AI’s role in document management

The insurance sector excels at coming up with innovative customer-facing offerings enabled by technological advances, but all too often they’re less innovative when it comes to their internal processes and systems.

Johannesburg, 11 Nov 2019
Read time 3min 40sec
Harrie Terblanche, COO, Deltalink
Harrie Terblanche, COO, Deltalink

The insurance sector is a highly competitive industry, one in which customers make decisions based on service levels and response times over and above the cost of the policy. Whereas personal lines are well covered, there are many challenges associated with high value insurance for both brokers and underwriters.

Harrie Terblanche, COO of Deltalink, says: “Responsiveness needs to be balanced with mitigation of risk. Precise management of all facets of a policy throughout its life cycle is critical to keeping the insurer’s risk exposure to the minimum. Managing all the information relating to a policy in Excel spreadsheets and in Windows' folders provides a false sense of comfort and is not a solution to the challenges. It offers a static storage environment, but does not cater for time-sensitive process activities and dependencies, where most of the risk is concealed.”

Digitalisation of policy-related processes and activities is the only viable solution to overcome the shortcomings of the traditional manual-driven systems, in Terblanche’s view.

“Businesses in all sectors – the insurance sector included – face the same basic challenge: how to access and manage the ever-increasing amounts of documents and information across all of their business systems.”

However, the digitalisation and automation of business processes can be difficult to implement for various reasons. Information is often stored in silos, not only among systems, but even within systems based on function or area of responsibility. This limits visibility of relevant and related information, which in turn makes the management of a business process, versus viewing information about a process, virtually impossible.

He goes on to list five key qualities required of a content management solution for businesses in the insurance sector:

  1. Security;
  2. The ability to connect to existing business systems;
  3. The ability to tag documents with metadata intelligently and dynamically and automatically start workflow processes based on the content of these tags;
  4. The ability to provide a 360-degree view across all systems to show context; and
  5. Use built-in AI to associate, sort, classify and organise information based on what it is rather than where it is stored.

Digitalisation of processes has to take into consideration the impact that such an exercise will have on employees. “People often resist change for fear of the unknown or their potential loss of control or becoming redundant. These fears need to be allayed and the workforce trained properly on the new system to prove to them that the functionality they gain will far outweigh the loss of those familiar and ‘trusted’ processes.”

While the business may be daunted at the complexity and size of task it has set itself, once employees start to realise the benefits of digitalisation, they adopt the new way of doing things quickly.

Benefits include improvements in service level delivery by the underwriter, in terms of servicing brokers, or – in the case of brokers – being able to better service clients, and increase client retention rates for both.

Probably the most significant benefits relate to the efficient management of all policy related processes and activities to mitigate the risks associated with missed activities or missed deadlines and to measure and manage service levels.

Today’s customers are no longer merely price driven, they also demand outstanding customer service, and insurance companies that can provide this are assured of customer loyalty. “Just one badly driven claims process could result in that customer moving to a different provider.”

In an era where customer service is pretty much the only differentiator, renewals, cancellations, quotations and endorsement of policies need to be dealt with in an efficient manner that enables tracking so that the customer can be given prompt feedback at any stage in the process. It’s all about service provided by the underwriter to the broker, and from the broker to a client. Each is interconnected in terms of retaining clients, but because there’s so much competition out there, companies are really having to step up their game to ensure people choose them over a competitor.