Yunus Scheepers, chief technology officer at SilverBridge. Photo: Supplied

CAPE TOWN – Traditionally, insurance operates in a closed environment that does not facilitate or support the exchange of data. Agents must, therefore, find cumbersome manual workarounds to access important, contextualised customer information when needed. 

Yunus Scheepers, chief technology officer at SilverBridge, believes this will result in systems built on open standards becoming more prevalent in the coming months.

“Currently, insurance agents must work in environments that require them to use multiple carrier websites, agency management systems, and even customer relationship management solutions. None of these interoperate with one another, resulting in a time-consuming process that negatively impacts the customer experience. Inevitably, mistakes are made in the manual capturing of data with duplicate entries becoming a common problem,” says Scheepers.

Talk to one another

Attaining a level of interoperability that is conducive to more efficient insurance processes and the delivery of better customer service is something that requires more than just collaboration. Yes, having different platforms work more effectively with one another should be an important consideration. After all, if the systems do not have a way of communicating with one another, the agent must fill that gap with manual processes.

“The complexity of the transformation to such an ‘open’ model will be heavily affected by the extent to which insurance processes can be standardised. The willingness of insurers to embrace open standards will be another important element that will determine the level of value achieved by such initiatives. Consider the fact that these disparate systems each contain data about a specific aspect of a customer. Currently, these data ‘islands’ cannot be combined to create a single view of a customer using traditional database design approaches without a significant amount of work. Insurers must therefore reconsider how they manage data to facilitate an infinite variety of ways to combine and manipulate this [data] in a modern world that demands agility,” says Scheepers.

Legislation

Complicating the push towards interoperability and openness, is the constantly evolving regulatory landscape.

“The likes of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union, make managing personal data a significantly stricter process than in the past. Insurers have always prioritised privacy and the security of data but falling foul of these compliance measures will see significant financial fines imposed.”

Erring on the side of caution might well be a key strategy for the foreseeable future. The frustrating thing for many insurers though is that this might limit innovation and the push towards open systems and a more organic environment.

A matter of trust

As with anything data-related, the fundamental principle remains the same – it is all about trust.

“Without trust from its stakeholders, an insurer cannot realistically expect to embrace an open approach. Nurturing and building relationships with all relevant parties is critical. Ensuring that the selected technologies amplify the strategic intent of the insurer as well as its stakeholders is also vital.”

Given the digitally-connected business landscape, the adoption of open environments seems inevitable.

“All signs point towards a more collaborative, integrated, and open insurance environment becoming the best practice standard in the coming years. Those who are not willing to embrace it, risk losing relevance with their customers who have come to expect a more dynamic way of doing business,” concludes Scheepers.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE