In 2020, as COVID-19 became a global reality, many African Insurers begun to scramble to adapt to the extraordinary circumstances. For most Turnkey Africa clients, employee safety and business continuity was a priority thus under severe time-pressure, many went for pragmatic and short-term solutions including adopting a new digital way of working to engage agents and customers and distribute their products.
One year later, what is clear is that COVID has changed the investment priorities for insurance companies as we see a lot of our clients only investing in critical technologies. Their innovation budgets have been further redirected toward solving tactical operational problems rather than being free to experiment and blue sky the way they used to be. Most critical for 2021 is that insurers are also looking to deeply embed the ‘new normal’ practices and tools earlier adapted into their operations and strengthening the foundation for long-term sustainability and resilience.
In line with this, we are seeing some common themes in terms of the type of technologies and tools being considered by a large number of insurance executives we interact with as most critical for the ‘new’ and perhaps the ‘next normal’.
I discuss a few of them below;
1. Growth of APIs
Of all the trends that we are seeing, the growth in the deployment of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) – the technology that allows different systems to seamlessly talk to each other – is the biggest. To mitigate against legacy risk, some insurers are turning toward APIs to enable them offer new digital experiences without having to go through a complete overhaul of the legacy systems.
We have also seen a rise in requests for API by those clients who want to access business-critical information and tap into innovation that resides outside their organizations. Most of these insurers are already using APIs to connect to systems used for quotations, quote comparison sites, policy management, payments, and customer acquisition. However, through APIs, they also hope to quickly acquire additional capabilities they need to navigate a changing business landscape.
2. Digital Omni-channel platforms
Digital technology has become a part of our everyday lives. When in need of insurance, we start our research online via mobile then shift to our PC then visit the insurance banking hall then go back to mobile, and so on. If the insurer cannot support these complex journeys then they are most likely to lose us as the client.
We are seeing clients willing to deploy technologies digital platforms that will give them not only a digital frontend but also having APIs that enable them to connect to other ecosystems like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. This growing move toward omnichannel platforms is an effort by insurers to ensure seamless interactions with the customer going beyond launching mobile apps and offering online customer service options to offering seamless, personalized, and connected experiences.
3. Cloud computing
The pre-pandemic reluctance toward implementing cloud computing has somewhat been eased by the more urgent need for business continuity. Recognizing the efficiency gains that the cloud brings, African insurers have somehow managed to overcome the trust and security concerns they had by putting in place security and access controls and using encryption to protect customer data.
In our conversations with potential clients, the cloud has become one of the deployment options that customers consider when they are buying our applications. SaaS models are also under consideration by insurers as they seek ways to lower the cost of core system upgrades.
4. Low Code
There has also been a shift in demand toward low code/no-code development platforms where non-developer roles like business analysts can now participate in the development of business software without learning computer programming.
We seeing an increase in requests from our clients or potential clients requesting technologies and systems they can use internally to build digital products and unique digital journeys that are customized to their brand. This way they can innovate and iterate faster without waiting for developers with specialized skills and bring products to market faster and at a lower cost.
There is heightened concern for cybersecurity with the introduction of remote working, as insurers accelerate their digital transformation and as more data and applications move to the cloud. Insurers are getting proactive in addressing these threats putting in place measures to enable detection, response, and recovery in order to limit the risks related to attacks.
On the other hand, African insurers are also working towards developing new products around cybersecurity. While previously the lack of historical data or sufficient cyber data made it a challenge to underwrite such products, new data providers are now coming into the market offering localized cybersecurity data that can allow proper risk assessment and underwriting of cybersecurity risks.
A Case for Robotics Process Automation (RPA)
Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is gaining prominence in other markets as businesses seek to find ways to be optimal yet effective. We see RPA, which uses robot scripts to mimic human actions as a dark horse with immense possibilities especially when you look at its potential use cases along the insurance value chain. For example, with RPA a large volume of claims can be processed with only a fraction of the people required when the process is manual. With RPA therefore, insurers can establish leaner and more agile organizations plus it requires no back-end integration, it’s easy to configure, and does not need specialized knowledge. We see RBA as the technology to watch going forward for insurers.
2021 should be the year when African insurers seize the opportunity to reflect and consider long-term sustainable practices that will help them foster and accelerate innovation, deliver improved customer experiences, and streamline their processes. Technology will be a key factor in enabling most of these efforts and as such this will necessitate an increase in their investment in technology, data, processes, and people to carry these organizations toward the ‘next normal.”
Shikoli Makatiani is the CTO/COO at Turnkey Africa Ltd