Claims Club Missive: Will loss adjusters be the guardians of the digital galaxy?

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You cannot go on the Post home page at the moment without seeing an article or video relating to “digitalisation”; and how insurers need to adapt to a market where consumers are ever more dependent on mobile devices.

The latest addition to the discussion came this week from Forrester, which highlighted that insurance executives are more concerned than counterparts from any other industry about the disruptive impact digital technologies will have on their business over the next 12 months.

Of the 1254 executives surveyed in companies with 250 or more employees, 86% of those representing the insurance industry believed the emergence of digital technologies will cause a massive, moderate or marginal disruption to their firm.

But as with many similar reports to have filled up my inbox recently, scant mention is made of what the move to "digitalisation" will mean for claims, other than a comment that as more insurers specialise, the traditional big players may simply become reinsurers, providing capital reserves and protection to specialists that are more engaged with consumers. The knock-on effect of this is that some firms may choose to specialise in billing and claims management as this will largely be outsourced by the new wave of ‘digital insurers'.

Personally, I have interpreted a lot of the discussion about ‘digital', as being about the personalisation of insurance, characterised by more bespoke tailored products and the consumer taking increasing control over how they are serviced, based on the fact any slip up could be amplified on social media.

As such it is interesting that Forrester seem to think claims outsourcing is an inevitability in the digital age given that this is the "moment of truth" for an insurer to show its worth. Surely this is a point where they should have more control?

Of course, by the time digitalisation truly comes to roost, outsourcing might look a lot different to how it looks today, which is why I - and no doubt a lot of the market - will be watching to see how the new Ageas claims panel shakes out.

Unveiled last month, the insurer raised a lot of eyebrows, especially with regards its choice of loss adjusting partners, by shunning the more traditional larger players, in favour of Stream Claims Services, AED Adjusting and Lucas Claims.

What was even more interesting is that claims director Rob Smale outlined his expectations that these nominated firms would collaborate in the event of surge, sharing information and photos as cases are handled, with a lead supplier nominated for each claim.

In the wake of previous surges such as the Carlisle floods and Boscastle the idea of the industry working closer together with dedicated loss adjusters assigned to certain collections of properties regardless of insurer was touted, but ultimately dismissed due to any competitive advantage being lost.

Has the tide turned? Could it be that in a digital world where the consumer is king the claims companies that are happiest to work in partnership with rivals, with the aim of delivering the best customer service for their insurer paymeisters, are going to win out? And how important is digital investment going to be among these claims companies in fulfilling the service promises of their clients?

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts as this is a subject that is going to grow in importance. Because to be a digital insurer, you will need more than a good looking app and e-claims portal to appease policyholders when disaster strikes.

Finally, I would just like to remind you of the upcoming Claims Club meeting three, where we will be covering among other things the Insurance Bill and the MIB's experience of periodical payments. To sign up click here.

And with the summer in full swing I'd like to raise a glass of Pimms to new albums by La Roux, De Lux and The John Steel Singers; and pray that Guardians of the Galaxy can rekindle my interest in superhero movies.

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