Neil White AntWorks

-by Neil White

Here’s a thought: Amazon has caused more problems for insurers than almost any other company!

I’m being provocative, but hear me out.

Amazon has arguably done more than any other corporation to reshape our expectations of fulfillment, and that reshaping has been radical. What some think of as a giant retailer, others see as a gargantuan supply chain and logistics operation. Amazon’s great selling point is that it can get you stuff fast.

There was a time when two-day delivery was a novelty. Then it was one day. These days it’s same-day or even one or two hours for grocery shoppers using PrimeNow. 

Of course, it’s all part of a wider trend towards instant gratification; instant news, instant communications, instant finance.

In this instant world, our attention spans have shrunk. So too has our patience, in inverse proportion to the growth of our expectations.

This demand for ‘everything, now!’ has had an effect right across the economy even touching the insurance sector, albeit some parts more than others. It’s little surprise that consumers buying travel, auto, home or health insurance increasingly expect immediate quotes and, should they need to make a claim, quick responses. 

This is a market where digital insurers have made considerable headway and illustrate why they represent such a threat to their incumbent competitors. Insuretech companies are starting to make inroads into the SME market too.

They’re built around their technology and consequently have processes in place that make it possible to meet this increased demand for speed. Their data is at their fingertips – accessible, interrogatable, useful. They can respond, fast. 

Incumbents, especially in the retail and SME insurance sectors, have started to invest in the technology they need to stay competitive.

The commercial insurance sector has been slower to respond even though it isn’t immune to this cultural shift. The insurance industry doesn’t exist in a bubble and even commercial insurance companies’ customers live in the same I-want-it-yesterday world as the rest of us.

Ideally, incumbent insurers would have standardised systems in place right across their lines of business as a foundation for driving through the digitalisation that would allow them to compete better in today’s market. In practice, they tend to have a hodgepodge of IT that’s the legacy of mergers and acquisitions and a history of buying systems that tackled a small segment of the processes within the business.
But end-to-end transformation is generally too expensive and too disruptive and, in any case, there are still third parties between them and the customer.

And even an end-to-end automated system would struggle unless it’s given access to the data given the sheer variety of ‘unstructured’ formats it arrives in; email bodies, .pdfs, word, excel, scanned images, letters, handwriting, signatures, images and stamps. 

Is all lost? Hardly. Incumbents have one huge advantage. In an industry that runs on data they generally have the most. Decades of doing business coupled with the sheer depth and breadth of their business relationships mean they’re sitting on an information goldmine. The problem is that it’s often hard to access. Pulling up physical documents takes time and, until now, intelligent document processing systems have struggled to ingest information from unstructured sources.

The operative phrase is ‘until now…’ 

CMR Plus is a huge leap forward from OCR technology. CMR Plus augments OCR with advanced pattern recognition and learns how to read and understand documents in formats other technologies can’t process – forms, invoices, policies, quotes, letters, emails, and those containing, images, stamps, and signatures. Yes, it can even read handwriting.

Companies may not have the resources to overhaul their IT completely but there are cost-effective ways of giving existing systems access to all that hard-to-reach data they’re sitting on and so helping to draw them into a coherent whole. 

Digitised, accessible data really speeds up the entire broking and underwriting process. That alone would put incumbents on a more level playing field with digital insurers. But when one considers the advantage of incumbents’ data, once it’s in the system and can be analysed and pulled apart for vital insights, incumbents are playing downhill.

And think on this: Amazon doesn’t just get people stuff fast, it uses all its data to know its customers better and figure out what they’ll need before they know it themselves. That’s exactly what insurers should be doing with their data too…   


Neil White is VP-Sales & Head of AntWorks Global Insurance Practice. With over 20 years’ experience in the Technology sector, he has spent the last seven focusing on the automation market.


AntWorks Amazon RPA AI Artificial Intelligence SME market CMR Plus