S'pore insurer to save millions by going paperless

NTUC Income eyes million-dollar savings after converting millions of paper documents into electronic images and modifying business processes.

SINGAPORE-- In a move to implement paperless processing, Singapore insurer NTUC Income has converted 40 million pages of paper records into electronic documents that are acceptable in court.

The digital warehouse project is expected to help the Singapore insurance company save up to S$10 million (US$6 million) a year, according to NTUC Income CEO Tan Kin Lian. Tan added that the savings will be channeled back to its 1.2 million policyholders through lower premiums.

Tan noted that managing the large amounts of paper documents was a challenge, as the records were susceptible to natural disasters and their quality deteriorated over time.

He said policyholders sometimes asked for records dating to a few years back, and document retrieval was labor-intensive and costly.

Previously, customers had to wait an average of two days for a requested document to be retrieved from the storage warehouse. With the electronic format, searching for older documents will be faster and easier, Tan noted.

Tan said during the launch of the digital warehouse here that he asked staff for the failure rate--the inability to retrieve documents. "My manager couldn't give me an answer, so I suspect the failure rate must be rather high," he added.

In line with the project, NTUC Income introduced two initiatives to better streamline its work processes.

One involved setting up specialized customer service counters to scan documents at its 10 office locations in the island-state.

Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs, noted that the images captured and stored in the digital warehouse are compliant with the Evidence Act, which was amended in 1996 to allow the use of electronic records as evidence in Singapore's courts.

The compliance, Ho said, ensured that the process is stringent and reliable, and the stored documents can serve as electronic originals.

NTUC Income has also enabled its over 2,500 insurance advisers to fill up policy applications, capture their clients' signatures, and submit the forms electronically.

The two-year project involved several partners, including Microsoft, Singapore Computer Systems, MatrixView and EMC.