Where we are and where we are going with insurance technology

A fascinating tech discussion with Clinton Da Costa Brown, Solutions Sales Lead Africa at SSP. Clinton provides some in depth comments on where we are at with insurance technology, the platform eco-system and where we are heading with technology, insurance and customer solutions.

Watch the interview below:

If you would prefer to read this interview, we have provided the transcription below.

Tony van Niekerk 0:15
This is Tony of COVER magazine. I’m speaking to Clinton Da Costa Brown Solution sales lead at Africa. Clinton, thank you very much for talking to me this morning.

Clinton Da Costa Brown 0:26
Tony, thank you very much for the opportunity for allowing us as SSP Africa to talk to you today. Looking forward to the discussion.

Tony van Niekerk 0:34
Brilliant Clinton, thank you.

I mean, I have known you for quite a while in this space, but you actually have 20 years insurance, consultation, etc, selling at different companies Aon momentum, Santam, Sanlam, etc. And in both b2b as well as the b2c. And then in the last nine years, you did quite a bit of development work across Sub Saharan Africa. So technology seems to be in your blood at this stage. And then, of course, the Africa as well, which made it very interesting for me to chat to you, because I also am quite passionate about the developments in Africa. So let’s just start off with positioning this a little bit. In the past few months, you shared with me some of the significant changes that you’ve witnessed in insurance technology space. So maybe you could just recap that for us.

Clinton Da Costa Brown 1:34
Sure, Tony. I think as an intro for the first 20 years, it was really working in the insurance space, I have insight from an insurer perspective. And then technology for the last nine years. I guess, if you look specifically prior to COVID. So if one considers the insurance, customer online progression, which is one of the areas which is quite important, the rate of change was significant prior to COVID. So if you look at stats from 2018, European data as an example, for online quoting by midterm adjustments for news claims and other online interactions, we probably saw just over a year, an increase of about 50% in customers expecting to finalise renewals online and in excess of 500% increase for online claim submission. So, during COVID area we’ve been very busy. And certainly it has proven to be a catalyst to the customer experience transformation. So projects for enhancing customer experience and product innovation, which were previously I guess, deemed to be nice to have they simply sat on shareholders desks and consider them. They’re not suddenly mission critical. So we are seeing insurer, UMA customers, MGA customers are suddenly needing access to information, via these digital channels. But to be honest, a significant amount of these organizations, they simply don’t have the tools and capability. So we are busy, we’ve never been busier, we respond to requests from various African territories, the Caribbean, and even the UK for customer portals access. So for us at the moment is very, very clear customers expect now and into the future access to perform full functionality across insurance capability online.

Tony van Niekerk 3:36
So looking at what you just spoke about all the changes, etc. The people realizing you know that they are actually some problems in are they doing things, etc? How do you see this playing out now, across the insurance technology landscape over the next year or two?

Clinton Da Costa Brown 3:55
Tony I think, in any crisis, there’s genuinely opportunity. So if you look back in 2008, which was a global financial crisis, which led to the redesign of payment systems and processes, in essence, the crisis saw the rise of many new entrants, such as fintechs. So wind it froward to 12 years later COVID-19, most likely leave the insurance sector changed significantly and probably in three areas. One, the acceleration of business innovation, two the shift more quickly, from physical to digital channels, and specifically products that aligned to those digital channels, and then the delivery of end to end automation and optimization processes. So what we now are probably experiencing is maturity of those insurtech business models being adopted. I guess if I look at some of those shifts, and I call them forever shifts, probably four main areas. One is the customer centric focus, customers no longer see insurance in isolation of other solutions. So what that means is Insurance Solutions now need to be woven into their daily lives. I think the second shift is a huge spotlight on product innovation. So spotlight on system flexibility, product innovation, particularly driven by customer new demands. The third one I really touched on, which is online first approach. So the customer experience is shifted forever. It’s a self service environment, and you need to deliver from that perspective. And the fourth one is legacy modernization. So technology solutions, that need to support the remote workforces the final nail in our view in the legacy coffin. So I want to dig probably a bit deeper into a couple of these areas. So the first one is, I think over the long term, we will see insurance companies moving away from being simply an isolated policy provider to a service provider and operating within a wider ecosystem. So the benchmark for service today, we can see that I return you’ve got shopping, you’ve got booking flights, you got accommodation, you got Amazon, so the customers are used to that type of experience. And unfortunately, the game has changed. So for insurers, they plan a much larger segment of the shopping environment. And this basic experience has a profound impact on insurer customers, and they’re no longer benchmarking experience and expectations against insurers competitors and peers, but that benchmark and experience across what Amazon provides today. So what does that mean? It means that customers today, they want Financial Solutions woven deeply into their daily lives. So the important differentiator is customers need solutions. They don’t need simple standalone products, which talk to each other. So I was having a look at some of the solutions out there in the chain solution within environments and I came across an example of a cyber insurance protection solution. So customers are looking for cyber solution, they’re not only looking for insurance cover, and that’s a fundamental difference. The customers seeking a fully integrated solution, which combines a variety of related services. So in this example, of an integrated cyber solution was put together by Aon, Alianz, Cisco and Apple, they developed a single solution, which included the cyber resilience evaluations, enhanced cyber insurance, ransomware defense, incident response and then Apple put together products for their employees with built in strong security. So this significant change in product development, and the combination of working with others has creating an environment where insurance is only a portion of the solution. And this is essentially building out more of the insurtech models but basic insurance as a service model.

Tony van Niekerk 8:12
So I mean, what are the benefits of them doing this, insurance as a service, rather than the way that we had it products?

Clinton Da Costa Brown 8:21
Well, it’s not new, it’s been around for quite quite a long time. I think one of the first insurance as a service model was developed in Asia by AXA, a couple of the benefits, which included too consumers. So one was significant in customer experience. The other one was tailored policies as opposed to generic advertising, which is critical starting to talk specifically to a customer’s needs as opposed to generic requirement, and then lower transaction times, to insurers on the flip side, mirroring that, definitely improved customer engagement. And then they saw a lot of improved transparency and control due to essentially the close integration with a partner in the platform. So that’s critically important. If you have a partner and you have a platform that works together in a single ecosystem, the strength of the combination provides that greater customer experience.

Tony van Niekerk 9:21
And now if we, I mean, when I listen to what you’ve just said, and and in the last few sort of questions that are asked, we’re talking about combining different organizations, and they’re all sitting on different platforms, technology platforms, etc. How do we get this right?

Clinton Da Costa Brown 9:38
It’s a good question. And I think that’s at the end of the day where the rubber hits the road. So connected products and services, of which as I’ve mentioned, insurance is only one, but definitely need a single solution. And obviously, that single platform needs to be owned by one provider in this ecosystem. In this particular product or solution, it definitely makes sense that the insurer would provide the platform. And therefore they would need the capability to then integrate other services into their platform to deliver that seamless solution to the joint partner and customer.

Tony van Niekerk 10:16
If I understand you correctly now, most insurers have policy administration systems, but you also spoke about the platform side, which might not necessarily be the same. Can you just explain that to us?

Clinton Da Costa Brown 10:32
Thanks, very good observation, I guess, you know, looking across Africa, over the last 15 to 20 years, certainly policy administration solutions are deemed by customers to be insurance systems. Policy administration systems are quite different to platforms. So what we’re now seeing is essence, the emergence of the platform era, where rather than being simply a value, add technology now sits at the very heart of a business model. So as a platform, you recognize that you can’t do it all, you embrace the applications, you embrace products and services of other people and you wrapping those together in a single platform for the benefit of all. As opposed to a policy administration system, which is, in essence, sitting within your space, you’re not necessarily working with others, you’re calling in maybe some other data enrichment but you’re not working as a partner. So yes, one could take, you know, a legacy policy administration system, you could wrap it with a few front ends, you can digitize it, you can bolt on some processes. But that’s not a platform. So a platform is creating a local ecosystem of software, that an insurance provider, with software that other people provide, will add to that services of other people, to support your customers and hence in essence, is a collection. So as a collection, you gain a best of breed approach, as if one of those components becomes legacy, old, tied, redundant. As opposed to today, you have to go through a whole transformation process, what you simply do is you swap it out for a new version, and you don’t need to replace the entire system. So from an insurance platform perspective, and insurtech, as insurance is a service model, fully supports that model.

Tony van Niekerk 12:30
Yeah, so apart from connecting all of these players together, or partners, or product providers, or service providers, what are the other benefits of the whole platform perspective.

Clinton Da Costa Brown 12:46
So I guess the real benefits of a platform is that they’re free of internal technology teams to work on new customer and start facing applications and functionality. So the third party technology vendor, as an example, we are one of them, we will take care of an organization’s cloud infrastructure, and all the integrations delivered through the API’s. And that’s where it all goes wrong. And unfortunately, integration pieces. So as soon as you start integrating with a variety of different technology, unfortunately, some of those integrations break, you need to upgrade it is a costly process. I guess going forward, it’s been widely reported that you need to start expecting the rise in cloud implementations to certainly as COVID has harnessed the necessity of enabling and fast responsive access from anywhere, and certainly cloud implementations allow for that. The other benefit is really starting to look at AI and machine learning and being able to incorporate that into your business and interactive decisions. So we would get involved in A.I machine learning Internet of Things, big data. And all of that increases the access across the whole value chain to allow you to price more effectively. Use chatbots, used for prevention and enhance your underwriting capability.

Tony van Niekerk 14:12
So, Clinton, if you don’t mind, I want to just come back a little bit to SSP itself and not the general environment etc. I mean, across Africa, SSP is known for its strong corporate management systems. So, you know, what does this offer and where does this fit into, obviously the Africa environment from country to country is very different. Different regulations, different clients needs product, how does that work? Run? How do you offer a platform that fits into all of that?

Clinton Da Costa Brown 14:53
Tony correct, across Africa, we operate across 14 different countries. We have deployments been around for the last 30 years significant experience in South Africa, and across those territories, we have also the significant experience in the UK, in Asia, Pac, Caribbean and a couple other areas. But in essence, what we’ve done in the last 30 years is we’ve built the experience and created depth in our capability. But obviously, we realize we need to move forward. So we see ourselves as probably being a new insurtech with 30 years experience of capability. So what we’ve been doing is evolving our focus to help our customers to achieve innovation and growth, using our technology in different ways. So for the last three years, we’ve been building out a platform, we’ve invested in rands in excess of 816 million Rand 40 million pounds in what we see as a radical transformation of our software service operations. And that includes the development, as I mentioned, of the issuance platform. And what we’ve not done is taken that deployment in a fully fledged hosted environment and Amazon Web Services.

Tony van Niekerk 16:10
So what does this platform offer? What makes unique?

Clinton Da Costa Brown 16:16
I think there’s a couple of things from a platform perspective. And it’s important that the solution is able to provide the capability to your consumers. So there are many platforms out there, our platform is very specific. We only support short term or general insurance customers. So it’s an SSP platform, which contains all the digital capabilities, that insurance company would need a UMA or MGA broker, in order for them to access engage with and retain customers. So it’s a modular platform, it has components, that, in essence, what you would do is you would select the specific modules and components, which will be applicable to yourself. It’s a collection of SSP software, and best of breed third party software. The availability is in a pre configured state. So what this means is we don’t have to go out and hook in many of those components that users would require. And it has a significant high degree of self sufficiency. So as an example, each customer will have their own dedicated component. So you’re talking about a policy administration solution, each customer would have the instance of that policy administration solution with their own rating, their own rules and their own IP from that perspective. But then what we do is to combine that with best of breed other shared components, as an example, document production management, we use Cofax, which we can then use across other organizations. And lastly, I guess the solution are evergreen so as mentioned before any of those components, if they get old, we will simply replace it with something new. But the base platform technology lives on. The other big challenge across Africa and in actual fact a global perspective, is the continual upgrade. So an organization will have a particular policy administration solution. If they can’t, as an example, engage with the consumers through a portal. Generally what would happen is they’ll need to throw that out and find a new policy administration solution with a portal. So we’ve been building out a gearbox tooling. And we’ve removed the requirement for costly upgrades, as we have continuing automatic upgrades that deliver functional improvements and efficiencies across the actual platform. And obviously, what that does is it reduces the cost of ownership for our clients.

Tony van Niekerk 18:47
So Clinton, in sort of my last question here, which for me is where the takkie hits the tar, you have to deploy the software, you built it, you’ve thought everything out, you’ve used your experience all of that. Now the client is bought. But now you’re working with so many different teams, you’re working with different processes in different countries, probably languages, how do you actually go about delivering this solution in the different environment?

Clinton Da Costa Brown 19:18
Well Tony during COVID, obviously, from a technology perspective, so the first thing is as SSP, we develop our own solutions, we deploy our own solutions, we support our own solutions. And we do everything from A to Z. We don’t work with third parties, in being able to deploy it. So in essence, you have one person held accountable. It’s challenging, because in any deployment, as you say, you have people processes and systems, and unfortunately, it’s not systems that generally go wrong. It’s the people and the processes. So during the COVID era, obviously there were concerns around how we would deploy and how it can be deployed. Unfortunately, because we’ve moved our organization to Amazon Web Services. So from an SSP perspective, we were able to move our workforce within a day, we’re fully operational. And we’ve actually been able to successfully deploy our latest customer in the Seychelles, which is Sakkas, whereby we estimated a six month project and practice, say, without having landed a foot in Seychelles during the covid era, we’ve been able to deploy on time in budget. So a complete remote delivery very happy client. So we’ve been able to transition and we’ve now been able to take not just our technology, we’ve been able to transition our upkeep and our processes to be able to deliver in this type of environment going forward into the future. In the future we’d like to be in front of customers, because that’s where it happens, you engage with customers, but we now have the capability to deploy a hybrid deployment model.

Tony van Niekerk 21:03
Brilliant, what a great discussion. Clinton, thank you so much. And obviously, I look forward to the border’s opening again and us meeting again with you or your representatives in the different African countries, and as you say, to be in front of people, it will come.

Clinton Da Costa Brown 21:23
And I think that’s right. I think that’s one of our biggest things we’re missing today. You know, we all sitting aside and we are developing great solutions. But those solutions need to live in the hearts and minds of people. And it’s very difficult to be able to understand the customer experience what customers are needing, without sitting and discussing with them. So yes, looking forward to being back in front of customers. But, Tony, thanks very much for your time today.

Tony van Niekerk 21:50
Clinton, thank you very much for those insights. I look forward to chatting to you again in the near future.

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