solved. P&C insurers should resolve to leverage these best practices and then move on to other ways to differentiate themselves, such as better products, better service or better analytics.

 

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