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Automation at scale is driving transformative change across insurance

While the promise of automation has been around for years, the pace and the extent of its adoption in the workplace has significantly picked up over the past 12 months. For an industry that barely earns its cost of equity, automation at scale represents a massive competitive advantage for businesses that can get it right.  McKinsey … Continued

While the promise of automation has been around for years, the pace and the extent of its adoption in the workplace has significantly picked up over the past 12 months. For an industry that barely earns its cost of equity, automation at scale represents a massive competitive advantage for businesses that can get it right. 

McKinsey recently moderated a panel discussion on automation at scale in insurance. The panel consisted of Alex Bentley (director of Corporate Development, Blue Prism), Edwin Van Bommel (chief cognitive officer, IPsoft), Eric Musser (managing director, Robotics and Workforce Intelligence, Pega) and Max Yankelevich (CEO and chief architect, WorkFusion).

Edited excerpts from that conversation follow:

How is automation at scale transforming the insurance business?

Max Yankelevich: Fundamental breakthroughs in quantum computing have already happened, but we’re now seeing them cross into the mainstream. Machine learning is a good example. Most insurers use people to handle first notice of loss, basic investigation, and data entry. Machines monitoring humans as they perform their computerized tasks can actually develop a cognitive understanding of how to process documents, automating 50 to100 percent of this work in some instances. The impact is very real.

Eric Musser: We’re all familiar with machine-learning engines on websites like Amazon, which regularly serve up targeted offers to customers. We’re now taking that model into insurance back offices for policy-application review and approval processes, for example. People often make different decisions with similar data, and this inconsistency points to an opportunity. In addition, the average user in the back office interacts with many different types of technology to get their job done, and this naturally raises the notion of using robotics to integrate and automate these systems. We are now exploring how to automatically create rules, centralize them, and make them available to all applications across the organization.

What sorts of benefits can automation deliver?

Alex Bentley: We now enjoy the capabilities that allow you to unlock the potential from these automation technologies. Because the execution platform is far more agile and flexible, insurers can better manage constant changes in a complex legacy environment. Cost pressure is increasing, and insurers need to manage the cost to serve.

Organizations that adopt automation are able to reduce the cost to serve, be more responsive to the market, and address growth areas more effectively. So I think there will be winners and losers in that respect. Those organizations that embrace automation can drive tremendous step changes in their productivity, while those who do not will be left behind. So while it’s not Netflix versus Blockbuster, I think anybody too late to the party will be significantly disadvantaged.

Max Yankelevich: In addition to improving operational efficiency and regulatory compliance, we often forget that automation can drive higher morale within your workforce, because you’re freeing people up to perform higher-value activities instead of mundane tasks. A lot of employees’ mindshare and budgets can be invested in new products, services, and new ways of serving customers. Additionally, customer satisfaction improves, because we can accelerate delivery to our customers and improve quality through the consistency of answers and customer experience.

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