IAG warns Australia's insurance sector about smart automation future

Smart automation is more than just about robotics process automation.

Robotics process automation (RPA) may be a technology feature that insurance companies are currently implementing, but it should not be the only thing they should be thinking about when it comes to smart automation, according to IAG automation evangelist Probir Dutt. 

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"Most are focused on pure RPA and that's fine, but RPA alone is not going to separate you from the successful or unsuccessful companies. You need to look at delivering other tools as well," he said at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development, and Integration Summit.

Dutt suggested those other tools that insurance organisations need to begin to integrate includes natural language processing, chat bots, machine learning, and algorithms. "You need to start to look outside the RPA box because it's not going to be the differentiator," he said.

He predicted that insurance firms will introduce smart automation firstly to "low-hanging fruit" areas including claims, billing, and under-writing, before moving onto other parts of the business such as customer service, sales, product and pricing, and regulations. 

Eventually, Dutt believes smart automation applications will be so sophisticated that augmented reality could be used to illustrate to car insurance customers how dangerous it is to use mobile phones for driving or chatbots become more proactive through adaptive learning. 

"Most enterprise functions are going to be affected by automation in some way shape or form. There will be very few functions that will be 100% automated and there are some functions that won't be automated at all," he said.

Additionally, he said that smart automation will change the way customers make claims with features enabling them to take photos of an accident and upload it into an insurance firm's database before an automatic assessment of the cost for repair is supplied. 

"The insurance industry is going to move not just paperless claims, but people-less claims. We won't have people behind our claims systems. We will have customer service people, but we won't necessarily have claims people," Dutt said.

Dutt also spoke to how the shift towards smart automation will require a new skill set among the workforce. 

"What we're seeing in smart automation is the capacity for people to think creatively. What we're seeing is based on the grads we're bringing in, you can teach a music grad to run a business spreadsheet but teaching a business grad to think out of the box is a little trickier," he said. 

He added those that will be able to think creatively and have an "out-of-the-box mindset" will be highly valued and considered as specialists in their field. 

Last year, Suncorp reported it spent AU$29 million on technology during FY18 to reshape its business. 

Similar steps have previously been taken by NIB when it made the decision to take an innovative approach to the highly regulated health insurance space and is looking at the market as one ripe for disruption.

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